By Mwalimu George Ngwane*
Before and after the All Anglophone Lawyers’ Conference of 9th May 2015, claims and insinuations were linked to the real or imaginary interference of the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) with the deliberations and outcome of the conference. As would be expected the conveners of the conference have gone at length to dissociate themselves from SCNC control as if the SCNC was a pariah organisation.
SCNC is a product of the All Anglophone Conference (AAC) of 1993 and 1994 that brought together different shades of Anglophone opinion to be crystallized into a common vision. It was only after the Cameroon government failed to take on board proposals by the AAC that a new pressure group emerged like it is often the case in liberation theology to give visibility, potency and geo-political relevance and space to the Anglophone struggle. It is here that the SCNC was born. It was no more a liberation of a people as it was for a territory that freely opted for a Union in 1961 but got short changed on 20 May 1972 with a unitary state.
From the perspective of colonial heritage and culture all Anglophones from the former Southern Cameroon are Southern Cameroonians, West Cameroonians, Anglophone Cameroonians or simply Anglophones with an innate urge to identify remotely or proximately with the ideals of the SCNC. It is this degree and variation of SCNC identity that has given rise to three categories of membership of Anglophones within the mainstream of the SCNC.
The emasculated SCNC members
They have lost their Anglophonehood even if their SCNC membership is still in their hearts but not in their heads. They are prepared to defy all facts that there is an Anglophone problem and quick to adhere to the pedagogy of the oppressed pontifications that we have gone so far in our nationhood that the clock cannot be turned back.
As apologists of National Integration and National Unity they argue in both private and public discourse that Cameroon is one and indivisible. They sweep the grievances of Anglophones under the carpet with spurious arguments that even pygmies and other “minority” groups face the same marginalization feat like Anglophones and only a good leadership is needed to fix the broken templates. They feel that Cameroon’s future is ahead not behind since decentralization according to them is already in progress and we are living in peace. They militate for ten or more regions because such a structural set up does not divide the Anglophone population and merging the two Anglophone regions will never solve the Anglophone problem in a Republic whose majority is francophone.
Their arguments hinge on a geo-administrative status quo that encourages and promotes healthy competition in development and one that obliges the compelling need to protect and guarantee the rights of the minorities and those of the indigenous people in the various localities. Brandishing issues of francophone/Anglophone divide goes against national interest and degenerates into emotions of conflict and war. They believe in being Cameroonians over and above being Anglophones since there is inter marriage, cross fertilization of local cuisines and music and the metaphorical unity around football way beyond the linguistic divide. They argue against a struggle based on colonial cultures when we are Africans dressed in imposed cultural robes.
By and large members of this category have accepted francophone hegemony in all walks of life and buried their heads in the sands of illusions that integration is less evil than implosion. If a Referendum were to be conducted today as Article 48 (1) of our 1996 constitution intimates they would likely vote for a loose federation based on regions.
The eclipsed SCNC members
They believe in the Anglophone problem but at variance with the procedure which in their opinion may have a hidden secessionist agenda. SCNC membership oscillates between their heads and their hearts. They believe in the Anglophone problem but they also need a survival strategy that keeps their career intact and their promotions and appointments guaranteed.
Though they believe in the Anglophone problem, they are more wary of their sister region hegemony than francophone domination. They appreciate the minimal but incremental fortunes gained as a result of the Anglophone struggle and therefore continue to argue that without necessarily belonging to one state, Anglophones can successfully fight and obtain what they want. Paradoxically they are always the primary beneficiaries of these minimal fortunes even after lashing out against those who crusaded for the fortunes.
They may not be apologists of the status quo but are often worried about the outcome of a frontal confrontation to a restoration of the ante 1972 scenario. As such they prefer to stoke the flames of the Anglophone struggle from the background, avoid media discussions that would portray them as two-state Federalists or sit on the fence when pushed to the wall. They have virtually come to the conclusion that when push comes to shove they would rather live in conditions of negative peace than die trying to provide conditions of positive peace. If a Referendum were to be conducted today as Article 48 (1) of our 1996 constitution intimates, this category would have swing voters between a loose federation and a return to a two-state federation
The energetic SCNC members
They are publicly militant and vocal about the Anglophone problem or preferably the Southern Cameroon question. SCNC is in their heads, hearts and hands. They carry with them both the symbols and substance of the Anglophone struggle and their bodies bear the scars of incarcerations and military confrontations. Their bargaining chip is a restoration of the two-state federation and their achievement point is arguably the zero option.
Either way their choice is based on law and justice, because as far as they are concerned the agreed term and condition that the union of Southern Cameroon and Republic of Cameroon shall take a federal form that shall benefit and protect the two Cameroons jointly and severally was abrogated by the 20 May 1972 Referendum.
They argue that the imposition of the unitary state was unconstitutional, illegal and a breach of faith so the only redress adequate to right the wrongs done to Anglophone Cameroon and its people is a return to the two-state federation. Yet some of its members have shifted to a zero option which is a policy orientation that emphasizes total Self determination as against Restoration. They believe they have enough facts that attest to Southern Cameroons never having had a legal union with Republic of Cameroon. They argue that it is even futile to continue asking for a federal system because the francophone government has refused any negotiation. Indeed a Press Release issued by AAC Standing Committee on 20 November 1993 stated :
The Standing Committee therefore gives notice that should government proceed with its Constitutional Reform proposal which ignore the Anglophone problem, the Anglophone people of Cameroon will have no choice but to set up their own sovereign and Independent state and to enact for that state, its own Constitution.
If a Referendum were to be conducted today as Article 48 (1) of our 1996 constitution intimates, this class would vote for sovereignty if it were a Referendum option or for a return to the ante 1972 status quo in the absence of the Separation option on the Referendum question.
*Writer, panAfricanist and Peace Fellow2015 University of Chulalongkorn, Bangkok, Thailand www.gngwane.com