Cameroon – Anglophone problem: [Interview] Francophone journalist Exposes Paul Biya and explains why he can’t give federalism!

Written by Deckson N.

Jean-Marc Soboth, journalist: May 20 and the unitary state are the babies of Mr. Paul Biya, all by himself!

Jean-Marc Soboth, an award-winning senior journalist, whom we consider to be the best francophone on the Anglophone issue in Cameroon, is still surprising in his unprecedented approach.

Interview by Cameroon Voice

Cameroon Voice (CV): After the end of year 2016 message of the Cameroonian head of state Paul Biya, can we finally say ‘And the dogs were silent’ like Aimé Césaire? There was a marked decline in social tension in the country, particularly in the English-speaking regions. Mr Biya recalled that Cameroon is “one and indivisible and will remain so“. But he says he is ready to go as far as possible in the negotiations by recognizing that what has been done is perfectible …

Jean-Marc Soboth (JMS): I did not notice any significant voltage drop. The reactions are divergent between federalists and original secessionists. I nevertheless noted a careful listening of the anglophone elite. Some, like the Honorable Paul Ayah Abine, have even asked for an ultimate chance for Mr. Paul Biya in his declared willingness to dialogue even though he acknowledges that he never kept his promise in three decades. Despite President Biya’s message, the Anglophones wanted to observe the demonstration day of January 2, 2017. In the end, I noticed English-speaking compatriots who, once again, showed respect, love and Tolerance towards Francophones. A love that will not take away their determination.

CV: Would you dispute the postulate of a “one and indivisible Cameroon” which must remain so? Mr. Paul Biya recalls that nationalists have shed blood for the unity of the country …

No one has ever disputed that Cameroon should remain one and indivisible. But it is not enough to repeat this refrain. You have to get involved. And we need to know in what legal context this has happened. Yaounde’s pre-plebiscite agreement signed in October 1960 between Ahmadou Ahidjo, Charles Assalé and John Ngu Foncha is very clear on the issue. The brothers and sisters from the British administration did not merge into the former French colony with its mentality. The idea was to create a federal state based on two distinct federal states, which, you will be surprised, was to be called the federal state of Kamerun. They wanted to remain faithful to the ‘German’ family as advocated by Ruben Um Nyobè. Not to cling to any Germanic colonialist legacy, but simply as a reminder of the fact that we had been together in the protectorate of Berlin. And let me remind you that the political party of John Ngu Foncha who traveled all the way to Reunification was called Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP).

I recall that English-speaking politicians had graduated from the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) of the Pan-Africanist and father of the Nigerian Nation Niki Azikiwe. They knew what they wanted. In all federalist contexts, each federal state cultivates its authenticity. That’s what they wanted. They are being refused to be granted of it today. And it is clear that the fact of having blown up the federal association has led rather to destroy their historical heritage.

CV: How do you think that the current state of the constitution of the Republic of Cameroon and especially the prospect of the enlarged negotiations envisaged by President Paul Biya can solve the problems raised? Everyone seems to agree that President Biya is ready to give everything …

President Paul Biya will not concede anything. I am going to explain to you why, based on my background as a pretty good student of constitutional law, which allows me to pin down the presidential posture not like an ordinary journalist. The Head of State said this important sentence in fine: ‘We must remain open to the ideas of improvement, to the exclusion, however, of those which would come to touch the form of our State.’ At this precise moment, Insiders’ – I call them that. It is expressed in constitutional jargon. And he says clearly that there will be no question of touching the centralized unitary state. The form of the state is a chapter or sub-chapter in the course of constitutional law. One learns, among other things, the federal state, the con-federal state, the unitary state, decentralization … None of these formulas are ontologically linked to the unity and integrity of the territory. The unity is not in danger according to the form of the State as Mr. Paul Biya tries to make believe the ignorant.

I find it very dishonest to say that one has a united, one and indivisible country, and at the same time mix this unity with the straitjacket of the unitary state. It is an intellectual scam exploiting the illiteracy and the inculturation of others. I do not remember any country which, under any pretext whatsoever, has changed from a federal state to a unitary state in our time. To put everything in the hands of a person, the President of the Republic, is anything but a means of preventing sovereignty. What we have to do is cultivate the desire to live together, the spirit of the nation. The United States and Germany are federal states. Switzerland is a confederation … France has largely decentralized itself with its general councils. Cameroon has remained a chiefdom.

Barack Obama who was a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago never suggested a constitutional revision to make the United States a unitary state as in Cameroon under the pretext of protecting the unity of the federation. Do not exaggerate the manipulation!

CV: You insist that the May 1072 referendum law was a sleight of hand of a clique of French-African bureaucrats. You realize that during your last interview on the issue, you were insulted by a lot …

I do not care if they insult me or not. But I persist and sign: on May 20, 1972, with the subsequent national holiday, it was a scam! Like it or not. A national holiday always proceeds from a patriotic precedent. On July 14 in France, it was the capture of the Bastille, the birth of the Republic. The American National Day, on July 4, is Independence Day, Declaration of Independence. In most African countries, such: day of independence equal national holiday. In Cameroon, what is the 20th of May? nothing. However, we have the dates of: January 1 for the independence of the French-speaking party, October 1 for the reunification doubled the independence of the British party, then a date of national mourning for our countless brothers and sisters of the Northern Cameroons pushed to Nigeria by fraud – many of whom, you suspect, would have kept their identity card of Kamerunians…

Paul Biya and his friends have erased everything. It is celebrated on May 20, resulting from a meeting of some bureaucrats between Yaounde and Paris. You know what? At the time, they did not even know how to qualify their 20th May. They were embarrassed. Reunification was celebrated every October 1st. As a result, they imagined a subterfuge. On the calendars there was a tiny ‘Unification’ for the 20th of May, the time to forget October 1st. What is the pedagogy for posterity? Any. It is not enough to recite the refrain of the “bloodshed” of compatriots whom he confessed “by mistake” to have eradicated like Boko Haram …

CV: Why did all this trouble take place in May 1972?

It has been said that the project of the unitary State was initiated in France. This France initially opposed reunification because the nationalists persecuted by the French army found refuge on the other side of the Moungo where no one liked to see the French “barbarians”. It was a safe haven for the patriots at a time when France could not match the violins with the British to hunt them. But France has, in the meantime, discovered oil. She intended to exploit it, as she did elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea, without giving an account to the ‘natives’. She knew that with anglophone leaders awakened politically, it would be complicated. So they had to be handcuffed. This would have motivated the creation of the unitary State and the falsification of reunification. Paul Biya was one of the ‘French’ technicians.

CV: There is a very small contradiction in what you say. In the referendum of May 20, 1972, all Anglophones voted. The constitutional revision was thus carried out by universal suffrage. There’s nothing bureaucratic about that-

Here is the role played by the bureaucrats: they imagined how the ballot was to be done and how everyone was going to roll in the flour.

For having been repeatedly warned by intellectuals like Bernard N. Fonlon, the pro-French bureaucrats knew that the Anglophones would certainly oppose it because the referendum bill violated the pre-plebiscite agreements and the article 47 of the 1961 constitution. But it was necessary to explode the federal form of the State to make it a bilingual chiefdom controlled by Paris. They therefore decided to vote the Francophone masses against the Anglophone minority in May 1972. The Francophones were forced to sink only by this passage. All this was done in violation of the safeguards of the constitutional conference of Foumban forbidding the Francophone majority to make the federal state what France wanted and its Bantu technocrats.

CP: Was there another way of holding a popular consultation of this kind, whatever its purpose?

Cameroon is not alone in having a federalist base in the world. Both the Scottish, the Irish, and the Catalan and Quebeckers, only the Federated States individually vote or block major constitutional orientations. In 1961, the compatriots of the Southern Cameroons voted without the Francophones during the UN plebiscite. We saw it recently in Scotland. We have never told all the British to vote for Scotland not to leave the UK. Quebeckers voted twice, alone, in 1980 and 1995, to choose to stay in the Canadian federation or leave it. The sovereignists have lost each time. There has never been any question of involving all Canadians in the vote on the pretext that we want to remain one and indivisible. There is even worse. Quebec has never ratified Canada’s current constitution. Québec does not agree with certain provisions. They have never imposed the popular mass of Canadians on them. They are the only ones who have to decide everything that concerns them without feeling the hostages of the other compatriots. Yet Quebec is a true British military conquest. It was New France a few centuries ago …

The populations of Southern Cameroons had to be alone, in 1972, to decide, to refuse to entrust their destiny to a centralized pro-French administration. I doubt very much that they would have agreed to get their hands tied. The bureaucrats anticipated their refusal. The true artisans of reunification have become, today, prisoners of an undesirable unitary state who, royally, has appropriated the copyright of reunification by language manipulation. This is the origin of the grumbling in Anglophone regions since the time of Foncha, Albert Mukong. It continues today with such brilliant guys as George Achu Mofor with whom I had a long conversation recently, who is no less than the only provincial governor who ever resigned under Biya – following injunctions of vice – Prime Minister Gibert Andzé Tsoungui to the governors, demanding them ‘swollen’ votes for the candidate Paul Biya in the multiparty presidential election of October 1992 in Cameroon, at the risk of facing “consequences”.

CP: What, in your opinion, explains the reluctance of President Paul Biya to reintroduce the constitutional debate on the form of the State in Cameroon and to consider obstinately the possible return to A federal constitution?

Very good question. I summarize my answer in this: the unitary State in Cameroon and the date of May 20, however wacky, are in fact babies of President Paul Biya, all by himself. He is proud but refuses to admit it publicly, preferring to play the card of ‘the new man’ after Ahidjo, the patriot defending a unity that would have all inherited the elders.

To touch the unitary state is to touch the apple of Paul Biya’s eyes. I am not dispensing an administrative law course here on the central role of the secretary general of the presidency. I’m not a specialist. But Professor Joseph Owona said of the SGPR that he is “the president of the Technical Republic”. He is, doubtless, the greatest strategist of the presidentialism reinforced. Fortified in a system where the president had an academic course as modest as that of Ahmadou Ahidjo. A famous doctrinaire said of the SGPR that he is the president of “the Republic in dotted lines”. He initiates, motivates, documents, frames the bills sent to the parliament. And which come back for promulgation …

All Cameroonians, including the constitutionalists, have forgotten it: from January 1968 until June 1975 when he was appointed prime minister, President Paul Biya is the all-powerful secretary general of Ahmadou’s presidency Ahidjo. He is the factotum of monolithism and the ‘technical’ interlocutor of France. He was the one who managed everything. As early as 1966, Ahidjo and France had suppressed the multiparty system. All Anglophone political parties fell under the generic name of the Cameroonian National Union (UNC), a single party, to avoid any real parliamentary opposition.

I had one day a long conversation in Yaounde with Joseph-Charles Doumba on these subjects; He explained to me the leading role they played at that time alongside Ahidjo, Paul Biya and François Sengat Kuo.

As early as 1968, Paul Biya alone cumulated the general secretariat of the presidency and the management of the civilian cabinet. In 1972, he was the great Manitou. When we speak of a unitary state at the time, he is the one who explains to Ahmadou Ahidjo, a simple postman, what it is all about. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public law from the Sorbonne and a post-graduate diploma in public law. He was at the Institute of Studies of Political Studies of Paris and, in this case, at the famous Institute of Higher Studies overseas where France ‘formatted’ its colonial administrators with black skin.

It was therefore Paul Biya who fabricated the unitary state from scratch. Not by malice or treachery, as many would be led to think, but simply as a ‘French’ technician, in the framework of a bureaucratic dismemberment of France. There was no patriotism in that, of course. Unless by extraordinary you guess one …

CV: It is very serious what you say. Is there a clue, a historical fact, additional evidence showing that Paul Biya was indeed the author of the unitary state of May 1972, the man who pulled the strings?

Indeed. I hereby reveal to you that Paul Biya insisted on completing his reunification of 1961 in 1972 alone without Ahidjo. He unilaterally initiated a revision of the constitution by presidential decree in 1984. This is a strange precedent in the matter of Hierarchy of legal norms! There is no longer Ahidjo. He quarreled with Ahidjo and his apparatchiks. So there is no pressure. There is no urgency or danger in the house. But one of the very first acts of his presidency is, very paradoxically, to remove the term ‘United’ from the name ‘United Republic of Cameroon’. It becomes a ‘Republic of Cameroon’. He thus erases the history of February/October 1961. Imagine why. As a result, the true reunification of February/October 1961 no longer exists. In 1960, the Republic of Cameroon was only one of the two signatories – with the Southern Cameroons – of the Yaounde agreement laying the foundations of the federal state of … Kamerun – note the spelling!

Paul Biya worked, until proof to the contrary, within the framework of the petro-strategic agenda of France of which he inherited from his predecessor several accounts numbered in the Cayman Islands as the writer Mongo Beti had revealed in The magazine ‘Peuples Noirs, Peuples Africains’ …

CV: Anglophones now claim to be public citizens of the Southern Cameroons or the Ambazonians. They would therefore no longer be simply Cameroonians like their compatriots. Do you feel uncomfortable when the claims take this turn?

I was uncomfortable ten or twenty years ago, when I did not know. But in life, one reads, one learns. And we change our minds. I said above that a federal state of Kamerun was created in 1961. The federal state has the peculiarity of associating federated entities, each of which promotes a kind of local nationalism. This originality contributes to true diversity. Not the centralist one mentioned by Mr Biya, where you have to wait a long time before Yaounde decides to assign you a simple land title behind the place of your grandfather in his native village.

The Ambazonia is a different reality promoted by the people of the SCNC. Southern Cameroons, is the former British province which had chosen to join the former colony of France. She intends to remain so, and that is perfectly legitimate. Either one accepts the Southern Cameroons as it is, or one becomes the Kamerun of the origin, the only one that regroups all the compatriots. One can not have his name and that of the neighbor at the same time. Cameroon in its current French meaning is, legally, reserved for Francophones. We will not impose it on anyone.

CV: Don’t you feel outraged that you continue, with you, to defend a European colonialist heritage in full pan-African topicality? By the way, who is Anglophone in this country? English-speaking schools are now full of Francophone children?

Let us begin with a colonialist heritage. The reunification we are talking about is based on colonial borders. It’s clear. But the Anglophones do not confine themselves to defending a European heritage. They want to preserve what they have better than the natives of France: respect (habeas corpus), tradition, the rule of law … We owe to their authenticity the very emblematic ‘Toghu’ The appearance of the Cameroonians on the international stage. Francophones prefer suits and ties. We agree on that. It is at a point where the Bamileke, who are Grafi as well as the Widikum cousins of the Northwest, procure themselves like the rest of the Anglophones.

The Grafi culinary tradition is perpetuated where Francophones increasingly prefer imported foods to make dandy. The ‘Bamenda’ have democratized in urban areas as many inexpensive gastronomic varieties as the Fufu-corn Njama Njama, the Fufu Eru, the Achu … They brought the Kumba bread made from sweet potato …

Their basic teachings proceed from local production – versus that of Francophones imported from France. We should be inspired. Who are the Anglophones? The ones we are talking about here are the citizens of Southern Cameroons or West Cameroon. There are, of course, more and more Francophones who have become anglophones at school. It’s a great thing. But it has nothing to do with it.

CV: The majority of Francophones and analysts believe that if we return to federalism in Cameroon, it would be the open door to secessionism. Do not you think so too?

I find it extremely dishonest that people who did not reunify in February 1961, who have never been called to the polls by the UN, who do not even know what happened, that they are accusing Those who showed patriotism in 1961 of wanting to secede to the point of justifying all the brutality implemented so-called to prevent them. If today they want independence, we should rather take an introspection, a record of our wickedness with regard to those who are often said to be our ‘Bamendas’ … We must question ourselves …

CV: Nonetheless, more and more Anglophone federalist leaders believe that independence would be the best thing, with the latest news … It also questions their faith in national unity …

What do you think? In your opinion, what is the use of a federal state subject to the diktat of France? It’s useless. Our currency, the nerve of every country, is French. Countries like Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, or even the small Malawi, are beating currency without any problem. Cameroon is filled with French diplomas which make more noises and bragging than patriotic efficiency. The Anglophones repeat to those who want to hear that they will finally respect their compatriots the day when they will finally wake up against French colonialism. As long as it is a question of their country, Francophone intellectuals have only one project of society, one slogan: ‘Paul Biya must leave!’ It is the height of stupidity! But they all seem to agree with Mr Biya to remain enslaved to French colonialism at the expense of their ‘Bamendas’. Thomas Sankara said that there is no mercy for the slave who does not want to free himself. No one is going to help the slave who wants to remain a slave to free himself against his will … I fully share this form of ‘antipatriotism’.

CV: To listen to you, there is no hope on the horizon, no solution to be expected from Mr Biya. As a result, the impression that it releases is that the affair of the Anglophones is going to be another bide, another storm in a glass of water …

I do not think so. Cameroon is not going to stop with Paul Biya. I would like to tell you that the anger of the Anglophones is very great. And it does not date from today. It will fertilize. We who live abroad know that Anglophones have little or no French-speaking compatriots. Sometimes we have a clear impression of visceral hatred. The Kamerunese nation advocated by the Nationalists becomes a mirage. Reunification in Cameroon has no future if this problem is not resolved.

About the author

Deckson N.

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