“Cameroon Is One And Indivisible” is a pronouncement that is supposed to have a solemn ring to it. However, there is so much happening in Cameroon today that such a statement now produces more questions than answers. Are we talking about a territory or a people?
As A Territory?
Cameroon as a country, or parts thereof, has been known as: KAMERUN, SOUTHERN and NORTHERN CAMEROONS, “LA REPUBLIC DU CAMEROUN”, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON, WEST CAMEROON, EAST CAMEROON, THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON and the second “LA REPUBLIQUE DU CAMEROUN”. Only the Constitution of the FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON of 1961 describes the territory of Cameroon. This constitution provides in Article 1 as follows:
1. (1) With effect from the 1st October 1961, the Federal Republic of Cameroon shall be constituted from the territory of the Republic of Cameroon, hereafter to be styled East Cameroon, and the territory of the Southern Cameroons, formerly under British trusteeship, hereafter to be styled West Cameroon.
Subsequent constitutions do not define the territories but proceed to change the name of the country. While the 1972 constitution attempts to maintain the notion of two territories getting together and forming a United Cameroon, the 1984 Constitution must be considered as the one that created the greatest confusion in the identification of the territory of the Cameroon. The 1984 Constitution states:
Article 1 - The United Republic of Cameroon shall, with effect from the date of entry into force of this law, be known as Republic of Cameroon (Law No 84-1 of February 4, 1984).
By reverting to the name Republic of Cameroon, already defined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon as being East Cameroon, the perennial question has always been: What happened to Southern Cameroons or West Cameroon? So, when one affirms that the Republic of Cameroon is One and Indivisible, does this also concern Southern Cameroons or West Cameroon?
If ever there was a need to change the name of the country, it would be to revert to the German appellation KAMERUN. All the main political parties of Southern Cameroons did, in fact, use the word Kamerun, namely: KNDP (Kamerun People’s Democratic Party), KNC (Kamerun National Party) KPP (Kamerun People’s Part) and OK (one Kamerun). It is clear from this that, while the affirmation of the Southern Cameroonians for a genuine reconstitution of the former colonial entity, based on the two inherited cultures in the form of a federation, the intention of the Republic of Cameroon has been opaque to say the least.
The constant changing of the name is what has heightened suspicion. The “Anglophone problem”, as it is sadly described, is indeed a Cameroonian problem. We seem to be in denial of our history and our past. All the publications about the Independence of La Republique du Cameroon or East Cameroon commands us to face our history, once and for all, and make the necessary adjustments. Whether it is the book “KAMERUN”, or the recent publications “La Guerre du Cameroun” or “La France Afrique” in which East Cameroun is described as the laboratory of the “France-Afrique” policy, it is clear that there are issues that must be addressed.
Some of us still have traumatizing memories of human heads on sticks in roundabouts, as one travelled through the Bamileke region during the years of the fight for independence. I cannot forget seeing the burning down of entire villages of people whose only desire was freedom. UPC, a historic party, struggled through suspicion, humiliation and persecution. A very well-known French actor, during this process, actually affirmed that Independence was “given” to those who wanted it the least.
NGO’s in Namibia today are trying to sue Germany; the Kenyans sued the British for the repression in the era of the Mau Mau and obtained compensation. NGO’s in Cameroon are getting ready, in light of the release of the archives of the colonial and post-colonial period by the French government, to sue for compensation. The trusteeship agreements are being re-visited by different groups to see which clauses may have been violated. There is now the whole debate about payments by francophone colonies to France, and people are agitating about the political implications of the CFA franc.
If in the complex maze of this all we can gather is that this is an “Anglophone problem”, which we acknowledge half-heartedly and under pressure, then I am sad for my country. This continuous denial of facing our colonial history must stop. We must discuss it, understand it, and draw the conclusions that will help us chart a future. Simply rehabilitating people and calling them national heroes, without any concrete action to right the wrongs, talking of founding fathers without naming them, is at best a game of ruse. No street names, no national heroes day, no stamps, no monuments, just words of some anonymous folks, will take us nowhere. Furthermore, when a citizen of the country pays homage to a Father of Reunification in the form a statute in Douala, it is broken, pulled down and dragged through the streets of Douala under the nose of thousands of citizens who stare in total stupefaction and bewilderment. The so-called “Anglophone problem” is, in fact, a result of the state of denial we are in.
As A People?
As a people, are we then one and indivisible? It is interesting to read what a reporter for LE MONDE Afrique, Yann Gwet, says in commenting on the President’s 2017, New Year speech. He writes:
“Listening to President Biya, 82 years, talking about this jungle as a “democratic country and a “State of law” and positioning himself as the protector of “the foundations of our living together” solemnly referring to the Constitution, whereas he has been in power for thirty-three years, forcefully reaffirming the unity and indivisibility of Cameroon in reply to the “worries” of striking Teachers and Lawyers in the Anglophone part of the country who are described in the speech as “manipulated and guided extremists” I had the confirmation of what I already know. There are two Cameroons one official and one real.”
If we want to consolidate our unity, it is the real Cameroon we must face. We must talk to one another, frankly, truthfully, and transparently. If we continue to stay in denial, then we will never be united, the divisions will continue, and we will lose the peace we so dearly cherish.