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12 Facts about the territory of the Southern Cameroons



1. The Southern Cameroons has a surface area of 43,000 sq. km and a current population of about 6 million people. It is thus demographically bigger than at least 60 UN and 18 AU Member States, and spatially bigger than at least 30 UN and 12 AU Member States. Located in the ‘armpit’ of Africa, it is sandwiched between Nigeria and Republique du Cameroun like a wedge between West Africa and what in effect is still French Equatorial Africa. It has frontiers to the west and north with Nigeria, to the east with Republique du Cameroun, and to the south with the Equatoria Guinean Island of Bioko. The borders are well attested by international boundary treaties.

2. The natural resources of the Southern Cameroons include oil, gas, timber, coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas, oil palm, rubber, wildlife, fish, medicinal plants, waterfalls and a wide variety of fruit and agricultural produce.
3. The territory later identified as the Southern Cameroons was originally British from 1858-1887. It was ceded to Germany and subsequently incorporated into the contiguous German protectorate of Kamerun, which had been acquired earlier in 1884.

4. A 1913 Anglo-German Treaty respecting the settlement of the frontier between the British territory of Nigeria and the German territory of Kamerun from Lake Chad to the sea. That territorially grounded treaty has remained the instrument defining the international boundary between Nigeria and the Southern Cameroons. Moreover, a 1954 British Order in Council (Definition of Boundaries Proclamation) defined the boundary between the Eastern Region of Nigeria and the Southern Cameroons.

5. The same territory that had been ceded in 1887 by Britain to Germany was captured by British forces in September 1914 soon after the outbreak of World War I. It later became known as the British Cameroons, consisting of two separate parts, the Southern Cameroons and the Northern Cameroons.

6. Germany held on to its original Kamerun protectorate until 1916 when Anglo-French forces captured it. France took possession of the territory and it became known as French Cameroun. In 1916 therefore, Germany ceased to exercise any territorial authority (sovereignty) over Kamerun. The utter defeat of Germany entailed the loss of its colonial territory. Under Articles 118 and 119 of the 1919 Versailles Treaties Germany renounced and relinquished all rights in and title to all its overseas possessions, including her Kamerun territory.

7. An Anglo-French treaty of 1916 (the Milner-Simon Declaration) defined the international boundary between the British Cameroons and French Cameroun. This territorial delimitation was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922 when the two territories were separately placed under the Mandates System. The territorial alignment was further confirmed by the Anglo-French Treaty of 9 January 1931, signed by the Governor-General of Nigeria and the Governor of French Cameroun.

8. The Southern Cameroons was thus under British rule from 1858 to 1887, and then from 1915 to 1961, a total period of nearly 80 years. That long British connection left an indelible mark on the territory, bequeathing to it an Anglo-Saxon heritage. The territory’s official language is English. Its educational, legal, administrative, political, governance and institutional culture and value systems are all English-derived.

9. The Southern Cameroons was under international tutelage with the status of a class ‘B’ territory, first as a British-Mandated Territory of the League of Nations from 1922-1945, and then as a British-administered United Nations Trust Territory from 1946 to 1961.

10. Under Article 22 of the Treaties of Versailles the Mandatory Power accepted and undertook to apply “the principle that the well-being and development of [the inhabitants of the territories concerned] form a sacred trust of civilization.” At the end of World War II the international mandates system was transmuted to the international trusteeship system under chapters XII and XIII of the UN Charter.

11. By Article 73 of that Charter the Administering Power “recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of [territories whose peoples have not yet attained a measure of self-government] are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of those territories.” One of the basic objectives of the international trusteeship system, as stated in Article 76 b of the Charter, is “to promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement.”

12. Up to 1960, the Southern Cameroons though under international tutelage was administered by Britain as part of her contiguous colonial territory of Nigeria. But its distinct identity and personality, separate from Nigeria, remained unassailable. UN Resolution 224 (III) of 18 November 1948 protected the Trust Territory from annexation by any colonial-minded neighbour. While acknowledging that the Trusteeship Agreement makes allowance for ‘administrative union’, the Resolution provides that “Such a union must remain strictly administrative in its nature and scope, and its operation must not have the effect of creating any conditions which will obstruct the separate development of the Trust Territory, in the fields of political, economic, social and educational advancement, as a distinct entity.”


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