At a time when numerous voices are being heard across the country calling on President Paul Biya to stand again for the Presidential elections of 2018, I believe that it is dangerous to remain silent in articulating the challenges facing Cameroon in the next couple of years.Cameroon as we know it is the product of a union which took place in 1961 between the French Speaking Cameroun Republic and the British Southern Cameroons. The union took place without any formal union treaty being signed between the two parties. The result is that no instrument of ratification was sent to the UN Secretariat in accordance with article 102 of the UN Charter.
By contrast, the Tanzanians were diligent in not making the same mistake as Cameroon. The Tanzanian Union Treaty between Tanganyika and Zanzibar was signed on 22 April 1964. The parliament of Tanganyika ratified the union treaty on 25 April 1964 and filed the instrument of ratification to the UN Secretariat in accordance with article 102 of the UN Charter. It is on the basis of this ratification instrument that Tanzania can claim that its territorial waters extend to 12 nautical miles east of Zanzibar.
Notwithstanding this lacuna, the two territories (the Cameroun Republic and British Southern Cameroons) have lived together in an informal arrangement which was based on a constitution adopted in 1961 and subsequently amended several times. But as the original union has no legal basis for its existence under international law, it has been described as a “Tontine Union”, a metaphorical parody of the hundreds of thousands of informal ethnically based associations in Cameroon which form the bedrock of the informal financial sector called the Tontine or Njangi.The principle of rotation of power has been one of the unwritten principles in this Tontine Union in recognition of the fact that the union can only be maintained through some mechanism of power sharing or rotation between the English-speaking Southern Cameroons and the French-speaking Cameroun Republic.
The power-movement trajectory shows that since 1961 the French-speaking Cameroun Republic has held on to Presidential power for a total of 55 years of which President Paul Biya has exercised single-handedly for 33 years so far. The challenge facing Cameroon now is what should happen to the political power in 2018 when Paul Biya’s current mandate expires?Paul Biya’s people of the South Region have orchestrated a movement demanding that President Paul Biya should again stand for reelection in 2018 when he will be 85 years old. But there is a growing movement in the Southern Cameroons which is demanding that the time has come for President Paul Biya to hand over power to someone from the British Southern Cameroons.
If President Paul Biya does make adequate arrangements to hand over power to someone from the British Southern Cameroons, then the Tontine Union can continue as before. However, if he fails to transfer power to the Southern Cameroons in 2018, what is likely to happen is the following:
1. The results of the Signature Referendum of September 1995 that was conducted in Southern Cameroons by the SCNC shall be submitted to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union as the instrument that confers legitimacy and backing for a demand that the Tontine Union of 1961 should be formally dissolved;
2. The results of the signature referendum which was supported by John Ngu Foncha and Solomon Tandeng Muna before their deaths showed overwhelming support for the Southern Cameroons to achieve full independence by peaceful separation from the Cameroun Republic; To this extent, the Signature Referendum of 1995 annuls the plebiscite of February 11, 1961.
3. A UN Security Council Resolution shall be proposed, through the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, to formally recognize the dissolution of the Tontine Union of 1961 leading to the creation of two independent sovereign States: The Cameroun Republic (for the French Speaking part) and the British Southern Cameroons (likely to be known as the Republic of Ambazonia).
If the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the UN Security Council fail to act on the demand for the peaceful dissolution of the Tontine Union, then a major civil war should be expected which shall spread to Biafra, the Niger Delta and the Bakassi Peninsula and beyond. But the result will be the same in the sense that the outcome shall be the dissolution of the Tontine Union in Cameroon. This is what my crystal ball is showing me.
Copyright January 2016; Nfor N Susungi