There is a cultural genocide of Southern Cameroonians that is celebrated May 20 of every year. The All Anglophone Lawyers Conference Common that took place in Bamenda on May 9, 2015 was forthright to add the critical voices of lawyers in alerting and awakening the conscience of the civilized world to this powder keg that may ignited an unprecedented human and material calamity in a volatile sub-region. Hoping to rely on the national and international focus on the war against Boko Haram to deflate attention from the escalation of this policy of cultural genocide, the Government of Cameroon criminalized civil liberties and unleashed an unprecedented assault on the Common Law by deploying civil law Judges to the Common Law Jurisdictions to use the French language in the enforcement of this policy. To expect Common Law practitioners who are the guarantors of this internationally protected legacy to observe in silent complicity or to do nothing would have given a tacit fig leaf of support to this ongoing crime against the conscience of humanity. The escalation of the cultural genocide that elicited this emergency response by the Common Law Lawyers took a familiar path. Permit me therefore to go down memory lane to trace the oppressive journey that the systemic, asphyxiating and sometime blood targeting of Southern Cameroons on account of their cultural, territorial, economic and demographic specificity has taken. Between October 29 and December 6, 1958, the last of the UN General Assembly fact-finding missions of four members, Haiti, India, New Zealand and the US) headed by Benjamin Gerig of the U.S to the Cameroons issued a report to the General Assembly of the UN on February 20, 1958. That report like those of the three previous fact-finding missions, ruled out a unification of the British Cameroons and the French Cameroons. Any talk of a purported unification or re-unification of the Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroon on October 1, 1961 or May 20, 1972 is pure propaganda based on fraud. However, due to a now widely discredited report submitted by Great Britain, the fate of the Cameroons under British Trusteeship administration was sealed in unprecedented plebiscites, which offered supposed road maps to independence through alternatives that were inconsistent with the peoples expression of their UN Charter protected right to self-determination.
By the results of the plebiscite organized on February 11, 1961 the peoples of the British Southern Cameroons affirmed their right to attain independence first and then entering into a negotiated union of equals with the independent La Republique du Cameroun. Ignoring the expressed will of the Southern Cameroons, La Republique du Cameroun with the complicity of Great Britain and the conspiracy by default of the UN colonized the Southern Cameroons and purported to impose a unification option that was clearly rejected by the UN General Assembly in 1959. A policy of cultural genocide was then put in place to stifle any dissent against the annexation and colonization of the Southern Cameroons. The now familiar tools that were deployed to attain this criminal enterprise included the enactment of a legislative act amending the Constitution of La Republique du Cameroun of March 4, 1960 to annex the Southern Cameroons, the immediate imposition of emergency laws applicable in La Republique du Cameroun to the Southern Cameroons in 1963, the dismantlingwithin a period of only five years of the institutions of a façade Federation as well as the democratic institutions of the Southern Cameroons inherited from Great Britain. The use of the law to attain these criminal objectives was again replicated during the so-called referendum establishing a unitary state on May 20, 1972. By Decree No. 66-DF-133 of the 17 March, 1966 (extending the State of Emergency in certain areas of the Federated State of West Cameroon”, Bamenda Division, Mamfe Division, Kumba Division and Victoria Division of the Southern Cameroonians were subjected to unprecedented acts of state terrorism. Through individual and collective invasion of privacy, so-called Calle Calles, acts of rape,bestiality, murder, theft and all forms of egregious violations were perpetrated on the people of the Southern Cameroons. At the height of these acts of aggression, the multi-party system that existed in the territory was dismantled and the Francophone system of administration took over the administration of the territory. Between 1969 and 1971 the regime used the arrest, trial and conviction of Bishop Albert Ndongmo and the execution of Ernest Ouandie on January 15, 1971 to tighten the state of emergency and to intensify the egregious violations within the Southern Cameroons. It is while this state of emergency was in place that the so-called referendum was organized in May 1972.
There was no valid expression of franchise in this referendum. Apart from the state of emergency, persons of voting age had no real choice but to vote the will of their colonizer in a referendum conducted under terror whose outcome was predetermined. Persons were expected to produce their voting cards at random check points set up in the colonized territory to enforce emergency rule. Boycotting the façade of a referendum was considered a crime of subversion which could earned the perpetrators jail time at one of the many detention so-called re-education centres notorious among which were Mantoum and Tcholire. This is the atmosphere under which the cultural genocide which is celebrated every May 20 was formalized. The share magnitude of the crimes perpetrated prior to, during and after May 20 1972 led Paul Biya to attempt to conceal his endorsement and involvement in the crimes. For this reason, in 1984 he engineered a legislative act reverting La Republique du Cameroun to its identity at independence but maintained the policy of cultural genocide which was put inplace by his predecessor Ahmadou Ahidjo. This policy of deception intended to mask the criminal nature of May 20 celebrations. This is one reason why May 20 eludes a definition. The ceremony was named the “Peaceful Revolution” by its architects France and its Cameroun vassal Ahmadou Ahidjo. With the appointment of Paul Biya as President of La Republique du Cameroun, this appellation was abandoned and replaced with the generic name of “national day celebration” without stating which national event it related to. Thereafter, the appellation anniversary of “reunification” was adopted. This has lately been abandoned from when Paul Biya chose to celebrate the anniversary of the purported reunification on February 20, 2014. What then is May 20 celebration if it is not a day for the celebration of the cultural genocide of Southern Cameroonians? The resolutions of the Common Law Lawyers detailed this unprecedented assault on the common law falls which fall within the realm of the consistent pattern of systemic violations intended to render the conditions of life unbearable for the people. The policy if unchecked will further a policy of programmed extermination in whole or in part of a people recognized in international law as such due to their English speaking Southern Cameroons cultural identity.
The lawyers have detailed the egregious violations and suggested solutions which can form a framework for a comprehensive dialogue ordered by the African Commission on Humans and Peoples Rights which the Government of Cameroun, accepted, asked for an extension of time to prepare for, but has so far done nothing further to honour its own engagement. By this escalation and the impunity with which the Government of Cameroun is prosecuting its policy of cultural genocide, the Government of Cameroon is taunting the resolve of the people of the Southern Cameroons and that of the International Community to confront these acts of impunity and criminality with every legitimate means possible. The Common Law Lawyers who are the guarantors of this heritage, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms on the territory have raised this timely alarm to alert the Government of Cameroon and the International Community that there are clear limits to unrestrained policy of impunity and international criminality. Although addressed to the Government of Cameroon, the resolutions of the lawyers are clearly intended for the International Community whose duty is to promptly intervene to prevent the humanity calamity that this policy is intended to cause. Placed within the context of the policy denounced in the lawyers’ resolutions, the celebration of the so-called national day on 20 May can best be described as a celebration of cultural genocide.
Chief Charles A. Taku is currently lead counsel at the
International Criminal Court
(ICC) at The Hague.