Southern Cameroons Youth League (SCYL) president and human rights activist Ebenezer Akwanga caused a diplomatic furore recently when he appeared in a photograph proudly displaying a copy of a Southern Cameroons (SC) passport.
Most SC activists welcomed the gesture as another front in the fight for the independence of English speaking Cameroon but critics were quick to point out the passport was baseless because it could not be used for any kind of travel.
Security forces in Cameroon are now on high alert on a look out for any kind of trouble from the SCYL and other affiliated organizations it regards as secessionists movements that might want to use the passport issue to cause problems.
Francis Ngwa has been speaking to Ebenezer Akwanga now living in exile in the USA after escaping from a 20 year jail term from the Kondengui maximum security prison for his SC activism
Q Before we begin, we just learnt SCNC chairman Chief Ottu Ayamba has died. Any comments?
A- Let me first extend to Prince Lawrence Ayamba and the entire Ayamba household the deepest condolence from GoSC, the SCYL Family and my own family for the passing away of Southern Cameroons Chief Ette Otun Ayamba. He stood for a good and just fight and would be remember for this. For the purpose of this interview the President would be okay.
Q The talking point in Cameroon is a new passport for Southern Cameroons that has been seen across Cameroon and various news organizations have carried the story. What is the passport all about?
A-According to a GoSC press release issued on June 10 from Washington, DC, “The creation and institutionalization of distinct symbols of statehood entrenches and solidifies the concept of nationhood borne out of a common history and common territorial space. While the physical occupation of the Southern Cameroons still remains a sad reality, a sense of difference and distinctiveness is constantly being strengthened by the Southern Cameroons flag, anthem and the map.
So, while the Southern Cameroons passport adds to other statehood paraphernalia, it indicates a radical departure from a past characterized by group membership and allegiance to Movement ideology. The Southern Cameroons passport shifts membership from different groups to citizens of the State. It also challenges the constructed identity imposed on our people and imbues a sense of pride and hope in a people robbed of their identity, their homeland and their values. It is a solid physical evidence of who we are as a people and galvanizes the inner feeling of anyone who owns a copy to rededicate themselves to the call in the Liberation Oath: “Southern Cameroons Must Win This ‘War’!…’I Will Fight; I Will Endure; I Will Sacrifice and Do My Utmost As If The Issue of the Whole Struggle Depended on Me Alone”. “So Help Me God!”
Q. How many passports do you personally have?
A-I am the owner of two national passports – the passport of the United States of America and the passport of the Republic of Southern Cameroons.
Q. I understand you don’t have a Cameroonian passport though you were born and bred in Cameroon. Is that one of the reasons you have decided to produce a passport for Southern Cameroons?
A-The refusal by the annexationist regime of La Republique du Cameroun to issue me a copy of their little green book in 1995 which ruined my study of divinity in South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand became more than a blessing in disguise. By their action, they were not only telling me that you are not ‘one of us’ which of course is true but that I am a citizen of the country they have dehumanized for decades. The Southern Cameroons passport is however not an answer to my personal ordeals with LRC but a radical reawakening of our revolutionary nationalism which would settle for nothing except total independence.
Q Southern Cameroons legally does not exist. It is not a UN recognized nation. How come you are producing a passport nobody or state authority will recognize?
A-Our fate is in our hands! Who we are has nothing to do with UN recognition. Let us be realistic and stop this tingling game with a road to nowhere. Look around history and you find visible reasons not to pose such a question again. And by the way, if the flag and anthem were securely locked up somewhere in a shelf, you of course wouldn’t have been aware of it. The fact that it is brought up for discussion means, they are visible, tangible and public symbols that are taken seriously. On another note, the flag and the anthem were not invented in the Diaspora. They have simply been made more prominent by Diasporas’ using the social media with its outreach. In real terms there is a country call Southern Cameroons. This country is simply under physical occupation by LRC. The act of occupation does not in any way extinct statehood especially when there is public opposition and resistance against that occupation. History presents itself as a good template for us to view events. And the history of occupation has been such that very few occupiers have successfully maintained occupation without the consent of the occupied. Colonialism has been the most acute form of occupation. At a time when movement and opportunities for the colonized was strictly determined by the colonial authorities, resistance against colonialism prevailed. Since the All Anglophone Conference (AAC) of 1993 and 1994, the level of consciousness and awareness of our plight and the vestiges of the occupation has been on the rise. The single story narrative of ONE CAMEROUN which has been forced and peddled by Yaoundé has been challenged in courts of law, academic writings and the street. The Southern Cameroons quest for statehood is no longer a taboo subject and most importantly our fate as a people does no longer depend solely on how Yaoundé acts or think. The passport only makes this case more visible and concretizes in a small but significant way both the concepts of nationhood and statehood.
Q Why a Southern Cameroons passport now and what point are you trying to make?
A-Is there a fixed time in history for a people to re-escalate their identity of oneness? Or do we need permission from somewhere to take a dramatic shift in our pursuit for external self-determination.
Q. How many people own a Southern Cameroons passport now?
A-About fifty as of today
Q. Lastly, where do we go from here after the release of a S C passport?
A-This question has been asked every time that there is a shift in our struggle and the responses have been more flamboyant than realistic. The annexationist regime has been at war with our people for decades. And in this war, we have made substantive progress, won and lost some battles. So, to you and to all the people of goodwill out there, it is necessary for me to say that anyone waiting for the United Nations or the African Union to intervene in our struggle in any form whatsoever based on our aspirations is dreaming a dream they would never woke up to its realization. It is regrettable to say that the only reason Ukraine has become a focal point in East-West relations is because blood has been flowing on the streets; and the people of Taiwan and Kosovo or the Palestinian Authority did not walk their way to their present status by simply talking, organizing meetings and conferences in and out of their homelands or participating in numerous forums online. They did this through blood and iron and this is certainly where we have to go from here. However prepared I am for this sacrifice, I can certainly do it only if each one of you out there, keep away their cloth of group-thinking, wear the cap of true radical nationalism and throw your support behind me. You might not like the man Akwanga, but now is not the time to put your fate and those of millions of others in those you like – instead you must now commit yourself entirely to your people and country, and to one person you know deep in your hearts that you can trust at this critical juncture of our struggle to deliver the goods of freedom.