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« Memory Lane: US Diplomatic Activism in Cameroons Democratization Process | Main | "Exile": A Poem By Mbella Sonne Dipoko »

September 03, 2007


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Sob Fadil

I think this is a level-headed appreciation of where we are coming from. The question now is how the very factors Tande Dibussi has enumerated above, viz: ethnicity, personality conflicts, and inter-party rivalry, have continued to dog the adoption of a common pro-Southern Cameroonian agenda to date, and have been equally exploited since by the "Francophone" elite?

We need a detailed, succinct and impartial analysis of the interregnum between 1972 and today, to see the dynamic operation of these forces that continue to stall and obfuscate the emancipation of Southern Cameroons - and I think that figures like Kofele Kale, Francis Nyamjoh, Tande Dibussi, Jing Thomas Ayeah, Ntemfac Ofege (if he let's go his fire) and many others of their competence, would do well to enlighten the Cameroonian English-speaking public.

I find it sad that most of the English-speaking Cameroonian literati and academic corps have neglected engagement on this issue, in easily accessible digital forums.

I very much appreciate the fact that Tande Dibussi has revisited this vexatious question at this point. Perhaps it is time to thrash it out once and for all, and to spell the road forward.

Sob Fadil

I think this is a level-headed appreciation of where we are coming from. The question now is how the very factors Tande Dibussi has enumerated above, viz: ethnicity, personality conflicts, and inter-party rivalry, have continued to dog the adoption of a common pro-Southern Cameroonian agenda to date, and have been equally exploited since by the "Francophone" elite?

We need a detailed, succinct and impartial analysis of the interregnum between 1972 and today, to see the dynamic operation of these forces that continue to stall and obfuscate the emancipation of Southern Cameroons - and I think that figures like Kofele Kale, Francis Nyamjoh, Tande Dibussi, Jing Thomas Ayeah, Ntemfac Ofege (if he let's go his fire) and many others of their competence, would do well to enlighten the Cameroonian English-speaking public.

I find it sad that most of the English-speaking Cameroonian literati and academic corps have neglected engagement on this issue, in easily accessible digital forums.

I very much appreciate the fact that Tande Dibussi has revisited this vexatious question at this point. Perhaps it is time to thrash it out once and for all, and to spell the road forward.


Mola Dibussi,

This writing is balanced. However, your conclusion appears not have been dealt with enough depth. While it is true that:

"The truth is that while the United Nations and Britain may be blamed to a certain extent for the bungled decolonization of Southern Cameroons, the bulk of that blame lies with the Southern Cameroons political class which allowed ethnicity, personality conflicts, and inter-party rivalry to interfere with the adoption of a truly pro-Southern Cameroonian agenda.",

This cannot be enough to overshadow the legal obligation of the Administrating authority and the UN. Ethnic and political rivalary was and is still present in Africa as a whole. Nigeria, prior to independence was more of an ethnic explosion. In La Republique du Cameroun, the Bamilekes and the Bassas were fighting the rest of the French Cameroons, The Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya etc. But colonial masters had the duty to give independence irrespective of this. In Southern Cameroons case, there was no evidence of violence as to spur the UN-UK to deny Southern Cameroons independence but to hand power to Ahidjo who was an unelected Southern Cameroonians. With all the ethnic Rivalry, Southern Cameroons had a democratically elected Premier while La Republique had civil strife in the onset to Re-Unification. Consequently, Southern Cameroons was more of a stable nation than La Republique. All they needed was a legal sanctioning of their talks with LRC to:

1 secure their Sovereignty

2. Terms of Agreement.

This could have only been done with the UN and UK present. This does not mean that the SC politicians could not negotiate on their own or that they were inferior to La Republique but that LRC was a legal entity as an independent nation while Southern Cameroons was still a Trust Territory. As a result, any agreement could only be informal without international standing.

Ahidjo, sensing the absence of the UN and what they may have conspired with him in secret, went ahead to impose his will on a set of people who had no legal mandate to act for their people in the international scene.

The conclusion is that whether there was ethnic strife or not, they still could have done nothing to clip the wings of a brutal dictator preying on politicians who had no powers to influence or sign an international Treaty on grounds that they were still under UN-UK Administration but whose administrators abandoned them. The British Commissioner in Buea, O Fields, never attended Foumban to legally back Southern Cameroonians.

It is my opinion that the SC politicians believed the Conference would be followed by another one with the UK Administration and UN attending. Why the Foumban Conference ended inconclusively. After Foumban, Ahidjo merely went to Yaounde, passed a law in September in his own parliament, while SC was still a Trust Territory, to promulgate a Constitution nobody agreed on in Foumban. The UK as Trustee turned a blind eye. Ahidjo became bolder and took steps to annex and abandoned people.

To this day no legal agreement has been reached between SC and LRC. But LRC now claims SC is part of her country -- a very dishonest and illegal claim.


While appreciating your critique I will prove to you this issue goes beyond the ethnic wranglings that befell the W.Cameroon politcal class.

Before the Foncha,Muna&Jua blunder there was already a calculated attempt by Ahidjo and the French to assimilate the British Cameroon as archives have it and defended by Prof Zachs Njeuma,Dr Victor Ngo and co

1.As soon as the Federal Constitution came into force in October 1961, the federation began moving rapidly towards a unitary system. In 1962, the pound sterling was squeezed out of West Cameroon and the East Cameroon Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) franc adopted for the whole country.Why would that happen had it not been with the intentions of future assimilations?

2.In 1964, the Imperial system of weights and measures was abandoned in favour of the metric system. By 1965, some of the residual powers which the West Cameroon government had arrogated to itself had been taken over by the federal government.All these to pretensiously show how weak the federation was in favour of a secretly planned diabolic Unitary State.

3.At the same time the economic policies adopted between 1961 and 1966 gravely undermined the economy of West Cameroon to a point where pre-1959 conditions have not yet been restored which made the West Cameroon State more and more financially dependent on federal subsidies.Why do you think this was done Dibussi?

4.As if to test the waters, by 1966, an unsuccessful attempt was made to harmonize the legal systems of the federated states.Though it failed Ahidjo did stop there.

5.In the same year, all the political parties in the Republic united to form the CNU. Three years later, all the trade unions in the country came together to form a single federation attached to the single party, forswearing their former international ties.Can you see the wolf in sheep's clothing here gentleman?

6.And dont forget before this time the State of West Cameroon claimed for itself such items as primary education, local government, social welfare, archives and antiquities, agriculture, cooperatives, internal trade, state public works and other minor matters.

They were prospering and doing ferociously well.Ahidjo's target was the estuaries of West Cameroon(Ndian, Bakassi, Victoria , etc etc etc,the alluvium of Buea, the workmanship from the higlands of Bamenda).You can verify my facts from any archives from West Cameroon.Prof Njuema can attest to these facts or even Ngoh in Buea.

Ahidjo planned it and got us well.The point now is not the blame game but what way forward.Do we fold our arms and see our posterity go into extinction while we blame corpses(Foncha,Muna ,Jua etc) for our demises?

I dont think so.
Cheers Dibussi


Hi Tayong,

You make some great points here, but these solid points all refer to the post-1961 period. I understand Dibussi's article to be about the human/intellectual resources that Southern Cameroons had as it dealt with the issue of (re)unification. So your article adds to rather than contradict Dibussi's point. Also, I disagree with your comment about the "blame game". History is essentially a journey into the past and in that journey, we identify events, issues, actors, places, successes, failures, etc. We cannot analyze the history of Southern Cameroons without analyzing the actions of its key players. We can disagree on their contributions (or lack thereof) to the problems of today, but to argue that we cannot talk about them because they are dead is outright insane.


There was no unification! There is no unification! Where is the agreement on this so-called unification? There was occupation and conquest. That occupation and conquest of the territory of the Southern Cameroons by France remains.

France through their puppet Ahidjo, with the complicity of the United Kingdom that De Gaulle gratefully acknowledged when he said the "Southern Cameroons became a little gift to France from the Queen of England" colonized the Southern Cameroons.

France as a white country enjoys the solidarity and complicity of other white countries, as they, more than the hapless Comerounese citizens have benefitted and continue to benefit most from the occupation, brutalization and plunder of the Southern Cameroons.

In my opinion, any other analyses are red herrings and obfuscations to distort what is in effect naked occupation and conquest. The type of occupation and conquest that Adolf Hitler unleashed against weaker neighbours with the consequences we know of.

The genocidal France and la Republique du Cameroun, like Hitler will lose out; no matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes, differences and arguments within the polity of the Southern Cameroons in the past and present notwithstanding.


Can the experts please comment specifically on the content of the article just for once? Is Tande Dibussi right in his claim that the pro-unification lobby in Southern Cameroons had an armada of intellectuals to back it up?

If there was a "botched unification" or "no unification" (depending on one's political sensibilities) does the blame rest solely on the feet of the UN, UK and France, or do the Southern Cameroonians themselves bear part of that responsibility for their plight - be it in a failed unification or no unification?

Was Ahidjo really that smart or was he just a lucky "country bumpkin" to use Tande's term?

Louis Mbua has attempted to answer these questions in his comments but all others (surprisingly, including SJ my favorite commentator) have gone off topic!!!!

For the sake of us "illiterates" in SC Cameroons history, let's calm down for one moment and deal with the topic at hand - the issue of "no unification" can be addressed another day.


Mr Ebie,my point isnt to stop self-crittique but rather after the self critique suggestions as to how to move on from the mess take preference over crying spilt milk.

Furthermore my points are to buttress the school of thoughts that irrespective of the ethnic squabbles that blinded the leaders of SC at the time Ahidjo had a secret agenda that he would've still whimsically implemented come what may.

It was a long planned assimilation policy carried over from france .So Mr Ebie, what in your view should be the way to redress the quagmire ? Every opiion counts.



We should be careful on the grounds on which we choose to engage on this Southern Cameroons debate. The colonizers have always sought to determine a very specious and narrow tunnel within which this debate should take place employing careful semantics to keep the Southern Cameroons arguments within this narrow tunnel. They want to us to engage in this debate on their selected terrain, we should resist this temptation no matter how untenable even their chosen terrain appears.

For a long time, the myth and language has been one of "re-unification," implying of course the re-constitution of German Kamerun as the Camerounese are quick to point out. The "re-unification" verbiage is changing now to one of "unification." Maybe the analyses of people like later day Gorji Dinka who have countered that for any "re-unification" to have been valid, all of German Kamerun should be necessarily reconstituted has dispelled some of that fantasy and fallacy.

Now the debate is being carried on the grounds or terms of a "unification" as Mr. Tande's headline puts it. That too is invalid and a fallacy because there is no "unification," never was! (But as the Nazis said, repeat a big fat lie often enough and people will begin to believe it to be the truth). How can one talk about the flavor of a dish of okra soup and garri when there is neither an okra plant for the soup nor cassava to make the garri? This is pure fantasy that must be resisted at all cost in this stage of our understanding of the colonization of the territory and people of the Southern Cameroons. The French colonizers occupy our land today because of their shameless use of gangsterism and thuggery due to the advantage of possessing the force of arms, but we must not unilaterally surrender our intellect and mind to gangsterism and thuggery in the arena of debate and review of the reality that stares us in the face every single day.

I hope with time, many more intellectuals, journalists, analysts, opinion leaders etc. will begin reflecting and addressing what the facts and reality of history between the Southern Cameroons and France masquerading as la Republique du Cameroun clearly defines: conquest and occupation-- COLONIZATION.

Anna, sorry for disappionting you, but we should not debate on what I consider erronoeus premises and rationales. We must bring this debate back to what the reality of the situation spells out and not the contrived and narrow context of dubious fanstasy. We must burst out of this tunnel that others insist this debate can only be carried within. Again, there is no unification, no agreement to unify (federate) these countries with internationally defined boundaries exist or has ever existed. So why debate on a premise of that which does not exist? I understand the pull of sentiment, but the tragedy of our continent lies in some measure in our insistence to rely on sentiment against the universal principles and ideals of justice and fairness that have seen others release themselves from fantasy and engage in the development of their poeples. The Czechs and the Slovaks are they as an example that the Southern Cameroons will gladly tutor and assist the French and their Yaounde surrogates to emulate.

Finally, the source of this problem is that of colonization and it will be resolved by de-colonization. That is what the history and reality in the Southern Cameroons spells out and that is what we (as Southern Cameroonians) should anchor our debates on and never stop articulating to the world.


Hello SJ,

Yes, you do indeed disappoint me. I fully share your desire to have the "unification debate" or whatever you call it on your own terms and within a framework defined by you. That is the approach of a militant and nationalist fighting for the restoration of Southern Cameroons. But unfortunately, I come from a different perspective; I WANT TO KNOW, I WANT TO UNDERSTAND. From this perspective, everything you wrote has generated lots of heat but no light. OK, Ahidjo and the French Cameroons used brute force to "annex" Southern Cameroons. What are the conditions that made it happen? What was the role of the supervisory authorities (UN and UK), what was the role of the French, and what was the role of Southern Cameroonians themselves?

My historical facts may be all wrong, but to the best of my knowledge, there were no French and French Cameroons troops in the British Cameroons before and during the plebiscite. So my limited knowledge tells me that "Brute force" cannot be the reason for the outcome of the plebiscite vote or even the selection of the plebiscite questions. That is too simplistic an answer - something or a series of events happened before the conquering Frog troops were able to march into the British Cameroons. That is what I want to understand, and which you say you will not answer because that I am speaking the coloniser's language. No my good friend, that is the language of history, in fact, the language of historical acuracy.

Again from my ignorant position, "Unification" did in fact occur in 1961. Whether it was an illegal annexation, a criminal occupation, or a brutal invasion, that is a completely different story. There is a lot of ground to cover before we get to that point. And this is some of the ground that Tande's posting attempts to cover. There is time for propaganda and political activism and a time for simple and straightforward education. Now is the time for the latter...


It is true that some kind of illegal and illegitimate Union occurred between Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun. However, this was not the original intentions of the peoples of Southern Cameroons.

After the pre-plebiscite Conference in London in 1960, the Southern Cameroons peoples were agitated and shocked when a radio announcement indicated that there were to be just two questions in the plebiscite: either an Equal State Federation with La Republique or a Federal Union with Nigeria.

This was strange because the people hated Nigerian domination and the arrogance of the Igbos; and had rejected Nigeria; meaning the results were a foregone conclusion in favour of La Republique.

The two-alternatives anomaly has been solved after declassified Southern Cameroons papers were released in London in the 1990s. It showed that the UK had conspired to deny Southern Cameroons independence. There were secret memos amounting to threats; and to arm-twist Foncha into agreeing on to the shameful two alternatives; and that Southern Cameroonians are expendable as regards selling them up to La Republique. Foncha and Endeley never knew about this secret conspiracy at the time. In the end when the decision to determine the fate of Southern Cameroons arrived, the UK Representative at the Trusteeship Council, Sir Andrew Cohen, blocked the third Question of independence proposed by leading Southern Cameroonian politicians. One of the reasons the UK did this was to stymie Northern Cameroons into demanding her own Third question. Britain was doing all this to keep Nigeria happy in terms of their own long term relation and interest as regards their former more powerful and rich Crown colony. It is clear that they had very little Southern Cameroons interest thus violating their Trusteeship Agreement.

Then came another deception by the UN and the UK. The terms of the plebiscite according to the UN pre-plebiscite and post plebiscite Resolutions for Southern Cameroons, An equal State Federation between LRC and SC was to be the case where by both states will maintain their independence under a Federation. The UN again voted for Southern Cameroons Independence. However, the terms of this Federation was to be worked out between the Independent La Republique du Cameroun, The UN, The UK and the government of the Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons. This was when the UN and the UK abandoned Southern Cameroons; and the source of the evil take over by LRC.

Ahidjo was never smart or clever. He was secretly instructed by the UK in the knowledge of the UN to take over Southern Cameroons. The British pulled out their defensive troops before the terms were worked out despite please by Foncha that Southern Cameroons was defenceless. Since Southern Cameroons had no standing army on its own, Ahidjo's troops entered the Southern Cameroons territory without invitation from the SC government. They have remained there to this day, terrorising, raping and killing Southern Cameroonians. Foncha and others realising that they had been abandoned merely decided to play their cards before Southern Cameroons peoples are destroyed by a backward and French-backed dictator who had already killed thousands in his own country.

While it is true that there were ethnic and political rivalries, this is normal in every nation from the UK to the US. Therefore, this cannot be taken as the main reason for Southern Cameroons predicament. The UN and the UK had an obligation as a Trustee:

Prepare Southern Cameroons for independence. They had already done this by creating a democratic culture and electing two Premiers. There were not ethnic or civil strife, no violent confrontation. So why refuse to come to the Conference; and then conspire behind the backs of SC leaders to hand power to a dictator whose country was in civil strife while the Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons has not agreed with La Republique under international protection.

Ahidjo and his Francophone politicians were democratic illiterates compared to Foncha and Endeley. They were merely colonialist African bullies who took advantage of a people made intentionally vulnerable by the UN-UK in violation of international law and Trusteeship agreement. Ahidjo's hand was also strengthened by military support and encouragement from France. After the botched Federation, France encouraged the brutal Ahidjo to start dismantling the Anglo-Saxon system of Southern Cameroons and to replace it with inferior Francophone system. As nobody checked his power, and with Southern Cameroons occupied, he used terror and despotism to see off any opposition to his foolish policies on Southern Cameroons.

It is true that Southern Cameroons politicians were divided in the future of Southern Cameroons; and that this had an adverse effect on the future of the territory as the were distracted from the immediate attention of the people. At the same time, African Unity was in fashion at the time and Southern Cameroonian politicians saw themselves as African Nationalists. At the same time Ahidjo and his La Republique politicians had a different view. He was a French Cameroun Nationalist hand-picked by France to neo-colonise La Republique and by extension Southern Cameroons. That is why SJ is also correct. Southern Cameroons was not a Trust Territory under French Administration. So there is no reason why she should be bound by colonial and unfair Treaties signed by Ahidjo on behalf of La Republique.

The Union which exist in Cameroon, therefore, is illegal. La Republique has an international boundary with SC at the River Mungo. That SC is part of LRC is fraudulent.

Emil I Mondoa, MD

Although Dibussi demolishes the notion that the Southern Cameroons leaders were illiterates, there were mysterious gaps, now closed by Louis Mbua's last submission. The reason for our predicament lies in superpower games during the Cold War period, when they decided to thwart the will of the Southern Cameroons people. The result was illegal and disastrous for us.

My main concern about some of the interlocutors here is what I read between the lines–that the product of that illegal act is a fait accompli that we must accept and accommodate. The facts about this case are all out there and available so there is no need for analysis paralysis. I am of the school of thought that will not accommodate and must overthrow the illegal order and bestow sovereignty to Southern Cameroons/exBritish Cameroons. This matter has already been analyzed to death, and the time has come for purporseful and effective movement. When the Way Forwards Network seeks your financial contribution toward this end, give generously and enthusiastically. The end of the long nightmare is much closer than it might seem. It is the deep dark before dawn.

Emil Mondoa

Jude Ngoh

FYI to all parties...
Book review
Title: Foreign Interest in the British Cameroons Plebiscites.
Author: Fondi Ndifontah Nyamndi
Publisher: Buma Kor, Yaounde, 2004; 287pp.
Reviewer: G.D. Nyamndi
Price: Not Mentioned

On February 11 1961, UN plebiscites were conducted in the British Southern and Northern Cameroons to determine the future of both trusteeship territories. The outcome of the consultations was controversially so far-reaching that more than forty years later, the dust is still to settle over the troubling legacy. One just needs to stir the topic to see how dialectical passions flare.

In my understanding, history is documented for three operational reasons: curative, exhortatory, and corrective. A good historical text is that which provides fulfillment in one or all of these concerns. A historian of the Rwandan situation, for example, seeks not only to relate events as they were, but also to steep such narratives in curative propositions for the horrors of genocide.

American history, especially in its present-day rendering, extols American grandeur and ascendancy. The history of western colonialism in Africa more often than not salutes western humanistic intentions and underlines the motivating helplessness of the African continent.

All these histories are records of human action fuelled by individual interest; for it must be said, events, however big, are nothing but wider expressions of an individual dream. That is why any historical account that does not integrate individual motivation in its strategy of causality scratches only the surface while leaving the core totally uninvestigated. One cannot visit the Second World War as if Hitler never existed, nor the current Iraqi mayhem to the exclusion of George Bush and Sadam Hussein.

Fondi Ndifontah Nyamndi's work finds its critical format precisely on the need to "identify the underlying motivations of the choices and to analyze their effects on the British Cameroons plebiscite (15). In making motivation central to his inquiry, the author straightaway recognizes that history is nothing but a chronicle of human passions and human intrigues, and in so doing prepares the reader for an incisive journey into the very psychology of one of Africa's most salacious contrivances.

The human dimension of the drama is underscored by the author's constant recourse not to group or institutional causality but to individual responsibility. Always, and with authoritative directness, human judgment is held accountable for the turn of things.

We learn that "The British Cameroon question…ripened with time, bearing at all stages the imprint of the men who made it" (21). In fact the book is dedicated "To all those, living and dead, who made the British Cameroons what it became."

But the human factor does not for that matter absolve governments and organizations of a direct role in the complex tangle that the British Cameroons turned out to be. From the evolutionary history of plebiscites we learn that they "typically occur in times and places of discord and among peoples without a long tradition of competitive politics" (19). To all intents and purposes, the British Southern Cameroons did not belong to any of these categories and so should ordinarily not have been visited with the plebiscite in the first instance.

In matters of competitive politics, the British Southern Cameroons was one of the showrooms of political pluralism in its day. One would therefore have expected to see it encouraged, not chastised. The plebiscite, conducted with nonchalant haste in an atmosphere of ignorance and misinformation, came later on to be perceived precisely as chastisement by the people of the territory.

Along the same lines, France, known for its eagerness to simply annex the former German colonies (34), dragged Britain into a joint front which pressurized the League of Nations into transforming the trusteeship into something of a colony, as one gathers from the document of July 20, 1922 conferring a mandate upon the British Monarch to administer the British Cameroons.

This French attitude dogged the fortunes of the trusteeship territories in ways that were to provide one of the dominant mainstays in the unfolding history of the British Southern Cameroons.

In a more immediate manner, the sociology of the British Southern Cameroons at the time of the plebiscites, and more particularly the Nigerian equation, was of central importance to the choices made by the peoples of the trusteeship territory when it came to deciding their future. In one of the many percipient insights that study his work, the author states: "the entire question of the British Cameroons plebiscites was mainly about that relationship" (33);

then proceeds to explain just what he means: "The real enemy was Nigeria… There was a growing feeling in the British Cameroons that Nigeria was diverting some of the benefits of trusteeship to itself…a feeling heightened by the overwhelming presence of Nigerians, particularly Ibos, in almost all walks of life in the territory" (40).

It becomes clear from this situation that when time came for the people of the British Southern Cameroons to choose, they used their ballot paper to boot out the obtrusive Ibos with little care about whom their next masters would be.

As we read this well-crafted book, we cannot but wonder why the history of the British Southern Cameroons has been such an impressive catalogue of near misses. Things happen just as if it was designed from above that total freedom - or should we say total happiness - would never come the way of this territory.

For instance, it is still a matter of amazement why the territory was further partitioned into Northern and Southern Cameroons with only a tiny strip of Nigerian territory between them, and then only for the same British and UN officials to turn round and deny its southern part full independence on the grounds that it was not self-contained in geographical, ethnic or economic terms (35).

The most puzzling of all the arguments against the total independence of the territory remains that of its economic weakness. If the British Southern Cameroons, with its rich natural and human resources, could not qualify as a viable economy, then one can legitimately wonder just what wealth is.

As we can see today, such an allegation was not only trite; it spun off a series of dichotomies and paradoxes that the territory is finding enormous difficulty coming to terms with.

All said and done, the history of the British Cameroons is a record of individual failures in judgment and foresight; but also of the collective good taken hostage by trivial egoisms. In this regard, the place is yet to exorcise itself of the ghosts of its representatives to the Foumban Conference. And it is not going to be a short-term or easy task.

Authored by one of Cameroon's finest historical analysts; Foreign Interest In The British Cameroons Plebiscite, collects its importance from a blend of creative beauty and discursive relevance. But above all, it brings lasting authority to the scholarship on the intriguing phenomenon called the British Southern Cameroons.

Emil Mondoa

Ann, regarding troops. There were British troops in the Southern Cameroons. They were an occupying force, make no bones about it. It was an occupation force that replaced the German occupation forces.

Records from British soldiers who were in that force indicate that they collaborated with French soldiers to capture and kill Bamileke people in the Santa-Mbouda area, many of whom were refugees running away from the wholesale destruction of their villages by the French.

The British administrators arranged with Ahidjo to immediately replace their occupation forces with FrancoCamerounese occupation forces.


The key question qhich Anna asked about the role of Southern Cameroons leaders in the fate of their territory remains unanswered for some strange reason. This is a question which a seminal article published by Dr. Awasom in Africa Today seeks to answer. here is an excerpt:
In February 1959, the political leaders of the Southern Cameroons went to the United Nations to determine the plebiscite questions which would be put to the electorate concerning the future of the territory. Because of the unpopularity of reunification with the electorate, the OKP and their UPC allies requested that the United Nations unilaterally effect reunification because, historically, Cameroonians were never consulted before the "artificial bisection" of their territory by imperialists.15 On failing to have their request granted, they demanded a referendum whose only issue would be reunification. The KNC and KPP leaders argued in favor of integration with Nigeria, demanding that the plebiscite question should be one of "integration" versus "reunification." The KNDP preferred to restrict the question to "secession from Nigeria" or "integration with Nigeria." Foncha explained that secession would be followed by a limited period of British rule, and then independence for the Southern Cameroons. Reunification was both an ultimate and conditional option (United Nations 1959).

The positions of the political leadership were very manipulative and tactical. They were fully aware of the fact that "secession" from Nigeria and independence for the Southern Cameroons would defeat any other competing option involved in the plebiscite. The KNC and KPP integrationists, and the OKP/UPC reunificationists struggled to exclude or kill independence for the Southern Cameroons, while the KNDP strove to make it one of the plebiscite questions. The disagreement between political leaders forced the United Nations to request that the leaders return home and arrive at a consensus before the next session of the General Assembly.

On their return home, the Southern Cameroon leaders convened an all-party plebiscite conference at Mamfe on 10 and 11 August 1959, under the chairmanship of Sir Sidney Phillipson, the Acting Commissioner of the Southern Cameroons. It was attended by forty-three delegates and during the conference the political parties stubbornly stuck to their positions.
The complete article is available online at http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/journals/africatoday/aft47-2.html

This article will definitely take away the "heat" and bring in some much needed "light"


More from Awasum - The Role of the African Bloc
After the Mamfe Conference, the Cameroon political leaders returned to the United Nations in September 1959 to resolve the plebiscite questions. The United Nations, however, ignored the resolutions of the Mamfe All-party Conference, which had endorsed integration and secession as the most popular preferences of the delegates when it was polled by Foncha's KNDP. The United Nations acted against a backdrop of pressures from the fiercely anticolonial African bloc,16 championed by Nkrumah's Ghana, that was infatuated with Pan-Africanism and was against the emergence of microstates in the form of the Southern Cameroons.17 The African bloc pressured the Cameroonian leaders to unify with one of their neighbors and drop the idea of a separate, independent Southern Cameroons state. Britain also supported this stance because it allowed for the possibility of the Southern Cameroons joining the Federation of Nigeria. According to the calculations of the British, the secession/independence option would have meant more financial commitment from them because the Southern Cameroons was perceived as a nonviable economic territory. The United Nations then proceeded to impose the following choice on the Southern Cameroon electorate: either joining Nigeria or Cameroon in a plebiscite as a way of obtaining independence. The plebiscite question was contained in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1352 XIV, of October 1959, which read:

(I) Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent Federation of Nigeria?


(II) Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroun? (Federation of Nigeria 1961)


Nobody questions the roles played by the then Southern Cameroonian politicians in the Southern Cameroons debacle.

The UPC was not a Southern Cameroons party; and was banned in Southern Cameroons at the time of the plebiscite; and her leaders deported from the territory. The UN had no reason to listen to them because theirs was not a legal party in the Southern Cameroons; and foreign to the territory.

Whatever the roles played by Southern Cameroons leaders, it is clear that they wanted an Independence question on Southern Cameroons' future. This question was blocked at the UN. Now, this was an illegal act. While we have to hold Southern Cameroons leaders into account, the UN and Britain were the Powers who would ultimately decide the future of the territory. In the end, their decision was illegal and detrimental to the people; and went against conventional wisdom.

On the other hand, Southern Cameroons leaders did nothing illegal. Their diversified opinions were consistent with an emerging democratic and pluralistic society where debates of important issues were important. They may have made mistakes as all other politicians do but they never did anything illegal. So the Trustees are to blame for breaching the Trust of the people.

This illegality has caused and continues to cause untold suffering, death, poverty and underdevelopment in the Southern Cameroons and her people as well as discrimination of Southern Cameroonians in their own country by La Republique du Cameroun government. So the illegality must be destroyed


"One of the reasons the UK did this was to stymie Northern Cameroons into demanding her own Third question. Britain was doing all this to keep Nigeria happy in terms of their own long term relation and interest as regards their former more powerful and rich Crown colony. It is clear that they had very little Southern Cameroons interest thus violating their Trusteeship Agreement..."

"...Prepare Southern Cameroons for independence. They had already done this by creating a democratic culture and electing two Premiers. There were not ethnic or civil strife, no violent confrontation. So why refuse to come to the Conference; and then conspire behind the backs of SC leaders to hand power to a dictator whose country was in civil strife while the Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons has not agreed with La Republique under international protection..." Dr. Mbua

I still find it extremely hard to appreciate the reason why the Brits betrayed the SC people.

Emil I Mondoa, MD

Thanks, Wuno for answering that question with some factual detail. British classified documents indicate that the administering authority went into considerable trouble to frustrate the will of the Southern Cameroons. Mola Njoh's recent papers quote these documents and the utterances of the British officials who manipulated historical events would give any Southern Cameroonian a fit.

The article in the box below Dibussi's analysis includes a detailed description of what entailed in Fumban.

Ma Mary

This is a high quality discourse. I hope it continues like this.


The problem with Southern Cameroons history is one that boils down to a question of interpretation. I know the nationalists insist that there is only 1 version of the truth but after reading Awasum's article one realizes that there are different interpretations which are correct in varying degrees even from a legal / international law perspective.

For example, was unification (for want of a better term) "Illegal" simply because cold war politics and the drive for "pan-africanism" forced the UN to impose plebiscite questions on the British Cameroons? Not necessarily. Cameroon was not the only territory where cold war politics played a role in its decolonixation, and international relations and national politics even to this day is greatly influenced by power plays between countries.

Southern Cameroons failed to adopt a unified position with regards to the decolonization of their country, which is why the UN stepped in in the first place. I particularly find nothing wrong with that because the options at the time were all valid ones. My problem is that once the plebiscite questions were agreed upon, the pro-unificationist did not deem it necessary to hold all negotiations with Ahidjo before the plebiscite. Foumban should have taken place BEFORE the plebiscite and not after when the plebiscite votes had already given Ahidjo the mandate to take over Southern Cameroons. I believe that if Southern Cameroons politicians had been united on this point we wouldn't be where we are today, irrespective of the actions or non-action of Britain and the United Nations.

That said, the plebiscite vote, like the multiparty elections that brought Foncha to power were free and fair, and it is a stretch to use the brute for argument as some have done during this discussion. And as the Awasum article shows, too much credit is given to Ahidjo for the alleged role that he played prior to the plebiscite (See Mbua's narrative). This conspiracy theory does not hold up to scrutiny. Reunification was foisted on Ahidjo by circumstances, he reluctantly went ahead with it with hopes that it would bring Northern Cameroons to the fold, and stoically accepted the verdict when it instead gave him Southern Cameroons. Remember, at that time, SC was merely a backward and underdeveloped territory which was not expected to bring anything into the union other than all that talk about democracy and human rights. Southern Camerons was in essence Ahidjo's burden and all his actions after Foumban was to elimnate that burden. So All that talk of midnight plots between Ahidjo and the British is just that - talk.

Finally the claim that the facts of this case have been analyzed to death is very very wrong.Probably within militant Anglophone circles this over-analysis has taken place, but not in the general public. In fact, in the past decade, all analysis has virtually ceased because SC nationalists are determined to impose their version of events on everyone including scholars, while demonizing anyone who dares to stray from their version which is (as expected) laced with lots of propaganda.

So I really like this particular discussion because for once, we are able to read different takes on events - hopellly this is the beginning of the lifting of the "embargo" that has been placed on SC scholarship for far too long... The "language of liberation" must not be treated like the Bible, which should be accepted uncritically, even by scholars and other experts who have different views.

The basis of the SCNC fight is based on sound moral, historical, legal and moral grounds, but they must learn to contend with other equally relevant schools of thought on SC history which is a complex one. As someone said earlier let the activists do their thing and let the scholars do theirs.


There were pre-Plebiscite talks between Foncha's government, the UK administration and Ahidjo's La Republique.

Ahidjo and Foncha came out with a joint communiqué on the vision of the Federation as those of equal states.

After the plebiscite, the UN passed a resolution to reaffirm the position of Southern Cameroons and LRC as of equal status. A pre-plebiscite communiqué, on its own, was not fully accommodating because it had to include Northern Cameroons. Yet nobody knew were the two territories would opt in the referendum given that they were treated as separate territories rather than one. Consequently, the only agreement that would have been valid would have been the post-plebiscite one which never occurred.

In legal and international term, Foumban was a non-event as there is no proof that Southern Cameroons and LRC together agreed on any terms there. We must start thinking appropriately; and avoid assumptions. That Foumban happened does not mean there was an agreement; or that what happened later was legitimate and legal. It is not possible to form Federated states without terms in a Treaty. A Constitution is not a Treaty.

"Remember, at that time, SC was merely a backward and underdeveloped territory which was not expected to bring anything into the union other than all that talk about democracy and human rights." Yewah

It is true that Southern Cameroons was underdeveloped, materially but it was not backward. Backward nations do not practise modern parliamentary democracy. That a state is materially underdeveloped does not make it backward. Southern Cameroons had demonstrable vast human resource and great potential for Agro-industry complete with Ports which served Nigeria well in the Trusteeship days. LRC had only one port in Douala. So, we can't dismiss SC as backwards. Underdeveloped, yes but it was an enlightened society with huge potential.

"Southern Camerons was in essence Ahidjo's burden and all his actions after Foumban were to elimnate that burden. So all that talk of midnight plots between Ahidjo and the British is just that - talk." Yewah

Exactly the point why the conspiracy had roots. If it was a burden, why deny them independence? Why not leave the burden for them to sort? Secondly, Ahidjo could have refused the "burden" before the plebiscite. If we go by your analysis, a casual observer would take Ahidjo for a sadist who took a burden on his own free will so as to destroy them. He might have been a brutal dictator, but he knew what he was doing; and we all know that he was mentally sound.

If we read declassified reports in London, one will realise that it was a conspiracy to deny SC independence. Ahidjo was well aware in advance. On the eve of the termination of the Trusteeship, a British MP boldly told the House that SC was being transferred to LRC. Yet no terms were agreed. How was SC to defend and protect herself then?

The point is that whether by conspiracy or by deliberate action by all the actors, the act was illegal and in breach of Trust by the Trustees. Furthermore, no people should accept slavery on grounds that they are a "burden" to an alien nation. It is better to be poor and independent than to be poor in bondage. There were many former UN Trust territories far more underdeveloped and poorer than Southern Cameroons who attained independence between 1961 - 1968 -- Rwanda, Burundi, Papua New Guinea. Sir Cohen who refused Southern Cameroons the independence question at the UN supported Papua New Guinea for their independence bid. Why?

The UN stepped in all its territories. But they had to step in within the bounds of international law and the UN Charter. So why deny the independence question? And why didn't they attend the Post plebiscite talks as stipulated by the UN post plebiscite Resolution? Those are the questions the UN and UK have failed to answer; and which proves the conspiracies as revealed by declassified papers as shown by the writings of Mola Njoh Litumbe. All these inconsistencies are clear breaches of the Trustees; and therefore liable to damages to SC and rectification.


Hello Louis,

Your reading of history is incorrect. There was no pre-plebiscite agreement / treaty between La Republique du Cameroon and Southern Cameroons. It was a vague declaration of intent with no legal standing - just like those non-binding documents that the UNDP signed in 1992 before joining the Biya government. And that is the problem. Southern Cameroons leaders should have demanded clearcut guarantees ratified by the UN before the plebiscite. Once the plebiscite took place and Southern Cameroonians agreed to "achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroun" no international treaty was required. All that was needed at this point was to work out the modalities for statehood based on prior agreements -all of which were non-binding. That there was no agreement in Foumban is not surprising.. Neither is is illegal.

I have read some of the declassified documents that you mention and they don't really add anything new to the debate. They simply confirm what has long been known; that Britain helped foil the independence option because it believed an independent SC would be a financial burden on Her Majesty's government.
Again this is realpolitik at play. From where I stand a lot of crass things were done or not done by the administering authorities at the expense of SC. But I am yet to see that vast conspiracy or "illegality" that many of these arguments are based on...



I didn't say Ahidjo and Foncha signed a pre-plebiscite "Treaty". They issued a joined communique to declare their vision. A communique is not a treaty.

It was not possible to sign a "pre-Treaty" without knowing the results of both Southern Cameroons and Northern Cameroons. There is no such thing as a pre-Treaty. If we have a pre-Treaty, then what exactly was the point of the Plebiscite? In fact, a pre-Treaty would have been illegal because Southern Cameroons constitution was based on democracy. Pre-Treaties can never be ratified in any sane parliament. You sign Treaties to confirm a referendum by the people and not the other way round; signing by the leader to be later confirmed by the people? The future of the people is too important to be treated casually.

Example: Britain had a referendum to join the EU in 1973. After the Referendum, they then signed the Treaty with the European Community. AND then brought it to the parliament for ratification. No leader in his right mind will sign a treaty before an envisaged referendum to decide on the issue signed. Holding consultations and debates. Yes. That is exactly what Foncha and the Southern Cameroons leaders did before the plebiscite.

As for you "financial burden" as an excuse to stymie freedom, this is purely illegal. Freedom was the right of the people. Whether they were financially viable or not was irrelevant. Financial viability cannot be measured purely on material terms. The report assumed that Southern Cameroonians are in capable of rising to their challenge. This, I believe is classified as discrimination; again in breach of Trusteeship. Human resource is financial viability and wealth. Southern Cameroons had it.

The Post plebiscite Conference was a General Assembly Resolution; and therefore binding to the UN and the UK because SC was still a Trust Territory. Consequently the Foumban Conference itself was illegal as the Trustee never attended. Foncha et al. could do nothing, legally speaking. Head of Government was not head of the Trust Territory. Only Premiers of independent sovereign nations can sign Treaties and agreements.

Britain was looking for all possible ways for the British Cameroons to join Nigeria to maintain their good relations as well as the fear of upsetting Nigeria says the declassified report.

Steps to Federate States:

1. Pre-Plebiscite Consultations

2. Independence of State

3. Plebiscite

4. Treaty of Federation.

5. Ratification by the respective parliaments

That is how the EU and the Russian Federation was formed. That is how The Cameroon Federation was to be formed.

Two illegalities:

Refusal to grant independence question and refusal to supervise the transformation after plebiscite

There is no such thing as a Pre-Treaty running onto referendum.

Correction: Sir Cohen supervised the independence of Samoa from New Zealand and not Papua New Guinea


Hey Louis you are getting all confusef. I don't know what a "pre-treaty" is. All I am saying is that instead of signing a statement of intent on the shape and structure of a united Cameroon republic as enshrined in the 2 alternatives, the Foncharites should have instead demanded a formal document, ratified by the UN, clearly outlining the structure of the union and guarantees for the smaller SC.

This is exactly what the British did some 4 decades later in Hong Kong, and this is what has kept that territory relatively free within China in spite of constant moves by the Chinese to control the political system.

So I am not referring to a "pre-treaty" which is not a legal or international relations term that I am familiar with. I am talking of an iron clad agreement. Nothing more, nothing less. None existed before the plebiscite, so Ahidjo was free to do as he wished after the plebiscite

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