Making the case for Southern Cameroons independence with Franc Zone membership.
Advocates of Southern Cameroons independence need to be aware of the fact that over the last 55 years of uneasy cohabitation between LRC and the Southern Cameroons, France has built strategic and legitimate interests in Cameroon which entitles her to defend her interests in the event that Southern Cameroons independence becomes a threat to those interests.
The French authorities are aware of the permanent tension and conflict between Anglophones and francophones in Cameroon.
The French authorities are also aware of certain inherent incompatibilities between Anglosaxon and French political cultures as being the root cause of political tension in Cameroon which has made it impossible for Cameroon to function as a normal democracy. This uncertainty puts French interests permanently at risk.
The Biya regime has been in power for 35 years and aspires to remain longer unless it is stopped by someone. The regime is a Boulou clan dominated mafia which is even worse than FranceAfrique. Any regime that is so strongly identified with the serial assassination of Catholic clergy can only be headed for a hard exit. How does France intend to protect its interests in the chaos which is bound to follow a hard exit of the Biya regime?
French authorities are aware of the fact that since the extraction of the first barrel of oil by Elf Serepca in Rio del Rey in 1977, the fiscal budget of the Cameroon government has been dependent on oil revenues to a tune of 40-60% or more. This illustrates to what extent it is the Southern Cameroons that keeps the Biya regime afloat.
That is the main reason why the Biya regime claims that Cameroon is one and indivisible. But this claim has a gaping black hole in the heart due to an internet blackout imposed by the Biya regime which required the intervention of the UN Security Council to be restored. The selective imposition of the internet blackout on the Anglophone region opened the eyes of the international community that Cameroon is a country consisting of two distinct peoples.
The current Anglophone crisis has led to awakening of Anglophone consciousness and a strong belief that they are different and want to assert their separate identity and this nationalism has crystallized into an irreversible drive towards separate nationhood.
The unfortunate reality is that France does not really know how to deal with it. The main reason is because for the last 55 years France has never had any reachout foreign policy strategy towards the Anglophone region which constitutes the fiscal revenue resource base for the whole of Cameroon. The consequence of the diplomatic neglect is that France has no contacts with credible Anglophone leaders with whom it can engage in any meaningful exchange of ideas.
French intelligence services know that the situation in the Southern Cameroons is deteriorating very rapidly and it is only a matter of time before the Southern Cameroons youth will acquire the weapons to stage a full-scale armed struggle. When that happens the UN Security Council will have to step in and settle the dispute by granting independence to the Southern Cameroons.
Without making its position public, it is known that France has exerted influence on the diplomatic community in order to convince them that the current Anglophone crisis is the internal problem of a sovereign members state of the United Nations and does not warrant any action from the UN Security Council.
France is confronted by its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto powers. Considering its interests in Cameroon France would play a leading role in deciding when and whether the UN Security Council should adopt a resolution paving the way towards Southern Cameroons becoming a separate sovereign state from LRC.
It is quite obvious that before accepting the principle of separation and Southern Cameroons independence, France will seek to ensure that its vital interests will not be seriously compromised by the process of separation of Southern Cameroons from LRC.
The Fcfa was introduced into West Cameroon in 1962. I remember distinctly because I was a STD 6 pupil in Tabenken village when a truck pulled up at the market square and a short French man alighted in shorts and villagers were asked to surrender their West African £, shillings and pence in exchange for Fcfa. I remember distinctly that the exchange rate was 692 francs/£. I presume that this is the rate that was agreed upon between the Central Bank of Nigeria and the “Banque centrale de l’afrique equatoriale et du cameroun”.
What this means is that Southern Cameroons has been part of the Franc Zone for 55 years. The question is the following: has our development been retarded because we were in the Franc Zone? That is debatable because we can easily point to the enviable economic development of Cote D’Ivoire which has been described as an African miracle even though it was always a franc zone country.
Their remarkable economic development came about as a result of its focus on agriculture. It overtook Ghana to become the world’s largest producer of cocoa in 1977 despite the fact that the Gold Coast abandoned the West African Currency Board in 1958 to create its own currency the Cedi precisely because at its independence, the Gold Coast was the world’s largest cocoa producer with nearly 600.000 metric tons of annual production. The Gold Coast was the leading economy of British West Africa.
Today Cote D’Ivoire produces 1.8 million metric tons of cocoa while Ghana now producces only round 700.000 tons only.
Cote D’Ivoire also produces 400,00 tons of raw Palm oil, 500.000 tons of cotton, 700.000 tons of cashew nuts (and now the world leader), 400.000 tons of coffee, 200.000 tons of rubber and 1 million tons of rice. I shall not mention the disgraceful agricultural production figures for Cameroon.
In every category, Cote D’Ivoire outperforms Ghana which has had its own currency since 1958 and Cameroon which became independent before Cote D’Ivoire. The Ivorian economy has been growing at a rate of 8-10% during the last 6 years and its road infrastructure is expanding fast. That is why Cote D’Ivoire has become the true economic powerhouse in Ecowas and has even succeeded in attracting Morocco to join Ecowas.
A horizontal analysis of the economic performance of Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana shows clearly that the currency was not a key factor. The Ivorians have done well using the FCFA while the Ghanaians did not do better using the Cedi. Meanwhile Cameroon has just been hopelessly mismanaged as a result of poor governance by a lazy absentee President.
It is quite clear that there is nothing about the Franc Zone architecture which is inimical to the economic development of a country as long as the focus is on using the available land to engage in agriculture for export by making it available to those who can make best use of it.
The countries of the Eurozone use the €. But the Franc Zone architecture is simply a mechanism which creates the Fcfa as a derivative currency of the €. To this extent, the Operations Account Convention is a Swap agreement which eliminates exchange rate uncertainties for African economies subject to the requirement that countries participating in this exchange risk swap should domicile 50% of their foreign exchange earnings in the French Treasury. The French Treasury in turn invests the reserve holdings at the Banque de France where the money earns interest at agreed market rates.
This arrangement has been criticized for being neocolonialist. But it can also the argued that the fragility of the world’s banking system in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-8 may suggest that it is safer to place their reserves in the French Treasury because France still enjoys one of the highest credit ratings of any OECD country, rather to invest the reserves in any major international banks none of which is rated above A+ to
It is quite clear that France has now emerged as the protector of the Biya regime by the mere fact that it wants to use its position in the UN Security Council to portray the Anglophone crisis as an internal problem rather than a manifestation of legitimate quest for separation and sovereign statehood by the people of the Southern Cameroons.
The legitimacy of the Southern Cameroons quest for independence is deeply embedded in the UN records where in 1961, UN political scientists experimented with the idea that a UN trust territory (British southern Cameroons) should attain independence “by joining” French Cameroons which was not only in the middle of an insurgency war, but had been transformed from a UN trust territory to an outright French colony.
The result of this UN political science experiment was the creation of a Siamese Twins called the “Federal Republic of Cameroon” which have remained unseparated for 55 years. The Anglophone crisis is therefore a call to the UN that the time has come for the separation to take place.
The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon has reached a dangerous impasse because as the Biya regime is heading for a hard exit, all options for internal solutions have been exhausted and inoperable.
The two state federal structure collapsed in 1972; the unitary state structure which came into force in 1972 became dysfunctional as a result of the overconcentration of power in the hands of a corrupt ethnic group (the Boulou), killing democracy as an instrument of change; and the decentralisation which was promised in the 1996 constitution can no longer solve the problem of Anglophone nationalism.
Having exhausted these options, there is no realistic solution to the Anglophone crisis except to allow the Southern Cameroons to become a sovereign state.
In this case France has a critical role to play because it must finally remove its protective cover and allow the Anglophone crises to be seen as a legitimate quest for independence by the Southern Cameroons.
France is strongly advised to come out and take proactive position by encouraging the Biya regime to consider a Czech/Slovak separation between the Southern Cameroons and LRC under the supervision of the United Nations before the Southern Cameroons independence groups escalate the conflict into an armed struggle.
The Southern Cameroons Nationalists group should be advised to consider the option of achieving independence with Franc Zone membership and to shelve the idea of creating a separate currency in Southern Cameroons for now. This will enable France to protect its strategic interests in the region and to further reassure France though the signing of a financial and monetary cooperation treaty.
The Southern Cameroons independence groups should bypass the Biya regime and initiate direct contacts with the French Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministries to this effect in order to signify their willingness to engage in serious negotiations towards a peaceful outcome in Cameroon.
Dr. Nfor N Susungi
Group Head Economy
Chairman Briscam Freedom Party