- A. Examination of Cameroun Republic’s territorial claim to erstwhile British Southern Cameroons
Cameroun Republic has never denied that it is in occupation of erstwhile British Southern Cameroons. But it makes the fantastic claim that the latter is part of its lost territory that was merely found and returned to the ‘fatherland’, presumably by the UK and the UN. This claim seems based on two dubious arguments, so-called ‘historical consolidation’ and so-called ‘colonialism by consent’.
From these specious arguments Cameroun Republic draws the equally specious conclusion that the on-going struggle for self-determination by the people of erstwhile British Southern Cameroons is a secessionist bid unlawful under international law. These matters may be briefly examined.
- ‘Historical consolidation’
The historical consolidation argument is based on a mythical so-called ‘Kamerun-nation’, a propaganda peddled by Cameroun Republic about a supposed ‘Allemanic Kamerun Nation’ created by Germany. According to that piece of propaganda the 20-odd years of German colonial protectorate over a swathe of territory at the hinge of Africa created a so-called ‘Kamerun nation’. Cameroun Republic, so it is contended, succeeded to that protectorate when it attained independence from France and is entitled (the bases of such claimed entitlement have never been articulated) to reassemble all the territories that made up the said German Kamerun. This is of course strange and bogus learning.
The claim by Cameroun Republic is patently expansionist and simply political. Political arguments have always been rejected internationally as a basis of claim to territory or to land within another country because such arguments lack substance and are irrelevant to issues of territorial entitlement. Similar fanciful claims were unsuccessfully made by Morocco (to Mauritania and the Western Sahara), by Guatemala (to Belize), by Iraq (to Kuwait), by Somalia (to the Ogaden and to Djibouti), by Indonesia (to East Timor), and by Ethiopia (to Eritrea).
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The existence of German Kamerun was so brief (less than three decades, most of which was spent in trying to pacify rebellious native tribes) that no sense of native Allemanic identity and no sense of common togetherness were ever engendered in the inhabitants of the territory. This is the more so as the territory never had any common governance institutions in which the native representatives could have taken part and gotten to know each other.
The juridical basis of the existence of British Cameroons as a political unit and of the existence of French Cameroun as a political unit, and the international basis of the frontiers between the two territories, is the international tutelage system. The legal foundation of Cameroun Republic as a country goes back to the inception of French, and not German, colonization. Cameroun Republic succeeded to the subsisting rights and obligations of France over the colonial territory of French Cameroun. At its independence Cameroun Republic acquired its territories not from Germany but from France. In the law of state succession a successor state succeeds to the immediate predecessor state. The ‘francophonity’ of Cameroun Republic gives the lie to its claim that it is the successor state to Germany over extinct Kamerun, a territory to which Germany renounced all claims in terms of the Versailles Treaty 1919 and which was dissolved as a political unit and was divided up between Britain and France.
At no time prior to 1 October 1961 were there in existence any political ties, legal ties, cultural or economic ties, or ties of territorial sovereignty between British Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun/Cameroun Republic.
Cameroun Republic is guilty of violating the fundamental principle of uti possidetis juris. That principle ordains that colonized territories become independent within their colonial boundaries, forfeiting any historical claim they might aspire to regarding territories now held within the old colonial boundaries of others. The principle implies the continuity ipso jure of boundary and territorial treaties. It freezes the territorial titles thereby delimiting the newly independent state’s entitlement to territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.
- ‘Colonization by consent’
A hackneyed line of argument repeated ad nauseam by Cameroun Republic as claimed justification for grabbing erstwhile British Southern Cameroons is that the people of the territory voted at both the 1961 UN-sponsored plebiscite and at the 1972 ‘referendum’ (a pretended referendum) for the complete fusion of erstwhile British Southern Cameroons into Cameroun Republic and that the latter thereby acquired title and sovereignty over the former. The argument lacks merit and is not borne out by the evidence. In fact the argument makes a complete nonsense of Cameroun Republic’s own earlier argument that it merely recovered the Southern Cameroons as part of its lost territory returned to it.
In the first place, the plebiscite vote construed purposely and in the spirit of the exercise of the right to self-determination, was primarily a vote to achieve independence. Association with Cameroun Republic was a possible secondary outcome of the vote. That secondary outcome was anticipated in an expression of intent, evidenced by signed pre-plebiscite agreements, to associate in a federal union of two states, equal in legal and political status, if the vote went in favour of the proposition for ‘joining’ Cameroun Republic. Even after a vote in favour of that proposition, certain legal procedures had perforce to be followed and duly attested for the envisaged union to be legally valid and binding. Domestically, the agreement by both parties on a federal form of association had to be finalized; a draft federal constitution had to be produced and signed by both parties; and the draft federal constitution had to be submitted by each side to its parliament or its people to pronounce itself on it. Internationally, a union treaty would then have had to be concluded and a copy of the same deposited with the United Nations Secretary General consistently with Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations. General Assembly Resolution 1608 of 21 April 1961 set 1 October 1961 as the expected date of ‘joining’. But that ‘joining’ was conditional and the date set was merely recommendatory. At any rate, there was enough time between 21st April and 30th September 1961 during which all the processes just indicated could have been finalized had Cameroun Republic and the Administering Authority chosen to act in good faith in this matter.
Clearly, the people of British Southern Cameroons did not vote and could not possibly have voted for the extinguishment of the personality and identity of their territory and for the subjection of themselves to colonial rule by Cameroun Republic. No people ever voted to be dominated by another people, to become the slaves of another people. Nothing can possibly be gained by any such vote. People vote for a beneficial, never for a detrimental, change in their situation. If in October 1961 the UK Government transferred British Southern Cameroons to Cameroun Republic, apparently with the complicity of the United Nations, it would mean the UK and the UN acted in breach of international law since their obligation under the Charter of the United Nations was to lead the territory to self-government or independence, rather than to lead it to annexation by a third state. The inescapable implication of such a transfer would be that erstwhile British Southern Cameroons remains a classic colonial territory still to be de-colonized.
Secondly, the 1972 so-called ‘referendum’ was an exercise in futility. Recourse to the ploy of a ‘referendum’ for the purpose of enabling the abolition of the ‘federation’ offended against the ‘federal constitution’, which hermetically protected the federal character of the political association between Southern Cameroons and Cameroun Republic, however informal the association. Furthermore, the actual organization and conduct of the ‘referendum’ did not meet international election standards. There was no list of eligible voters. The electorate was not presented with a choice between alternatives: there was no choice at all to be made. There was no secret ballot. The ballot was neither free nor fair nor safe. The outcome was clearly pre-determined as attested by the 99.999% score so familiar in one-party authoritarian States where choreographed so-called elections are staged to rubber-stamp the wish of the despot and to hoodwink the rest of the world. The ‘referendum’ was not confined to erstwhile British Southern Cameroons as ought to have been the case since the 1961 plebiscite on ‘joining’ was confined to that territory, there having been no electoral consultation on that issue in Cameroun Republic. The Yaounde despot chose to make the pretended referendum a federation-wide affair knowing that Cameroun Republic was four times demographically bigger than erstwhile British Southern Cameroons. This ploy was additional insurance cover meant to ensure that Cameroun Republic used its crude majoritarian vote to impose its will on the Southern Cameroons. The 1972 so-called ‘referendum’ was thus an invalid poll, a legal fraud, a parody of the ballot box, an exercise in self-deception by Cameroun Republic, and a huge political and historical swindle. In Cameroun Republic’s relentless systematic deception of the international community, that ‘referendum’, was a theatrical attempt to legitimize its annexation of erstwhile British Southern Cameroons.