It was getting dark, and by 17:15, the African Commission envoy emerged from the walls of the Buea Maximum Production Prisons where it had decided to check out on the conditions of the prisoners and their welfare therein. The convoy took less than five minutes to drive up to Soppo’s Human Rights office, and lo and behold!, the shock the beheld was total! The entire yard was filled with chanting and placard- carrying demonstrators and protesters, many dressed in Southern Cameroons T-shirts, while others carried Southern Cameroons flags.
The convoy had to stop at the entrance of the yard, letting only the car carrying the Commission’s chair and her Cameroonian counterpart to get in. Yet, they remained blockaded in their car, either caught up in fear of the unknown confused or simply concerting and making inquiries. In the meantime, agents of the Governor’s office, security operatives in uniform and mufti could be espied running up and down, in and out of the office, making frantic calls and even taking down notes from the placards. At this time, the leadership of the Southern Cameroons was seated inside, relaxed. This included Chief Ayamba, Mola Njoh Litumbe, Nfor N. Nfor, Vincent Feko, Mola Mafoke, Prince Humphrey Mbinglo, Pa Sabum, I.N. Sona, Mr. Fomussoh from Washington DC, Chief Taku etc etc. Note that there were other Civil Society Organisation leaders in the hall from all over the South West…but, he Southern Cameroons issue suddenly became their issue as evidenced in their support in various ways…side comments, facial pleasures etc.
The messages on the placards were as loud as they were sharp. They ranged from slogans to calls and warnings to the Yaoundé regime, the African Commission and the entire international community in general. Some of them read as follows:
La Republique du Cameroun: Respect AU Constitutive Act; The Unification of West and East Cameroon was faked by Ahidjo: We want o be free Now.; Annexation I Crime Against UN Charter; No to Annexation, No to Occupation, No to Colonial Rule; There re no Documents filed at the UN…; We are Demanding Southern Cameroons Independence; Southern Cameroonians are a People; No to Colonial Occupation; La Republique du Cameron, Respect your Boundary at Independence; The Constructive Dialogue, Now or never!; Self-Determination is our Inalienable Right; No to Assimilation, no to Military Occupation; We are demanding Southern Cameroons Independence Now; Bravo! Bravo! Southern Sudan etc etc. One could see military and security operatives jotting down the points raised on the placards. An agent of the African Commission later came around collecting the placards, some memos from some individuals and even stamps bearing the map of La Republique du Cameroun indicating that the Southern Cameroons was never part of La Republique du Cameroun.
Standoff between Southern Cameroons and AC Delegation: The French Language Syndrom
One US writer, Clarence Shepard one indicated in a book, Father Interferes ( 1934), that “Imagine the Lord talking French! Aside from a few odd words in Hebrew, I took it completely for granted that God had never spoken anything but the most dignified English.” He must have very touched once by some French speaking official who made him conclude that all that goes with French is no good. So, when Madam Alapine Ganou started off the encounter/discussions in the hall in French and was told that many are not understanding, she worsened things by showing her French cultural background. She flared, shouted, ranted and told all present that she is Beninoise and so speaks only her French. At this juncture many could understand why Southern Cameroonians have been having multiple obstacles with the African Commission, given that the Secretary of that Commission who worked and butchered the Banjul verdict on Communication 266/2003, Mary Maboreke, is a Burkina Bay, French speaking. She sounded like the lady at the court of Versailles in Voltaire’s book when she said : “’What a dreadful pity that the bother at the tower of Babel should have got language all mixed up, but for that, everyone would always have spoken French.’”
Even when the very respectable elderly statesman, Mola Njoh Litumbe took the floor language that is spoken and understood; that his generation was not privileged to be taught a word in French; that even during trials it is the right of the other party to have a translator if they don’t understand the other language; that Mm Chairperson’s interventions be translated into English…Madam Gansou continued being emphatic that she will speak her French and the others could speak their English. She insisted that they were not at Banjul or Addis Ababa. In spite of all the jeers and boos, she and her collaborator, Mm Asagbor crudely and rudely insisted that they will not heed to the people’s wishes.
Mission of the Delegation: The Southern Cameroons Problem
So, she went on to trace her last visit the to Cameroons in 2006 when she was in Mme Asagbor’s shoes as Rapporteur for Huma Rights Defenders in Africa. She is back to see whether there has been any improvements after her report and recommendations on prison and human rights situation in Cameroon.
By the time the delegation gave the place for interventions from the floor, and the first to take the floor was Mola Njoh Litumbe on behalf of the People of the Southern Cameroons, SCNC , SCAPO, BRISCAMIAC, Southern Cameroons Civil Society in Washington DC, Liberal Democratic Alliance and other. Here are excerpts of what he had to say:
“Madam chairlady of the African Commission. In order to have a peaceful society there must be mutual respect for law and order. In the process of bringing matters to the African Commission, people expect the recommendations are respected, but this is not the case with our case in Cameroon… I wonder whether the African Commission has any powers to follow up and bring delinquent and despondent states to respecting decisions from the African Commission…
The fundamental issue is the status of the Southern Cameroons. We, as a people were called by the Charter and rules of the UN to have our independence by joining, and modalities are prescribed in that Charter, why, in our case, is this not being respected?…
We are aare tht the United Nations, the world organ decided to create regional organs like the AU to oversee issues that could be handled at this level. So, I wonder, as an elderly man, whether it is possible for the African Commission to take a decision that is contrary to that of the United Nations!…
The people of the Southern Cameroons have been insisting that they don’t want any bloodshed. The fact that he recommendations of the African Commission are not being respected by La Republique du Cameroun troubles him…
It took the African Cmmission six years to go through Communication 266/2003, with the financial burden on the poor citizens of the Southern Cameroons…empoverished further by the delay and the non compliance of the LRC government as well as the African Commission…
I therefore submit, with very strong warnings, that there is an urgent need for the African Commission to pay urgent attention to the situation in the Southern Cameroons, else, the wworld will soon be taken off guard.
The next to take the floor was Nfor N. Nfor, Vice Chair of SCNC. Hear him ( excerpts)
“… Madam Chairlady, I stand here on behalf of the over five million Southern Cameroonians to let you understand that we, and our unborn children are suffering brutal human rights abuses in the Southern Cameroons. Until we come to understand what we, Southern Cameroonians are going through as such under the occupational forces, we will never understand why we are crying.
…I stress here that SCNC members are arrested day in, day out as if there is no Criminal Procedure code (CPC) for SCNC. The police, magistrates and administrators, all, proconsuls of La Republique du Cameroun always refuse SCNC detainees bail after arrests and detentions. We have come to understand that human rights are never respected and can never be respected where a people have been colonized.
…We here congratulate the African Union and United Nations for the outcome in Southern Sudan, and so Southern Cameroonians wish their situation to be resolved peacefully, not until over two million souls would have perished as was the case in Sudan.
…LRC and the Southern Cameroons will, forever remain neighbours. Let our rights as Southern Cameroonians be respected, and there will be no problem. We accommodated citizens of La Republique du Cameroun during the days of terrorism, and we hope that this whole thing ends peacefully…”
In her reaction to the issues concerning the Southern Cameroons, Madam Alapine was frank and humble enough to state that her commission has no powers to take political decisions over political issues. It is the prerogative of the African Union. She indicated that theirs ends at the level of recommendations, especially when it has to do with human rights abuses. The truth, she insisted is that the African Court, which is being put in place, is the as the AC, an adjudicator. It is thus for Southern Cameroonians to make their point to the “appropriate bodies” for effective result.
It should be noted that the moderator of the occasion had indicated that speakers during the occasion were to be those NGOs and organizations that had indicated and were accredited. This meant that the SCNC was out of the way. But, why was it the Southern Cameroons issue that dominated the day and took over ¾ of the time? It is clear that nothing can be gotten if not seized. The Commission and all had to adjust to accommodate the real issue of concern for the people…the independence and freedom of the Southern Cameroons.
It was realized that for the first time in Buea, the people felt free to demonstrate, peacefully as opposed to what obtained in 2009 October when the LDA organized a meting at the Molyko stadium to explain the Banjul verdict to the people and were molested by the forces of law and order( as raised by Vincent Feko in his own worries to the Commission).
Thousands were around, but stood at a respectable distance to lend their support, but full of fear. Why was there no intervention from the forces? Was it because the Commission members were around? If on another occasion, this same people want to carry out a similar action, will gendarmes and police simply look on and take down notes as was the case this Saturday February 5?
There is a strong message contained in the statements of the Southern Cameroons’ leaders. Either the world solves the problem of the Southern Cameroons peacefully while the going is still good, or they should be ready to do it the Southern Sudanese way, after millions lose their lives. In her reaction, the chairlady made a straight point, that the African Commission is helpless and can do nothing more than what it has done so far. The message is clear, “…call the attention of the African Union and United Nation as others have done and your problem can be solved!!!”
This report is open and can be published by anyone anywhere. A detailed report with the memorandum, pictures and other reports of land grabbing in the Southern Cameroons like Bang Koumtchoum, Kutupit, Lebialem and Tiko and documentations Submitted to the African Commission is circulated to restricted quarters.
Compiled by Martin Fon Yembe
Buea Feb 6, 2011