The World Versus Southern Cameroons
By Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert (Yindo Toh)
Another leg of a century-old game – the World versus Southern Cameroons – will be played next week in Canada. The players, referee, line judges, spectators, match delegates, fans, financiers, and victims (over 30,000 slain since November 2017) are the same.
Bloody rounds of the tragic version of this game are being played in Southern Cameroons, to the deafening silence of the international community – unimpressed by genocide. Worse than criminal silence, those who, not so long ago, called for “negotiations without preconditions”, are back to pulling strings, in the shadows and watching the game… in callous indifference. The game prioritizes interests over rights or lives. In it, geopolitics trumps sovereignty rights and sticking with allies, however evil the alliance, is better so long as might makes right.
Activists for an independent Southern Cameroons have been played at this game for over 100 years. It is the vengeance they got served for rejecting a 44-year-old experiment by the United Kingdom to assimilate them into Nigerians. In 1961, the world ganged up to impose more of the same. In a plebiscite supervised by the United Nations (no less!), Southern Cameroonians were forced to choose either what they had earlier rejected – union with Nigeria – or its next worse alternative – union with Cameroun.
Today’s events in Ukraine makes the hypocrisy shouting. Imagine the United Nations and NATO forcing Ukraine (once a part of the defunct Soviet Union) to gain and/or maintain independence either by becoming a part of Russia or by becoming a part of (wild guess) China. Imagine an African country doing what Canada is doing next week: host and moderate an event to tell citizens of Quebec to give up their campaign, not to obtain, but to restore their independence. Imagine South Africa staging a public relations event on behalf of the rest of Canada while the latter’s army slaughters citizens of Quebec. The West is willing to go nuclear in defense of Ukraine, but engages in diplomatic hide-and-seek games if required to decry genocide. It won’t set aside its interests to reaffirm the rights of natives to self-determination, self-rule, and freedom from colonial domination in all its forms. You heard right: “black lives (don’t) matter”.
That’s how genocide is made. Impunity. The kind of impunity that France and Cameroun enjoy in Southern Cameroons under the pretext of fighting “terrorists” and “secessionists”. The insistence to keep Southern Cameroons a part of Cameroun that Nigeria did not have in 1953-54 when Ambazonia broke away and that Russia can’t evoke in dealing with ex-Soviet Ukraine.
Cameroun’s tyrant-for-life, Paul Biya, has confessed that this is about treating other humans as game. “We tried assimilating their system into the majority francophone system but because of identity difference, it failed,” Biya told Sudanese-born telecoms billionaire Mo Ibrahim during an interview in 2019. Cameroun’s failed 61-year-old experiment, like the 44 years of efforts by Nigeria, will never convert Ambazonians into Camerounians. The resolve of this “Never Again Generation” will never be broken. In fact, the monkey games which give Cameroun a pass for engaging but not committing to the Swiss Process or play prolongation time in Canada, pretending to be for mediation, will only persuade movements like mine, MoRISC, to get fully involved with funding self-defense or start an armed wing… because monkey see, monkey do.
Today’s unraveling was both predictable and predicted. Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General from 1953-1961, warned that “uniting the Southern Cameroons to the Cameroun Republic is like forcing a balloon under the sea. One day, it will come out”. That day broke fast… dawning before Dag Hammarskjold’s tragic loss in a plane crash. In the hope of drowning the Ambazonian independence balloon, the West ignored the overwhelming vote for independence at the Mamfe Conference in 1957. It violated the UN Charter. It looked away in February 1961 as Cameroun (independent on 1st January 1960) adopted a federal constitution under which it effectively annexed Southern Cameroons. This was two months before the 21st April 1961 UN vote for independence and five months before effective independence on 1st October 1961.
France, a veto power-wielding Permanent Member of the Security Council sold all shame to defend its interests, delaying UN resolutions and causing the vote to be taken several times in the forlorn hope that Southern Cameroons would be denied independence. That campaign failed, but the game was only getting started. Since 1961, it’s been played into prolongations. The United Kingdom has swallowed its tongue, seeing no evil, hearing no evil, and saying no evil of its ally, France. London has watched with sealed lips as Paris has led Southern Cameroons, like a sheep from self-government (even under colonial rule back in 1954) to the slaughter house of recolonization. Along with UN officials, the UK declared forfeiture, staying away from the UN-mandated Foumban Conference in July 1961 where France and Cameroun were allowed to snatch victory from the jaws of the bitter defeat they suffered three months earlier at the UN General Assembly.
This history is useful in understanding why the West, to this day, plays spectator. Three years ago, when the Swiss Government announced that it had the consent of Cameroun and Southern Cameroons liberation movements to launch a mediation process for “negotiations without preconditions”, the same old games were reactivated. In public, the West blessed the initiative. In the dark, the world – the UN, the African Union, the European Commission, the Commonwealth of Nations, the governments of the United States, the UK and Canada – did little for it to work. Supporting the Swiss in what was the first meaningful opportunity since the Foumban Conference to address the root causes of The Southern Cameroons Problem would have hurt the interests of colonizers – akin to scoring an own diplo-goal.
So, the West pretended to pressure Cameroun. It said all the right things, by day. By night, though, world powers sabotaged the process. After three years of mumbling support for the Swiss-led Process, France has confessed it is as “blind” as it claimed to be during the Rwanda Genocide. Last July, Macron sang from the same hymn book as his “best pupil”, Paul Biya, when he called for a return to the well-documented failed solution known as decentralization. In the shadows, Canada, a major financier of the Swiss Initiative, had already embarked on collaborating with so-called moderates in the Biya regime (if they exist).
Next week, Canada will deliver for Yaounde when it hosts and moderates Cameroun’s Second Grand National Dialogue in Canada. In Canada’s minority French-speaking Quebec Province, where an army of mostly Canada’s majority English-speaking people is not slaughtering those who seek independence for Quebec; in the province which France actively supported to secede from Canada, Ottawa will host what Cameroun dreams could be the first step in Ambazonia’s surrender. Ottawa is open about a few secrets. For the record, it admits this is not Canada initiating another third-party mediation. Please, read: this is Canada playing monkey games at the behest of powerless, spineless “moderates” in the Biya regime. They are at the service of Slave Prime Minister Dion Ngute who claims to have the blessings of Tyrant Biya for this N-th dead-on-arrival effort at reversing the irreversible.
As both umpire and player in Canada – a sharp contrast with its status of “one of two, both equal in status” under the Swiss-led Process – Yaounde cannot wait for kick-off. It has already dispatched three junior level French-speaking staff from Dion Ngute’s office. Nine enablers of Southern Cameroonian descent, most of them civil society representatives based in Southern Cameroons, and two regime apparatchiks (an unelected mayor and the head of the so-called National Youth Council) complete their line-up. These characters will face off against individuals and leaders of organizations supposedly fighting for independence. They are swimming against an irreversible tide. A tsunami of Ambazonians, in their millions, see through these games and, like me, will never attend. Sadly, for a fortnight, I have been horrified to witness people I have considered comrades in the struggle literally beg to be invited to this Camerouno-Camerounian Grand National Dialogue hosted in Canada.
Canada’s role – even as moderator – is less than holy. Ottawa is still one of Yaounde’s arms suppliers – genocide notwithstanding. It believes it needs to babysit Ambazonia, helping hand-pick the enablers who will window-dress as Southern Cameroonians next week. Why stop, right? In supporting the Swiss Process, Canada still funded a certain Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations – opposed to the Process – reportedly to help coordinate self-defense groups.
Getting next week’s rushed game on the fixtures is no accident. That it comes hard on the heels of the Swiss announcement is intended, not unfortunate. Cameroun badly needs a public relations coup. Even the staunchest of Cameroun supporters were caught off guard by its foot-in-the-mouth decision about no longer being interested in third-party mediation. Beginning next week, Canada’s not-so-good offices can help sanitize Cameroun’s blood-dripping hands. It is an off ramp Yaounde needs to blur the message that its military option is full throttle. The West, which in the 1950s feared that an independent Southern Cameroons would be pro-Moscow, now seeks to placate Yaounde to prevent Russia expanding its influence in Africa.
Next week, Cameroun will begin its abuse of Canada. It is just a matter of time before what it just did to Switzerland is done to Canada. Ottawa seems aware. It admits next week will start small and slow. Why go fast with only tens of thousands of Southern Cameroonians – not Ukrainians and not Quebecois – slaughtered, right? To protect its interests, Canada is throwing a life vest to Cameroun, serving as a Trojan Horse. Next week, the Swiss of Humanitarian Dialogue and UN observers will climb out of the belly of the Ottawa Horse and unadvised spectators at this new/old tragicomedy will be fooled into thinking the Swiss endorse this. To their credit, Canada admits that this effort amounts to throwing as much jelly on the wall to see what will stick. It is, they say, bringing together Southern Cameroonians to sought it out among themselves – in Canada. The late Christian Cardinal Tumi has to be turning in his grave.