By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde
The CPDM regime wrote a “Vision-2035” in which it considers its first challenge to be the consolidation of democracy and the enhancement of “national unity” in a “united and indivisible nation enjoying peace and security.” “National unity” is said to be a “permanent and ambitious goal” in a country where “threats, risks and obstacles” include the management of the “dual Anglophone-francophone heritage,” having succeeded to ensure “original cohabitation between the English-speaking and French-speaking systems…” Although there have been “divergences as seen in the violent representation of remote identities as well as outbreak of tensed or even irredentist conflicts,” they were contained by a “pro-active and strong state, capable of containing centrifugal forces and enhancing national solidarity…”
The “consolidation of democracy” is said to imply “the existence of a constitutional state, (and) promotion and respect for individual and collective freedoms.”
It is within this backdrop of the declaration of intent in the so-called “vision-2035” that we recall a cardinal principle of modern international law, binding on all nations, especially members of the United Nations: the right of self-determination, or the right of a people to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status.
Although consensus on the type of groups or “peoples” that can claim the right to self-determination is not well defined, Anglophone Cameroonians - Southern Cameroonians as they are known - enjoyed the status by their treatment as an entity, as a League of Nations Mandated Territory and a United Nations Trust Territory. Further, their walkout en masse from the Eastern Nigerian House of Assembly in Enugu in 1953, their self-governing status in Buea from 1954-1961, and their participation in a UN-organised plebiscite in 1961 more than defined them as a people that enjoys such a status. In addition to all these, the recognition of persons of Southern Cameroons origin as “a people” with the right of self-determination by the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights was a reflection of these historical acts that marked them out as such.
Of course, the decision to gain independence by joining the Republic of Cameroun in 1961 did not abrogate this right. Unlike the Americans that sat down in 1789 and hammered out the conditions for a “one and indivisible union,” the Southern Cameroons delegation refused the use of the word “indivisible” in Foumban, leading Ahidjo to state in his concluding remarks that: “in order to avoid a certain confusion that might arise from the word ‘indivisible’, we admit that it should purely and simply be omitted.”
Indeed, it is because such union status did not always abrogate the right of self-determination that many other such unions in history ended in reversals. In this wise, the September 18, 2014 vote on independence in a referendum in Scotland after a 307-year union in the United Kingdom, is an example of the continued right of self-determination of peoples that join such unions. It will be recalled that Ireland opted out of the UK arrangement since 1922, through a similar independence referendum. No need to mention Quebec in Canada, and many other peoples in similar unions.
The ban in Cameroon on the creation of political parties that “threaten national unity,” is against the spirit of international law. The consequence of the ban is the emergence of organizations like the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC). The constant confrontations with the security forces of the Cameroon “nation state” as recently occurred in Mamfe at the burial of the Chairman of the SCNC Chief Ayamba, is an affront to the right of self-determination of a people that consider themselves oppressed in the Cameroon union. Indeed, the slogan of the organization that professes “the force of argument, not the argument of force” is a disarming slogan that exposes the “pro-active and strong state, capable of containing centrifugal forces” as an oppressive state that uses totalitarian methods.
Those with a good knowledge of human nature like Malcolm Gladwell usually say that endurance and survival of the trauma of constant brutalization by security forces has a liberating effect which gives birth to courage. Excessive use of force creates legitimacy problems, which give birth to defiance, not submission. Defiant persons can be killed or maimed by brutal use of state power, but invariably, it only leads to the appearance of more defiant people.
It is usually said that some revolutions are started not by revolutionaries in the first place, but by the stupidity and brutality of regimes. The “pro-active and strong state, capable of containing centrifugal forces” in Cameroon should worry about what organizations like the SCNC think about the regime because, like it or not, their opinion counts! When unjust laws are applied in the absence of legitimacy, it leads to disobedience, not obedience. Power is not just physical force; it has many forms.
The CPDM regime should reflect deeply on the consequences of the constant arrest, torture and detention of SCNC members. The regime should reflect on the consequences of their standoff with the organization in Tiko following the demise of Martin Ngeka Luma some years ago, and more recently, in Mamfe following that of Chief Ayambe Ette Otun in Mamfe - both leaders of the “irredentist” SCNC.