In 2017…people from the grassroots decided to stick together to say “enough is enough”. They are asking for their freedom from this modern day slavery in the grip of the government of the Republic of Cameroon. This was triggered by the Teachers’ and Lawyers’ strikes at the close of 2016… As this stalemate continues, popular opinion on the streets of Southern Cameroons is tilting in favour of outright separation.
…A day of joy for one and a moment of pain and regret for the other.
A King and his Queen had a quarrel on their 56th wedding anniversary, on the 11th of February. Below is an excerpt of what ensued:
King: Happy anniversary.
Queen: What is happy about this anniversary?
King: Dress-up, let’s go and celebrate our wedding anniversary.
Queen: You rejoice today because it is day that you discovered milk and honey in your neighbour’s land, got it for free, claimed it and made it yours. This day reminds me all of our biggest error. Henceforth on every 11th February, starting from today, Saturday 11th February 2017, I will join my children, we will dress in black, we will start the day in prayer, we will pray until noon, have lunch and get back to prayer from 2:00pm until 6:00pm. My people and I have declared this “the day of indoor mourning and prayer”. We mourn the death of a romance which never was and we pray to God to get us out of this marriage. I want a divorce. I have already filed for this divorce. Today, my people and I will remain indoors because we do not want to get out of our houses and be beaten, raped, tortured and killed.
King: Shall we go and join the celebrations?
Queen: What is there to celebrate?
King: Why are you dressed in black and holding a prayer book?
Queen: I am dressed in black because I am mourning.
King: Why are you mourning?
Queen: Because you are killing my people. You are raping our girls, maiming and torturing us. Why are you committing these atrocities on our people?
King: The people that are being tortured, killed, raped and maimed are not my people; they are your people. Don’t you see how determined they are to force the school year 2016/2017 to be cancelled by UNESCO? I cannot let that happen under my watch.
Queen: Is that why you got your CRTV to announce over the weekend that schools will reopen on Monday? Look at how you are embarrassing yourself and those of my people that you appointed. Most of them have not done anything for their people for years. They watched your ill-treatment of their brothers and sisters but they accepted it because you have transformed them into house-slaves. God is watching. He will lead us out like He did the people of Israel out of Egypt.
King: But they asked to be treated as such. I wonder why these young ones now refuse to be cajoled to my side. They are resisting every attempt to bribe them, so that they can bring this strike to an end. I need schools to resume. I cannot have an academic year cancelled in this country, especially after winning AFCON 2017.
Queen: Why don’t you release all the students who were arrested in Buea and Bamenda so that the Consortium will come back to the negotiating table? By the way, why did you outlaw the Consortium, days after failed negotiations with them? You turned around and arrested its members, to the point where some are now hiding in a Western embassy in Yaoundé? Do you think that anyone would believe your sincerity when you call for negotiations again?
King: I cannot release all the students because I do not have all of them to release.
Queen: What do you mean by that? Where are my peoples’ children?
King: Some have died.
Queen: We hear that you approved of their murders and that they be buried in mass graves.
King: I did not kill your people. It was done by the police, gendarmes, and soldiers, especially those called BIR. These my forces of repression have been ordered to ensure that schools reopen and that the courts restart, at all cost. I guess some of them would go beyond the call of duty to satisfy me.
Queen: Why have you cut off the Internet to the people living in my land since the 17th of January 2017?
King: So that anything I do there will not be seen by the rest of the world. I will not have these Google-generation children dictate how I run my country.
Queen: If I knew then what I know today, I surely will not have gone into this marriage.
King: Why would you not have gone into this marriage?
Queen: Because over the years, you have changed the marriage from a “monogamy with separate properties” into a “polygamy with all properties belonging to the King”.
King: Well, this is to show that we are all one and indivisible and you have never complained about anything.
Queen: When I complain, you pretend not to hear. When my people ask loudly, you term them extremists. For years I have tried to make this work, pretending that these things are not happening. However, the more I try to make it work, the more you take advantage of me.
King: But why are you complaining now after 56 years?
Queen: Whenever I try to tell you that you are unfair, you come down on me and my people with force. You have taken away our education system, you have imposed the French civil law on my people, replacing our British common law. You have brought your people to rule over my people in our land, and in your language. You now treat us as second class citizens and increasingly we see ourselves as your slaves.
King: When did you notice this?
Queen: Over the years. Each time I watched as you gradually but surely eroded all signs of my peoples’ identity from the face of the earth. You have even placed road signs in our land in your language. The police, gendarme and army speak your language when they are sent to work in my land.
King: Is that why you are grumbling? I have created a commission of bilingualism and multi-culturalism to take care of that.
Queen: You decreed decentralisation in 1996 and not much has happened on that front since.
King: I signed that to please your people and some of my people. I really did not intend to implement it.
Queen: I have been sad and sickened all these 56 years.
King: But you have never complained.
Queen: Whenever my people do, your forces of repression kill our children, rape our girls, torture our people and declare some of them wanted. They have become slaves in their own land. This is killing me but to you it is all a game. You are playing with the future of my people and to you it is only a game. Let’s look at this sector-by-sector:
Queen: About 90 percent of the oil of this nation comes from my land but all its revenue are paid into your land. Almost all the workers at the refinery, from those at the gate to the Managing Director, are people from your land. The refinery is on my land but the depots are on your land.
King: This is the life-wire of the nation’s economy, so I have to personally keep an eye on it.
Queen: What about the gold, bauxite, iron ore, coal and granites in my land?
King: I am yet to access these and other resources of the land. When I do, I will naturally manage them as I manage SONARA.
Queen: What about the timber, as you are deforesting our land?
King: The same thing, I am not answerable to anyone in this country.
Queen: What about the agricultural produce that are mostly from my land?
King: Are you seriously asking me to explain this?
Queen: Why have you abandoned the natural waterfall in my land that can produce electric power for the entire West Africa?
King: Because I want you to remain in this marriage. That is also why I carried all the thermal generators away from your region, so that I can decide to switch you off.
Queen: Is that why you have switched off Internet from my region?
King: I do not want the world to see what atrocities I am doing to your people. If your people do not get back subserviently into this union, I will charge them with treason, judge them in a military tribunal and sentence them to death or life imprisonment.
Queen: I want a divorce.
King: You cannot have a divorce. We are one and indivisible and this marriage will remain for ever.
Queen: What is happening to CDC and PAMOL?
King: I am planning to move their HQs to my land.
Queen: What have you done with the report from the Cameroon Education Forum (CEF) of January 2016? It contained 17 recommendations to address the Anglophone education sub-system.
King: I have kept in where I always keep recommendations that challenge my thinking, like the memorandum presented by the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda in December 2016 – in the trash.
Queen: Why are you sending your people to my land to teach children history, geography, chemistry, physics, etc. in your language?
King: Because you and your people accept it and because your people are not admitted into the teachers’ training schools, so they are not qualified.
Queen: Why don’t you admit them into those schools. My people are about eight million of this country’s 28 million, yet you admit two students out of 132 into the School of Sports, even though the school is situated in my land. Less than 30 of the 250 students in the School of Engineering in my land are my people.
King: Because you and your people accept it.
Queen: Why do the Vice Chancellors of Buea and Bamenda allow forces of repression to enter their universities, rape girls, torture students and even kill some?
King: I appointed them to follow in the footsteps of Dorothy because when a woman decides to be mean, she forgets that every child is born of a woman like her. The forces of repression were invited into each school by the individual VC. In this case, they have to take their responsibility. You should ask them and not even my minister of higher education, talk less of me.
Queen: We hear that your people are bribing newly self-appointed leaders of the teachers’ trade union to call of the strike. Do you realise that it is not working?
King: I now realise that the people are bent on waiting for the leaders of the Consortium before they can listen to anyone, even to me. I tried to appease them with the commission of bilingualism and multi-culturalism but no one seems to be swayed by it. Your people are still bent on their strike and the ghost towns. These ghost towns are making me sick.
Queen: Why do you place Magistrates and State Councils trained in the Civil Law in courts in my land to judge my people. Our lawyers and people follow the Common Law system. You should know that the Civil Law is diametrically different from the Common Law in principle.
King: Because the two legal systems are diametrically opposed, I have decided that the entire country will apply the civil law system in all courts.
Queen: So you see nothing wrong in the demands of the lawyers?
King: The OHADA law code has been translated into your language.
Queen: Why did your forces of repression arrest Justice Ayah Paul, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, from his home without a warrant of arrest?
King: Because he is stubborn and I want him and all of you to know that I dictate the law in this country. I am the law in this land.
Queen: Is that why they are taking Barrister Nkongho Bala, Dr. Fontem Neba, Mancho Bibixy and all our freedom fighters to your military tribunal?
King: In this country, I decide which court tries whoever, regardless of what the international human rights laws say.
Queen: Is it true that you allowed the arrest of 90 year old Mola Njoh Litumbe?
King: I am yet to confirm where that old man is, at the moment, but he was trying to reveal the truth of what happened in the beginning.
Queen: And what is wrong in what he did or incorrect in what he said?
King: Now woman! it is either my way or the high way to death.
Queen: This our marriage is actually “njomba marriage”. Are you taking advantage of us because this our “come we stay marriage” in which the King refused or neglected to do traditional, civil status or even church blessing is something that was always going to fail?
King: I have always prepared myself for the worst in this relationship.
Queen: When we started you agreed that both our peoples will always be represented in the first two positions in this nation. Today my person is the fourth authority in this country.
King: I understand this lame point of yours but you see, when I took the position of prime minister from the North and gave your people, I had to compensate them with the speaker of the Assembly. By the time I approved the Senate, the Bamelikis were becoming restive and I decided to offer them that one. Things just happened that way!
Queen: While we are in parliament, where is Hon. Wirba Joseph? Rumour has it that you have arrested him. Is it because of the speech that he made at the House of Assembly last year? Are you saying that even with his parliamentary immunity you still arrested him?
King: He is at large. We will arrest him on sight. Do you know that he stubbornly organised a rally in his place on Saturday January 14, 2017?
Queen: When will you ever appoint an ambassador form my land to represent us at the United Nations?
King: Never. Your people will go and dig out our marriage files, if they exist, and expose us.
Queen: What about sending any of my people to represent us in the USA?
King: Never, that country is too big and important.
Queen: To France?
King: I will not. On second thought, I might because when such a person gets to France, s/he will know who my mentor is.
Queen: To Nigeria?
King: Never, too near and could let your people back in, then I might lose Bakassi.
Queen: Since you mentioned it, what have you done to the people of Bakassi, since they joined us from Nigeria?
King: The treatment that is being given to you is the same which we are dishing out to them: Bring them in, get authority over their oil and abandon them.
Queen: Is that fair?
King: The world is not fair. If you want something, you have to fight for it.
Queen: When will you appoint a person from my land as minister of Finance?
King: Never. I give you the director of customs and impose high targets so that he can collect the money, which the minister then makes available to me.
Queen: What about the armed forces?
King: Never. Even the few of your people who I appoint as Generals, in return for some huge service rendered, I am now watching very closely. If any of them is sympathetic with this your peoples’ silly cry, I will lock him up.
Queen: What happened to the Two State Federation that we agreed upon?
King: I am now considering a Ten State Federation, just to please your people because even I acknowledge that there is a problem in this country. Contrary to some of my over-ambitious people, some from your land, I now agree that there is an Anglophone problem.
Queen: What is going to be different now compared to all the other times that you have signed your degrees? Ten State Federation is worse than the situation we found ourselves in 1961. That is why I am now filing for divorce.
On Transportation and Tourism
Queen: What happened to the Tiko and Bamenda international airports, in my land? What about our airstrips in Besongabang, Bali, Wum, Kumbo and Nkambe?
King: I abandoned them so you won’t fly away.
Queen: What happened to the railways from Kumba to Muyuka to Buea to Tiko to Victoria?
King: The same as above – abandoned.
Queen: What happened to the river ports in Ekondo Titi, Mamfe and Abongshe?
King: Same as above – abandoned.
Queen: Why have you abandoned the natural deep sea port in my land and we are paying millions to dredge a man-made seaport in your land?
King: Because I do not want to develop your region. I am the King. Enough! forget about these complains and let’s celebrate our wedding anniversary on the 11th of February.
Queen: I told you before. Let me say it again, you rejoice today because it is day that you discovered milk and honey in your neighbour’s land, got it for free, claimed it and made it yours. This day reminds me of all of our biggest error. Henceforth on every 11th day of February, starting from today, Saturday February 2017, I will join my children, we will dress in black, we will start the day in prayer, we will pray until noon, have lunch and get back to prayer until 6:00pm. I have declared this “the day of indoor mourning and prayer”. We mourn the death of a romance which never was and we pray to God to get us out of this marriage. I want a divorce. I have already filed for this divorce. Today, me and my people will remain indoors because we do not want to get out of our houses and be beaten, raped, tortured and killed.
The foregoing speaks to the story of the wealthy region known as Southern Cameroons, sandwiched between Nigeria to the west and the Republic of Cameroun to the east. After World War I, this nation was given to Britain. During the years of independence, it was considered too small and unsustainable to be an independent country, in spite of its institutions that had already been setup (the legislative, executive and judiciary) as early as 1954. On February 11, 1961, in a well choreographed referendum, in which only two options were presented to her people (be independent by joining Nigeria or by joining the Republic of Cameroon), 60 percent of her people voted to join the Republic of Cameroun.
In the last fifty-six years, the people of Southern Cameroons have watched in dismay, shock and horror how their value systems have been eroded, their culture assimilated and their way of life abused. In 2017, their people from the grassroots decided to stick together to say “enough is enough”. They are asking for their freedom from this modern day slavery in the grip of the government of the Republic of Cameroon. This was triggered by the Teachers’ and Lawyers’ strikes at the close of 2016. Negotiations by the striking workers and government failed on Friday January 13th. On Tuesday January 17th, the Consortium through which the government was negotiating was banned and the arrests of its leaders started. On the same day, Internet access was suspended throughout that region of the country and the stalemate persists till this day. As this stalemate continues, popular opinion on the streets of Southern Cameroons is tilting in favour of outright separation. The more arrests and torture of their people, the stronger their resolve to go all the way to achieve what they want. They are vowing to keep up resisting until the government truly realises their plight, releases their leaders and all those arrested in the course of this struggle so far. They are reminded and fortified by the fact that blacks in America boycotted public buses in Montgomery for 381 days to end segregation in public transport. Ironically the road on which the American Embassy is built in the Republic of Cameroon is named “Avenue Rosa Parks”.
A Brief History of Southern Cameroons
Southern Cameroons has always had international legal status:
• It had a British Mandate under the League of Nations in 1922;
• It became British Trust Territory under UNO in October 1947;
• It attained self government with an Assembly and a Premier in September 1954;
• The UNO Plebiscite on February 11, 1961 voted 60 percent to 40 percent to gain independence by joining La Republique du Cameroun;
• It gained independence through the United Nations Organisation General Assembly Resolution 1608 (21/04/1961) on the independence and union with La Republique du Cameroun;
• Annexed by Republique du Cameroun on the September 30, 1961;
• The Referendum of 1972 dismantled the Federal character of the form of the state in violation of art 47(1) of the Federal constitution, to the United Republic of Cameroun;
• In 1984, through Law No. 84/01, the United Republic reverted to Republique du Cameroun;
• In 1993, the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) was formed. There are other groups such as the Southern Cameroons Peoples Organisation (SCAPO) that have been seeking the separation of the Southern Cameroons from the Republique du Cameroun;
• Since it is not yet a member of the United Nations, Southern Cameroons cannot report a case for deliberation in the floor of the UN General Assembly. Therefore, they could pass through a third country. SCAPO has sued at the Abuja High Court. The court ruled in favour of the Southern Cameroons;
• In 2003, SCAPO sued La Republique du Cameroun to the African Commission on Peoples and Human Rights at Banjul. The court ruled in favour of the Southern Cameroons and called them “a people with right of self-determination different from the people of La Republique). The ruling recommended dialogue.
Sisiku AyukTabe is the spokesperson of the people of the Southern Cameroons.