The Southern Cameroons Question is now in its 5th year. The conflict has snuffed life out of at least 4,000 people, going by official statistics. The figures could be appreciably higher. The Cameroon government says it is fighting to ensure the indivisibility of the country. Pro-independence movements (they prefer to be called restorationists) say they are fighting to restore the independence of the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons that gained “independence by joining” the already independent La République du Cameroun on October 1, 1961.
Prof. Immanuel Tatah Mentan, a Theodore Lentz Scholar of Peace and Security Studies and Professor of Political Science argues that Anglophone Cameroonians have been brutally annexed, occupied, and subjugated, and all of this is “consequent upon botched implementation of Article 76(b) of the UN Charter, UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 of 14 December 1960 on the granting of independence “without pre-conditions to all colonies and trust territories” as the guarantor of the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and the rights to development of all peoples.”
In a wide-ranging interview with Timescape Magazine, the erudite professor accuses government forces of carrying out “genocide” in Southern Cameroons, and notes that the much talked about Northwest/Southwest divide is a divide-and-rule tactic engineered by the government “to ascertain that the people self-destruct for them to conquer.”
Following are excerpts of that explosive interview conducted by Robert Tumassang.
Prof Tatah Mentan, an unrepentant apologist of facts
In recent years, the Cameroon Military, as well as Pro-independence fighters, have been facing severe criticism for their actions in Southern Cameroons. Can you provide an overview of what has taken place in the two regions, specifically since 2016 when simmering tensions burst into open conflict between pro-independent movements and Cameroon government forces?
Your loaded question opens doors to many interrogations i.e., Cameroon’s English-speaking regions? Cameroon military? And Cameroon military facing severe criticisms for its actions? Let us begin systematically. I prefer the name registered at the United Nations at independence, La République du Cameroun.
When you talk of the Cameroon military are you referring to a national military? If you are implying a national military, it should first protect the nation from both its domestic and external enemies as well as refuse to obey unlawful orders.
La République du Cameroun is a neo-colony plundered daily and nightly by foreign capital and domestically by an institutionalized predatory corruption industrial complex. Has what you call La République du Cameroun military ever held the spoliators accountable? Never! Why? Your answer is as good as mine.
It unquestioningly protects members of the national stealing league, not the populace. In other words, its role is to protect dictatorship. A national military should never be a tool in the hands of partisan political hacks.
Another point we must interrogate is “Southern Cameroons”. By this, I think you mean what is called Northwest and Southwest. Just a quick question for you: Northwest of what? and Southwest of what?
The brutal annexation, occupation, and subjugation of the Southern Cameroons and its people, who had self-government since 1954, to foreign domination and alien rule is consequent upon botched implementation of Article 76(b) of the UN Charter, UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 of December 14, 1960, on the granting of independence “without pre-conditions to all colonies and trust territories” as the guarantor of the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and the rights to development of all peoples.
Let me enrich our discussion further. UN General Assembly Resolution 1608 (XV) of April 21, 1961, on the formation of a federal union of two states of Equal Status between the Southern Cameroons and La République du Cameroun, (a same former UN Category B Trust Territory under French Administration), enabled the latter, which is four times larger, to annex and forcefully occupy the former in total violation of UN General Assembly Resolution 2625 (XXV) of October 24, 1970; AGH/ Resolution 16 (i) Cairo, July 1964, on Africa’s commitment to the defense of colonial boundaries inherited at independence, international law on the respect of boundaries inherited at independence, UDHR and all other international instruments defending human rights and international cooperation among nations and peoples.
If you accept these historical facts as legally tenable and acceptable, then you can appreciate the mischief in fragmenting that territory to appendages of Northwest of what? And Southwest of what?
Victoria Shipyard project abandoned after Fornjindam Zacheus, its Southern Cameroons promoter and Director-General of the Shipyard Company was arrested and thrown in jail (C) Delta Marine Consultants
Our third interrogation concerns the “military facing severe criticisms for its actions.” This international war was prefaced on the French Bamileke Pacification template: a) inflict scorched earth massacres and devastations to compel surrender. Evidence of some 600 villages burnt and crops destroyed to impose homelessness and starvation to death is no news; b) manipulate domestic and international opinions to normalize annexation, occupation, and colonization; c) use the colonial policy of divide and rule to ensure the subjugated people self-destruct for Yaounde to fire the gunshot of victory.
I talk of international war based on UN actions. To wit, on May 20th, 2010, the President of the UNGA presented President Paul Biya with two maps: that of La République du Cameroun and that of Southern Cameroons. The Green Tree Agreement called on Nigeria and La République du Cameroun to withdraw to their boundaries at independence. The boundary of La République du Cameroun in 1960 did not extend beyond the Mungo River.
The second part of your question seeks to know my appreciation of the 2016 events leading up to the pacification war to complete the assimilation of the Southern Cameroons project as President Paul Biya admitted in his Paris interview with Mo Ibrahim.
Let me tell you right away that it is nonsensical to claim European languages and legal cultures as causes of the war. These were mere triggers. Annexationists had been looking just for such opportunities to dissolve the two cubes of sugar in La République du Cameroun basin of water or to eradicate the microbes, cockroaches, and rats as journalist Jean Ze would put it.
The highly mediated explosion of hate speech by regime sycophants and garbage heap intellectuals are eloquent testimonies.
As a peace and security studies scholar, I understand profoundly that hatred is a business. It is also a tremendous lift for career politicians to access privileges they covet.
This is how this business functions: You are not who you should be or where you should be because someone else has stood between you and your destiny. That someone standing as an obstacle should therefore be eliminated immediately. This is how hate entrepreneurs recruit people into their businesses.
Lastly, the idea of menticide or brain decimation. The concept of “menticide” indicates an organized system of judicial perversion and psychological intervention, in which a powerful tyrant transfers his own thoughts and words into the minds and mouths of the victims he plans to destroy or to use for his own propaganda. This definition suffices to instruct us about what we know just too well. When people launch a war to forestall the updating of an archaic school curriculum in the 21st century, what do you think they are aiming at? Or when one imposes a senile and savage Napoleonic Code on a people as a way of “civilizing them’, what do you imagine that to be? Hahahahahaha. Nowadays, we need a humanist education that factors people’s heritage into the information technology age curriculum, not primitive and barbaric top-down commandism.
Soldiers of La Republique du Cameroun have invaded all villages in Southern Cameroons with Violence, torture, extortion, and dehumanization as a daily present to the people
But pro-independence fighters are just as guilty of gross rights violations, don’t you think?
I wish to clarify something that does not seem right in terms of diction. Separatists are those who seek nationalist aims, usually desiring to secure self-determination or home rule for a certain faction or geographic community. Separatist terrorists (also called nationalist terrorists) use acts of terror to force the creation of a new state or to join with another existing nation with which the separatist community is closely aligned. In this case, those you deem separatists are not separatists as such. It appears they are fighting to restore the State of Southern Cameroons, whose independence was voted on by the United Nations on April 21, 1961. To call them separatists is thus preposterous, an apex of stupidity. They are Restorationists of a State whose incomplete decolonization was granted on October 1, 1961, by the United Nations.
Hence, they are groups successfully garnering international attention and even sympathy for their legal causes of self-determination in international law as per Article 76(b) of the United Nations Charter and UNGA Resolution 1608 (xv) of April 21, 1961. Let me remind you that the UN decolonization agenda derives from two sources: Chapters XI, XII, and XIII of the UN Charter devoted to the interests of dependent peoples, and two distinct but interrelated rights under international law, namely, the equal rights of peoples, and the right of self-determination of peoples. There was absolutely no merit for the excuse for the incomplete decolonization of the Southern Cameroons with the self-serving ‘reason’ given by Britain that the territory would not be economically viable to stand on its own as a sovereign state.
In your recent book, AMBACIDE: The Genocide and Extermination Reminiscent of Extermination of Jews (Holocaust) By Adolf Hitler, you argue that there is a genocide going on in the Southern Cameroons. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on how to characterize the ongoing human rights abuses. Do you think the term “genocide” as defined under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the “Genocide Convention”) is an accurate representation of what is happening on the ground?
Yes! I Do. Let us use historical hindsight to make a razor-sharp appreciation of concrete evidence. Many international Human Rights authorities, including the United Nations General Assembly, talked about the “Cambodian genocide” to designate the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Yet, while the term “genocide” undoubtedly has considerable appeal, it turns out to be legally inappropriate to describe the massacre of 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979. Here I am using genocide as defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Repression of the Crime of Genocide as requiring the intentional destruction of “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such.”
The former US Ambassador to La République du Cameroun, Peter Henry Barlerin, deemed what is going on as “targeted killing.” That is genocide. It means when a group is targeted for extermination as you find in Southern Cameroons. The international community shies away from using the word genocide because its use morally compels immediate intervention to stop the atrocities militarily.
Note that April 24, 1915, is the date Armenians consider to be the start of what they regard as genocide by Ottoman Turkish forces. Turkey admits that in a series of events under Ottoman rule, many thousands of people died, but it strongly opposes the use of the word “genocide.”
After the Armenians, Hitler took action. Yesterday, it happened in Rwanda. Today it is ongoing in Myanmar and Southern Cameroons.
When President Paul Biya declared war against the Southern Cameroons, his military (Mentan prefers militia) was unleashed against the people and they did not only kill massively but burnt homes as well as people in their sleep like Mami Appi; burnt down hospitals like the one in Kumba, murdered innocent school children like those in Mother Francisca School, Kumba, (government says the children were murdered by pro-independence fighters) in a meticulously organized mayhem and cover-up, and name it.
The fake trial of innocent folks in a kangaroo military court to hide the crime in Kumba is instructive. (The accused have been condemned to death by the Buea Military Court) Now the attacks have entered God’s house like the case of Ntahfoang, in Bali Nyonga. What other hard evidence does one need? You do not expect the perpetrator of genocide to accept his crime. Do you?
Over 600 Villages Settlements have so far been razed down by Cameroon government soldiers at random in pursuit of a scorched-earth policy to force the people to surrender.
In essence, genocide is a policy, a deliberate policy to exterminate a people. How can what’s happening in Cameroon be compared to Hitler’s extermination of Jews, given that there doesn’t appear to be any public policy in Cameroon that says, “let Southern Cameroons be wiped off the map?”
Just a quick question for you: Did Hitler ever claim he was wiping Jews “off the map?” Certainly NO! The language of political discourse speaks volumes. When you hear or read politicians talk of two cubes of sugar to be dissolved in a basin of water, what does that tell you?
I am not a candidate for self-humiliating intellectual duplicity. I will never be one. However, when you hear your Cameroun “intellectuals” say “when Francophones start returning from America and Britain, there will be no Anglophone problem in Cameroun”, what does that imply? When you hear media apologists like those of Rwanda talk of eradication of rats, microbes, cockroaches, what does it invoke in your mind? Do such heinous mediated outages not point to extermination or wiping a people off the map?
My former colleague, Prof. Messanga Nyamding may evoke an explanatory devil to bail out his hate speech better from my interpretation. He has been fed on the breast of hatred for “Anglophones” and stops at nothing to propagate his seething venom on television and all over.
Walk us down memory lane to explain what you have described as “economic genocide” against Southern Cameroonians.
What I call economic genocide has two faces, namely, economic, and mental. At the economic level it all started with French President Charles de Gaulle’s warning to Cameroun’s President Ahmadou Ahidjo that if he allowed “Anglophones to develop economic power, they will challenge him.”
Being machine-faithful to his political godfather, African Gaullist Ahidjo pounced on the destruction of the economic foundations of the Southern Cameroons State, both public and private.
In February 1962, he speedily wiped out the pound sterling, replacing it with the French colonial franc. Just in passing, many Southern Cameroonians lost their hard-earned wealth in the currency conversion.
I remember someone was given 100 francs in exchange for 100 Pounds Sterling. Can you imagine that?
With the assault on the West Cameroon Government by an appointed Federal Inspector of Administration, Yaounde seized all revenue-generating institutions such as the Customs, Treasury, POWERCAM, Marketing Board, West Cameroon Development Agency, Wum Area Development Agency (WARDA), Public Works Department, West Cameroon State Lottery, Cameroon Bank, etc.
The Victoria Deep Seaport, Tiko Wharf, Mamfe River Port, Tiko International Airport, etc., were smashed.
Then, came the attack on the private sector. Nangah Company built structures including the imposing CNU Party House in Bafoussam with loans from banks. When he wanted payment for work done, he was asked to pay his taxes. Nangah requested that his taxes should be deducted from his contract dues and the rest paid to him. The Ahidjo Government turned its back away and Nangah Company crumbled like a pack of cards.
Consider the case of Mr. Neba of Neba Motors in Mutengene. He was requested to import Mercedes cars and sell to the Yaounde Government. He did. The Yaounde regime told him to pay his taxes in like manner. He requested that the arithmetic should be done, and the rest of his money paid to him. Younde simply sealed his Garage at Mutengene until the cars became unusable. Even lately, when Shey Lawrence Tasha nursed Amity Bank using his international Chase Manhattan Banking acumen, the financial institution was infiltrated, ambushed, looted, and Banque Atlantique was planted in its place.
Meanwhile, the Yaounde regime subsidized Francophone businessmen like Fadil, the late Fotso, etc., to compete with Lebanese businessmen during those early years of so-called independence as the late Minister Augustin Frédéric Kodock confessed in an interview.
Cameroon Troops have been variedly accused of rampant rape and killing of young girls and women who resist their carnal advances (C) The Defense Post.
The government argues that it’s irresponsible for Southern Cameroonians to want to separate given that the quarrel is based on artificial boundaries imposed by the colonialists. Don’t they have a point?
I am an unbending and militant Pan-Africanist to the marrow. Enduring Pan-Africanism cannot be built by subjugating other Africans. “Anglophones” do not “want to separate” from anything. Can you bring out any legal evidence uniting “Anglophones” to Francophones? Look, human history is like a tree. It has its roots planted firmly somewhere, its stem and branches, leaves, and fruits. It’s ludicrous to think that when you seek to destroy the branches, you have stemmed the tree. People spend so much effort brandishing Revised Standard Versions of history sheepishly believing that they have destroyed the tree of history. That is a Big Lie!
Let us clean away mental corruption about Pan-Africanism first. Pan-Africanism is grounded in the belief that all African-descended peoples are one nation. Not in the sense of nation-state created by imperial powers, but in the sense of all African-descended peoples, both on the continent and the diaspora, sharing an inter-connected history, purpose, and destiny; that destiny being a united and independent Africa as the basis for liberation.
As an ideology and movement, Pan-Africanism encourages solidarity and unity for economic, social, cultural, and political progress and emancipation, and ultimately, the uplifting of all peoples of African descent. That is the African philosophy of UBUNTU-I am because we are.
In other words, Pan-Africanism is heavily tied to Black Nationalism, which arose around the social, political, and economic empowerment of Black communities.
The nation here is not defined by borders, but rather by people who are bound together by common experience, especially to resist Western domination and maintain Black cultures and identities not imposed French culture on other Africans.
It is wholly separate from white nationalism, which took the name decades later and is inextricably tied to white supremacy.
Indeed, Pan-Africanists have worked to resist the exploitation and oppression of all those of African heritage, oppose and refute the ideologies of anti-African racism, and celebrate African achievements, history, and the very notion of being African.
Most Pan-Africanists throughout history have also been various flavors of socialism, seeing capitalism as the enemy of liberation and seeing communal relations, as were present in pre-colonial African societies, as a necessity.
Pan-Africanism does not in any way caution the subjugation of any African group by another- “Anglophones” by “Francophones”.
You have argued in your book that the only pathway to peace is “an internationally negotiated separation of both warring Former UN Category B Trust Territories.” Is that an indication that the two can never live together? Is there no meeting point?
“Living together” is not a new song in fragile regimes in Africa. That song was started in Côte d’Ivoire, and it has been going around.
Do you need a Bilingual Commission to go around preaching to people to live together? If you do, there is something seriously wrong with the social nexus. It means you need to revise your political engineering of society. The danger is that of a Frankenstein Monster offering the possibility of citizens of La République du Cameroun either being intentionally or unintentionally coded as Southern Cameroonians in a so-called vacuous Special Status.
When you declare war, always be ready for the consequences. In all circumstances, Peace Is Always Wiser Than War, but not graveyard peace.
This raging genocide has demonstrated that Southern Cameroonians are totally distinct and antagonistic to La République du Cameroun society. It has blown the balloon of the nagging paranoia. This paranoia spans out in that, one group has difficulty in empathizing with the other group; is less sensitive and does not think twice before expressing opinions that might hurt them; does not respect other people’s opinions.
Maybe they think others should change their opinions if it does not match with theirs; does not respect other’s boundaries; are self-obsessed and does not take interest in knowing other people well so they do not connect well with them to form strong bonds; and are constantly pessimistic and negative and others do not find their company enjoyable.
These are the characteristics of the incompatibility index I am talking about, and such groups can never live peacefully together. Each will always be at the neck of the other, even as slave and master. This divide is simply too great, and people on both sides are dug in, unwilling to see anything from the other side’s point of view. I am not a prophet of doom. However, now the many voices that have been energized in restoration and with an increase in anti-La République du Cameroun enslaving rhetoric, it seems impossible that any healing could happen anytime soon, even if people have very short memories of hate.
Prof Immanuel Tatah Mentan at a University in Illinois USA (C) Illinois Wesleyan University
Most Elites in the Southwest have signaled that they won’t want to form one state with Northwesterners. Isn’t it evident that once independence is achieved, the two entities would start fighting each other?
That sounds like someone running away from his shadow. We need to disabuse our minds from that song. This is a common fear-mongering song being peddled by Uncle Tom, a ground-breaking humanistic portrayal of a slave who fears freedom. Who created Southwest and Northwest? Was the creation accidental? No! It is a known colonial divide-and-rule strategy. The claim that “Most Elites in the Southwest have signaled that they won’t want to form one state with Northwesterners” directly fulfills the desires of the annexationist colonial La République du Cameroun divide-and-rule “genocidaires” to ascertain that the people self-destruct for them to conquer.
I wish to state this as a Kantian categorical imperative. For enslaved and dehumanized people, freedom means an end to second- or third-class citizenship, the wanton gendarme and police kicks, spanks, or bribes, to the sale of family members or colleagues for a sinecure appointive position to La République du Cameroun masters.
The promise of freedom holds out the hope of self-determination, educational opportunities, full rights of citizenship, and a productive way of life.
Common sense notes that if you want to enslave someone, tune a song for him to sing, while he is being crushed. By the time the enslaved opens his eyes, all of him is gone. Even the slave master knows that the enslaved singer is doubtfully sincere. The slave is simply grappling with the impossible task of trying to ride two horses running in opposite directions with the obvious result of being unsaddled.