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Published by: Track and Trace Committee on Jun 05, 2007
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01/01/2013

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PEOPLE OF THE SOUTHERN CAMEROONS: AN ILL-FATED PEOPLE 
 by C. Anyangwe
I. The Southern Cameroons: Location, Demography and Resources
The Southern Cameroons (current maps of Africa do not indicate its location) is a former British-administered territory strategically located in the ‘armpit’ of Africa. It issandwiched between Nigeria to the southeast and the former French-administeredCameroun (la Republique du Cameroun) to the southwest. It is a wedge between WestAfrica and what, in effect, is still French Equatorial Africa. It shares maritime boundarieswith Nigeria, la Republique du Cameroun, and Equatorial Guinea. It has a land size of 43,000 sq.km and a current indigenous population of about 4.5 million people. TheSouthern Cameroons is thus more populated than at least 60 UN and 18 OAU Member States, and larger in area than at least 30 UN and 12 OAU Member States. It is self-sufficient in food and its natural resources include crude oil and gas, bauxite, salt, coffee,cocoa, tea, banana, palm oil and kernels, rubber, timber, and an abundance of fish in itsterritorial waters.
II. Synoptic History
The name ‘Cameroons’ is the traditional English form used for the pre-colonial coastalstrip stretching from Ambas Bay to the Wouri estuary which was a British sphere of influence in the 19th century up to the German annexation in 1884. In July that year Germany proclaimed a protectorate over the said coastal strip, including its hinterland.The vast territory at the hinge of Africa which Germany thereby took possession of wascalled ‘
Schutzgebiet von Kamerun’ 
and effective and peaceful occupation was assuredonly in late 1890. In 1914, after only less than twenty years of effective and peacefulGerman rule,
 Kamerun
was wrested from Germany by Anglo-French-led forces at the veryoutset of World War I. A 1916 Anglo-French partition of the conquered German possesssion carved out two separate territories of unequal size. The smaller one went toBritain and was called by the English form ‘Camer 
oo
ns’, while the larger one went toFrance and was called by the gallicized form ‘Camer 
ou
n’.When World War I ended these two territories formed part of the possessions to whichGermany renounced its title and right under the Treaties of Versailles, 1919. In 1922 theAnglo-French partition of 1916 was confirmed by the granting of League of NationsMandates, separately, to the two Powers. At the end of World War II and upon the demiseof the League of Nations, the Mandates System was transmuted to the United NationsTrusteeship System under Chapters XII and XIII of the UN Charter. The BritishCameroons and French Cameroun became UN Trust Territories, each under a separateTrusteeship Agreement approved by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 1946.The British Cameroons consisted of a strip of territory on the Nigerian eastern border. TheBritish constituted it into an administrative union with Nigeria. For administrative
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 purposes it was divided into the Northern Cameroons and the Southern Cameroons, andadministered respectively as part of the Northern and Eastern Regions of Nigeria.Following the 1954 Lancaster House Conference and up to 1960, the SouthernCameroons was a self-governing territory in the Federation of Nigeria and exercised awide measure of regional autonomy along with basic self-governing institutions ---- anexecutive, a judiciary, a bicameral legislature, a civil service and a police force. When Nigeria achieved independence on 1 October 1960, the whole British Cameroons wasseparated from that country pending a UN plebiscite to decide its future. From that dateup to 30 September 1961, the Southern Cameroons was a full self-governing Territoryadministered directly from London and fully responsible for its internal affairs except for defence over which matter, along with foreign affairs, Britain continued to exercise jurisdiction.On 11/12 February 1961, Northern and Southern Cameroons voted separately in the saidUN plebiscite on the basis of the questions whether they wished
‘to achieveindependence’ 
by ‘joining’ Nigeria or by ‘joining’ la Republique du Cameroun. The Northern Cameroons elected to join Nigeria as part of that country and in June 1961 wasincorporated anew in the Northern Region of Nigeria as Sarduana Province. On the other hand, the Southern Cameroons elected ‘to join’ la Republique du Cameroun on the basisof a two-state federation of equal partners. On 1 October 1961, the Southern Cameroons
achieved independence
and concomitantly united with la Republique du Cameroun in theagreed-to two-state Federal Republic of Cameroon. By forming a federal union, theSouthern Cameroons and la Republique du Cameroun submerged their respectiveindependence and transferred their respective sovereignty to the newly emerged FederalRepublic of Cameroon, successor to both entities and subject of international law. Suchdegree of international personality as the Southern Cameroons possessed was lost, and laRepublique du Cameroun became extinct as a subject of international law. In theCameroon Federal Republic, the Southern Cameroons was transformed into the FederatedState of West Cameroon, and la Republique du Cameroun into the Federated State of EastCameroun.However, there was a very low degree of differentiation between the organs of theFederation and those of the Federated State of East Cameroun. Indeed, institutionally, thecreation of the Cameroon Federal Republic required little of East Cameroun beyond theinterposition of a further stage between the East Cameroun legislative and ministerialinstitutions and the Presidency of the Federal Republic. East Cameroun and Federalinstitutions were essentially one in origin as well as in function. The result of this was thatnatives of East Cameroun monopolised the Union Presidency. They also heavilydominated and controlled the Union Executive, the Union Parliament, the Union Judiciary,the Union Civil Service, the Military, and the Diplomatic Service. Natives of WestCameroon were allowed only a token presence in all federal institutions and therefore hadvirtually no say in the governance of the Federation.Taking undue advantage of their territory’s larger demographic and spatial configuration,President Ahidjo and certain other natives of East Cameroun hatched up a plot andforcibly overthrew the Federal Constitution in May 1972. They then contrived to cover uptheir treasonable act with a pretended ‘referendum’ which they claimed ‘ratified’ their illegal act. That revolutionary overthrow of the federal constitutional order destroyed the
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very foundation on which the union of the two Cameroons was predicated and, indeed,was anchored. West Cameroon’s legal personality was destroyed and its Governmentalinstitutions and office bearers sacked. The territory was swamped. There was a massivetake-over. The military control of West Cameroon was tightened by the encampment of more French-speaking troops in all nooks and corners of the territory. Furthermore, theterritory was fragmented and placed under the rulership of 
 gouverneurs, prefets,
and
commandants des legions militaires
, all of them natives of East Cameroon. French and theFrench system of administration were then imposed, respectively, as the language of governance and the system of administration. A vast invidious and insidious policy of subjugation and forcible assimilation (euphemistically code-named ‘national integration’)was aggressively embarked upon. The military, especially the g
endarmerie,
terrorized analready traumatized people and carried out all sorts of exactions and cruel depredations inthe territory.With the revolutionary overthrow of the federal constitutional order a counterfeit‘Republique Unie du Cameroun’ was proclaimed in which West Cameroon’s status as aself-governing state as well as its constitutional importance were legislated out of existence. Overnight, West Cameroon was annexed and brought under the suzerainty of East Cameroun. The 1972 coup indeed marked the formal (but still thinly disguised)annexation of West Cameroon by East Cameroun. The status which it determined for itself, that of a self-governing State within an overarching federal system, in the 1961 UNorganised plebiscite, was forcibly abolished.The annexation was openly confirmed in 1984.In February of that year President Biya, another native of erstwhile East Cameroun andone of the prominent confederates involved in the 1972 coup, proclaimed the revival of laRepublique du Cameroun and concomitantly extended its territorial limits to embrace theentire territory of erstwhile West Cameroon, claiming that the 1961 union was intended asmerely a rectification of the southwestern border of la Republique du Cameroun.‘Republique du Cameroun’ is the name and style by which French Cameroun achievedindependence on 1 January 1961 and was admitted to the UN in September of that year.Its revival was therefore a compulsively
voulu
act.
III. The Substratum of the Southern Cameroons / Republique du Cameroun Union
On 31 May 1960 the UN Trusteeship Council adopted Resolution 2013 (XXVI) imposinga legal obligation on the Administering Authority to ascertain from Nigeria as well as fromla Republique du Cameroun the terms and conditions under which the SouthernCameroons might ‘join’ either of them. The UK therefore urged both countries to puttheir respective constitutional offers on the table. Nigeria offered to the SouthernCameroons full Regional status within the Nigerian Federation.La Republique du Cameroun on the other hand offered to the Southern Cameroons aFederal Union of two States, legally equal in status. The Prime Minister of the SouthernCameroons who headed the party that favoured ‘joining’ la Republique du Camerounaccepted the latter’s offer, subject to confirmation by the people in the plebiscite. TheUnion Agreement signed in 1960 between the Southern Cameroons Prime Minister, Mr.
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