By Nfamewih Aseh
CameroonPostline.com -- The 50th anniversary celebration of Cameroon’s Reunification that took place in Buea on February 20 was a thunderous political statement not only because it was celebrated with pomp, colour and blast but actually because it said something about the state of the union.
A reading of the political statement of the reunification jubilee smelt of the official view of history that was well scripted and stage-acted to give an impression to the outside world that Cameroonians are happily celebrating their independence and reunification jubilee, a perception that ran through the entire fabric of the jubilee celebration from start to finish.
As a matter of fact, from lighter issues like Bidoung Mkpat’s “the forward march”, a theatre piece written by him and staged at the open air amphitheatre of the University of Buea, on the night of February 17, 2014, to serious issues like President Biya’s address to the nation on the occasion of the Reunification celebration itself; the reek one got from the event is that it was a dramatisation of the official view of history with the sole purpose being to score an official goal for the Yaounde regime.
Though a political statement, the Reunification jubilee was a deceptive political statement. The Anglophones have demonstrated in very unequivocal terms that they are dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the union. So, to make such a loud political statement that Cameroonians are happily celebrating their golden jubilee is to deny the obvious - though it did not come as a surprise.
The Yaounde regime has made quite some effort to dismiss the Anglophone problem on the grounds that it does not exist; that the SCNC, which has stood out very clearly as the voice of people crying in the Anglophone wilderness, are a bunch of disgruntled individuals whose only wish is to foment trouble in a peaceful nation.
We all know that this official view of things is not true because the Anglophone problem is real. Proof of this is that it is deeply embedded in the Cameroon Anglophone literature including poetry which is a form of expression that carries the people’s daily experiences, dissatisfaction and frustrations.
We will not be the first in the world to understand the dissatisfaction and frustrations of a people by analysing their literature, poetry and other works of art which are factual statements that cannot be withdrawn or denied. However, the Anglophone problem, which seems to be wearing a veil, may not necessarily be a minority problem. To articulate the Anglophone problem which is a problem of a subordinated people, we will highlight only a few issues here and leave the rest for another day.
Before we go, the question we ask is; when the people of the ex-British territory voted considerably on February 11, 1961 gripped by the glee of voting to join their brothers on the other side of the Mungo River, what happened that the hilarity of a people turned into frustration? To understand this mystery we briefly examine the background to the Reunification story, which begins with the circumstances surrounding the entity into which the people of the ex-British territory joined East Cameroon, that is.
Let’s begin from February 11, 1961, which is the day the people of the ex-British territory of Cameroon decided in the plebiscite to join their brothers across the Mungo River. The sad thing about the plebiscite is that after the vote, the Foumban Conference sat to lay down the modalities on how the two reunited brothers will be going about their affairs. Sadly, still, a quick succession of historical events happened that completely subverted the resolutions of the Foumban Conference which sat to agree on the nature and functioning of the union.
The first of this sequence of events is that the Foumban resolutions were shelved in favour of a constitution that was adopted by the French parliament in 1946 and was imposed on East Cameroon by Charles de Gaulle. The fact is that that French-imposed constitution which even surprised East Cameroonians with the description, La République du Cameroun, was debated upon and approved by the then 100 deputies of the East Cameroon’s Legislative Assembly on February 21, 1960.
Worse still, the West Cameroon House of Assembly in Buea never saw that constitution. Last but not the least, on September 30, 1961, the day the Union Jack was lowered, a secret meeting held at midnight of that day between the British and Ahmadou Ahidjo who had then become the President of La République du Cameroon on the terms of that 1946 French constitution.
The British are said to have handed the ex-British territory of Cameroon and its people to Ahmadou Ahidjo who was then the legal representative of France in Cameroon. It should be recalled that upon delegating powers to the young Ahidjo who was then just 36 years old and who came to power through French constitutional designs, France encumbered him with ‘accords’ that brought all the strategic sectors of the French overseas territory of East Cameroon directly under the control of France.
It was through those accords that France was able to pull the strings from the backstage, determining the direction the country should go with Ahidjo playing the role of the visible string-puppet on stage. These included the accords for economic cooperation, financial cooperation, cultural cooperation, cooperation for technical assistance and military cooperation which enabled France to put at the disposal of Ahidjo a sophisticated and repressive army to crush any rebellion real or virtual.
These accords were all signed in 1960. Sectors such as finance, defence, foreign affairs and education, among others, which were considered too strategic by France, were no-go areas for Cameroonians. Those areas are still strategic today and could explain why they cannot be acceded by Anglophones who were grafted into a union with La République du Cameroun as a gift to Ahidjo who was obliged to treat them only as subordinated people in a union they were supposed to have joined by their own free will.
With France having the final say in the affairs of Cameroon, there is no way the union can be fair to Anglophones to the point of letting them ascend to strategic sectors of the country, no to talk of becoming Head of State. So, you see why there was a need to stage-manage a public show that would give an impression to the outside world that all Cameroonians are happily celebrating their golden jubilee.
Whatever the case, since the position is a bit clearer today than it was in 1961, we can preview Foumban II, whose purpose should be to draft articles of association which should clearly stipulate the type of political structure that should meet the aspirations of all Cameroonians and how such a political structure will be functioning, based on which genuine constitution can be drawn to customise the political structure. Of course, the articles of association, when drafted, should be scrutinised by all Cameroonians who should form committees to do so before it is adopted as the foundation of the new nation, on which a constitution will be drawn.
First published in The Post print edition 01508