In what is seen as veiled support for the independence struggle of the peoples of the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons, Cameroon’s foremost international rights advocate, Dr. Joseph Chongsi Ayeah has said all peoples have a right to self-determination.
He was speaking on July 6 in Switzerland during a conference held under the aegis of the Jammu Kashmir International People’s Alliance (JKIPA).
“…. Issues related to territory are determined by the people and nobody else…. and from the determination of that territory, a people can constitute a nation. It’s as simple as that when it comes to territoriality and the people.”
The conference was of course about the people of Kasmir who for decades have been fighting to free themselves from Indian occupation.
Dr. Chongsi said it was the fundamental, basic right of the Kashmiris to determine and delineate their boundaries, and the international community was bound to accept that determination.
The jurist with a special assignment in Guinea Bissau noted that it was the basic, fundamental right of the people of Kashmir to determine their territorial boundaries, which must be accepted by the people of the world.
“The territory, therefore, is what the people know, what the language says, what the culture says, irrespective of the small diversities that might be involved in the practice of their culture.”
He challenged the United Nations to consider revisiting all territories it might have delimited without the people’s consent.
The international jurist didn’t mention Cameroon, but his presentation spoke to the core of the Southern Cameroons conflict in the Central African country.
Citizens of the once independent state of Southern Cameroons have for decades complained about marginalisation by the predominantly Francophone administration in Yaounde.
The tensions boiled over in 2016 when the government responded with lethal force to peaceful protests by Common Law lawyers and teachers.
A pro-independence wing developed and for five years and counting, has been fighting for what they describe as the “restoration of the statehood of the Southern Cameroons.”
For the record, the Southern Cameroons, once a UN Trust Territory under British control, obtained independence on October 1, 1961, but were required to unite with La République du Cameroun following an UN-organized Plebiscite that Southern Cameroonians who also call themselves Ambazonians now question.
In Dr. Chongsi’s logic, therefore, the same United Nations ought to revisit that history so that the people of the Southern Cameroons can determine whether they want to assert their independence, or they want to continue their association with La République du Cameroun.