- UN complicity in the transfer of the territory to a successor colonialist
The UN-imposed plebiscite in the British Southern Cameroons was unwarranted. The questions were extremely vague and offered no real choice but dead-end alternatives (colonial rule by Nigeria or colonial rule by Cameroun Republic). There were thus no status options as required by UN declarations and practice bearing on de-colonization. The status option of independence was unjustifiably left out. The UN failed to explicate and to see to it that its strange concept of ‘independence by joining’, whatever it meant by that, was implemented. It turned a blind eye when on 1 September 1961 Cameroun Republic passed an annexation law claiming entitlement to British Southern Cameroons as part of its territory returned to it by the UN and the UK. British Southern Cameroons was then still a UN trust territory and one would have thought the UN would have at least vigorously protested this brazen act of expansionism.
The UN claims the British Southern Cameroons was de-colonized. But nearly half a century on it is still unable to indicate the status into which the territory emerged following its purported de-colonization by the UN. The UN moreover appears to have taken the highly suspect attitude that the British Southern Cameroons + Cameroun Republic = Cameroun Republic.
The ICJ, judicial organ of the UN, in its judgment of 2 December 1963 in the Northern Cameroons Case remarked, obiter, that “on 1 October 1961, pursuant to the results of a plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, the Southern Cameroons joined the Republic of Cameroun within which it then became incorporated.” The judgment refers to a two-stage process: the Southern Cameroons joined Cameroun Republic; then the Southern Cameroons became incorporated within Cameroun Republic. What was the nature of these separate events and when did they take place? The judgment does not say. Nor does it say who effected the incorporation, and how and by what authority it was done. It is not suggested anywhere in the judgment that the Court construed ‘join’ to mean ‘incorporate’.
- Cameroun Republic’s assumption of a colonial sovereignty over erstwhile British Southern Cameroons
On 1 September 1961 the Assembly of Cameroun Republic passed an annexation law claiming entitlement to British Southern Cameroons as part of its territory. That law did not indicate when and how British Southern Cameroons could possibly have become part of its territory since Cameroun Republic is a former French colonial territory which achieved independence from France within well-defined boundaries (British Southern Cameroons not comprised within them) attested by boundary treaties. The annexation law was passed off as a so-called ‘federal constitution’ under which Cameroun Republic claimed to have “temporarily transformed itself into a federation so as to facilitate the constitutional accession of a returned part of its territory.”
Political leaders of Cameroun Republic have repeatedly maintained that no political association of any kind, less still a union of two countries, British Southern Cameroons and Cameroun Republic, took place on 1 October 1961. According to them, what took place on that date was simply the constitutional accession of British Southern Cameroons to Cameroun Republic. The latter, they say, merely made a minor amendment to its constitution so as to allow for a returned part of its territory “to rejoin the motherland”. And yet in 1972 these same leaders went out of their way to stage a pretended ‘referendum’ in both erstwhile British Southern Cameroons and Cameroun Republic, the well-cooked result of which they claim gave them the mandate to formal annex the former to the latter. Does a country annex territory that is its own? Does a country need special authority to assert authority over its own territory?
Up to April 1972 erstwhile British Southern Cameroons enjoyed a measure of autonomy as a ‘federated state’ under an informal federal system that came into existence after 1 October 1961. Following the 1972 fake ‘referendum’, however, the political leadership of Cameroun Republic proceeded to dismantle everything that had painstakingly been built over the decades in the Southern Cameroons right from the inception of British rule. The government and institutions of the territory were sacked by decree of Mr. Ahidjo, a national of Cameroun Republic and self-anointed head of the informal Cameroon federation. Cameroun Republic set about the business of systematically looting the wealth of erstwhile British Southern Cameroons and plundering its natural resources. Having sacked the territory’s government, parliament, civil service and other state institutions the authorities of Cameroun Republic proceeded to impair its integrity as a single territorial and political unit. The territory was cut into two provinces and administered as mere adjuncts to limitrophic regions of Cameroun Republic. These two provinces continue to be placed under civilian and military officials from Cameroun Republic operating in French with an agenda to enforce the French administrative, educational, legal, constitutional and value systems. In spite of this huge colonial and assimilationist enterprise the political leaders of Cameroun Republic still considered it absolutely necessary to abandon the new name ‘united republic of Cameroun’ which they had themselves instituted in May 1972 and to revert, in 1984, to the old name ‘Republique du Cameroun’, the very name and style under which French Cameroun achieved formal independence from France on 1 January 1960. That name change could not have been intended to be, and was not, a meaningless exertion.
- Pronouncements of writers who have examined the evidence
P. Gaillard (Ahmadou Ahidjo: Patriote et Despote, Batisseur de l’Etat Camerounais, 1994) affirms that there was no union whatsoever on 1 October 1961 and that what took place was a mere border adjustment enabling Cameroun Republic to shift its southwestern border some 400 km westwards to the point where it then shares a maritime border with Nigeria.
FM Stark (‘Federalism in Cameroon: The Shadow and the Reality’, 1976) posits that the Cameroon federation was a de facto federation and not a true and genuine federation in the sense of a voluntary relationship between political units. His conclusion is that the British Southern Cameroons was in reality incorporated into Cameroun Republic.
J Vanderlinden (‘L’Etat Federal, Etat Africain de l’An 2000?’, 1985) concludes that the ‘federation’ was used by Cameroun Republic merely as a ploy, a smokes-screen to soft-cushion its colonization of British Southern Cameroons and to enable the territory to swallow the bitter pill of its annexation, in the same way Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia.
Professor J Crawford (‘State Practice and International Law in Relation to Unilateral Secession’, 1997) cites in his study British Southern Cameroons as an example of a former colonial territory ‘integrated in a state’.
J Benjamin (Les Camerounais Occidentaux, 1972) details the fraudulent manoeuvres used by Cameroun Republic to destroy British Southern Cameroons. He concludes that what happened to erstwhile British Southern Cameroons is a classic example of a creeping annexation.
P Mesmer (Les Blancs s’en Vont, 2000), speaking from insider knowledge and as the last colonial governor of French Cameroun, is emphatic that Cameroun Republic annexed British Southern Cameroons.
L Sindjoun (L’Etat Ailleurs, 2002), a native of Cameroun Republic details how British Southern Cameroons was all along misled and deceived by Cameroun Republic. He is also emphatic in his conclusion that the ‘federation’ was a strategy used by Cameroun Republic to annex British Southern Cameroons and a mere make-belief ploy successfully used to hoodwink both the United Nations and the Southern Cameroons.