BaretaNews has been churning out some historical facts. Most of you in our discourse have been asking some interesting questions. BaretaNews brings to you as part of our historical education, the following questions and answers:
1. Was Southern Cameroons self governing?
The Southern Cameroons was fully self-governing from 1954 to 1961. It was a thriving constitutional democracy operating a parliamentary system of government modelled after that of the British. During that period it had two free and fair elections, a peaceful regime change, and a Constitution (the Southern Cameroons Constitution Order-in- Council 1960) based on values of democracy, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, an open society, a free press, freedom of expression and movement, human rights and accountability. It had international personality and international status, first as a League of Nations Mandate and secondly as a United Nations Trust Territory. By dint of this international personality and international status, it was a qualified subject of international law. After seven years of full self-government, the Southern Cameroons was poised for sovereign statehood as provided in Article 76 b ofthe UN Charter and the Declaration on theGranting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (UNGA Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960). Rather than grant independence outright to the Southern Cameroons, the United Nations and the United Kingdom as Administering Authority contrived to organise a questionable plebiscite in the Territory.
2.What happened after publication of the plebiscite results?
Soon after the plebiscite results were announced Republic of Cameroun started plotting secretly on annexing the Southern Cameroons. And yet, in 1959 the President of Republic of Cameroun had gone to the United Nations and given the solemnly assurance that it had no expansionist ambitions and that it would not annex the Southern Cameroons. “We are not annexationists,” he declared to the World Body, stating that Republic of Cameroun is prepared to form a political association with the Southern Cameroons “on a footing of equality.”
3.So what happened on 21st April 1961?
On 21 April 1961 the General Assembly of the United Nations met to consider the results of the plebiscite. It took two separate roll-call votes on those results. The first roll-call vote endorsedthe decision of the people of the Trust Territory to achieve independence. The second roll-call vote acknowledged the matter of politicalassociation with Republic of Cameroun in a federation of two states, equal in status. In Resolution 1608 (XV) of that date, the results of these two separate roll-call votes were infelicitously conflated in one sentence thus: “endorsed the results of the plebiscite that the people ofthe Southern Cameroons decided to achieve independence by joining Republic of Cameroun”.
4.What does the resolution state?
In that resolution the United Nations went on to appoint 1st October 1961 asthe effective date of independence of the Southern Cameroons concomitant with the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement “in accordance with Article 76 b of the Charter of the United Nations.” In rather ambiguous phraseology, the World Body further decided on the termination ofthe Trusteeship Agreement “upon the Southern Cameroons joining the Republic of Cameroun.” Untidily, all three events, namely, independence, termination of trusteeship, and ‘joining’, were enjoinedto take place on the same date. ‘Joining’ was however made conditional upon the Southern Cameroons, Britain and Republic of Cameroun finalizing the manner of implementation of the federal set-up agreed upon by the Southern Cameroons and Republic of Cameroun before the plebiscite. On this specific point the United Nations in that same resolution invited: “the Government of the Southern Cameroons, the United Kingdom, and Republic of Cameroun to initiate urgent discussions with a view to finalizing before 1 October 1961, the arrangements by which the agreed and declared policies of the parties concerned will be implemented.”
It was understood by all concerned that the United Nations would be associated with these “urgent discussions” contemplated by Resolution 1608. This understanding comes from the solemn assurance given by the United Kingdom Government during Anglo- Southern Cameroons talks in London in October 1960. During those talks the British Secretary of State for the Colonies informedthe anxious Southern Cameroons delegation that:
“A vote for attaining independence by joining the Republic of Cameroun would mean that, by an early date to bedecided by theUnited Nations after consultation with the Government of the Southern Cameroons, the Cameroun Republic, and the United Kingdom as Administering Authority, the Southern Cameroons and Cameroun Republic would unite in a Federal United Cameroon Republic. The arrangements wouldbe worked out after the plebiscite by a conference consisting of representative delegations of equal status from the Republic of Cameroun and theSouthern Cameroons. The United Nationsand the United Kingdom would also be associated with this conference.”
5. We learnt Republic of Cameroun Voted against the resolution?
Republic of Cameroun advisedly voted against Resolution 1608 (XV). By that act it rejected political association with the Southern Cameroons and maintained its frontiers with the Territory as unchanged. The instruments attesting to its independence and international boundaries depositedwith and duly recorded at the United Nations when it was admitted to membership of the Organisation remain unchanged.By July 1961 Republic of Cameroun started speaking expansionist language. It assert claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons.
The envisaged Four-Party post-plebiscite conference failed to take place, resulting in the non-implementationof the outcome of the plebiscite. In fact,after adopting Resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961 the United Nations simply washed its hands off the Southern Cameroons. And yet the trusteeship still had at least six months to run since the United Nations itself had set 1October 1961 as the end date of the trusteeship.
The United Nations did not monitor post-plebiscite developments in the Trust Territory. It did not require the Administering Authority to submit a report on developments leading up to termination of trusteeship. It made no efforts to ensure the effective implementation ofits own resolution. Republic of Cameroun cashed in on this serious dereliction of responsibility by the United Nations. It carried out military incursions deep into the Southern Cameroons. On 1 September 1961, its Assembly passed alaw amending its Constitution by providing for the annexation of the Southern Cameroons. In that law and in policy statements made afterwards Republic of Cameroun stated that the Trust
Territory of the Southern British Cameroons is part of its territoryreturned to her by the United Nations and the United Kingdom. In the same month of September 1961, French- led forces of Republic of Cameroun marched into the Southern Cameroons, physically occupied the territorywith the acquiescence of the Administering Authority, and began enforcing an unwarranted state of emergency declared over the peacefulTerritory.
The annexation and occupation of the Southern Cameroons took place while the United Nations and the Administering Authority passed ‘on the other side’ like the Biblical priest and the Levite. Tragically, the Southern Cameroons did not achieve independence promised by the Charter of the United Nations and the plebiscite. Nor was there a valid political association of the Southern Cameroons and Republic of Cameroun. Republic of Cameroun occupies the territory and administers it with an iron fist as its colonial dependency.
Produce by Mark Bara
Publish by Bareta Media and Communications
Answers culled from Southern Cameroons Briefing Papers