The Colbert Factor
Of Special Status and Self Determination
This reflection is inspired by President Biya’s thought-provoking Declaration at the just ended Paris Peace Talks that the majority francophone leadership in Cameroon tried unsuccessfully and for years to assimilate Anglophones but found it difficult because of identity differences
It is the more informed by the fact that just by deciding to grant the two English speaking regions of Cameroon a special Status, the Major National Dialogue was ahead of President Biya in recognizing Anglophones as a national minority with a shared public language, shared public institutions and a shared public history enjoying full protection under United Nations instruments
It is also inspired by the fact that once a people satisfy the distinctive identify conditions mentioned above and which President Biya made direct allusion to last week in France, the people automatically qualify for one form of self-determination or the other, and that in the case of present-day Cameroon it behooves on Yaounde now to deliver on internal autonomy or self-determination for Anglophones if Cameroon must continue to remain one and indivisible
For Yaounde to deliver on this new special constitutional status for West Cameroon (Southern Cameroons) cum Anglophones, three options lie ahead of them. Given that Anglophones in the encompassing Cameroon state have a distinctive institutional identity, they must henceforth be given the latitude to determine their future economically, culturally and socially as well as determining their political status in the encompassing United Republic of Cameroon.
For the special constitutional status to be seen to appeal to fighters in the bushes and activists abroad Anglophones must be given the right to a non-sovereign government. This may take the form of federated states as obtains in Canada with Quebec, semi federated states as obtains with Catalonia in Spain or an extensive devolution of power as obtains with Scotland
As a people who decided to become independent through a UN Resolution 1608 in 1961 by joining LA Republic du Cameroun, and who through the bad faith of the majority francophone leadership have suffered untold marginalization and discrimination as alluded to last week even by President Biya, having to determine its future going forward is not just a primary right but a remedial right duly enshrined in United Nations documents.
It goes without saying that a special constitutional status grants the right to self-determination. Although over the years, the United Nations have been more accommodating with internal self-determination as opposed to any form of external self-determination, the UN Charter also recognizes the fact that when self-determination, as is to be offered by the proposed special Status for Anglophones, is remedial, it must go with huge financial reparations
Michel Seymour, an international expert on issues of Special Status and Self Determination and lecturer in Universite de Montreal holds that any people with a distinctive institutional identity must be given the right to self determine their institutions and their governance structures. This means they run their economy, judicial system, educational, cultural and financial institutions. More importantly, he holds, they must be given the right to determine their political status within the encompassing state, in this case, the larger Cameroon. Failure to do that such people have a right to external self-determination.
The learned Professor of International Politics also holds that the oneness and indivisibility or sovereignty clause that most Nations refer to in order to keep its peoples together is not and has never been a God-given right
It is obviously for this reason that the UN, 1970, Declaration on Friendly States, cautions that ‘Nothing in the forgoing… shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which could dismember or impair totally or in part the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in compliance with the principles of equal rights and Self determination of a people… and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to a territory without distinction as to race, Creed and colour’.
From the foregoing, it is therefore incumbent on the Yaounde authorities to behave themselves in a correct manner towards the minority Anglophone community that decided to become independent by joining LA Republic du Cameroun in 1961 if they want to continue to justify a right to maintain its territorial integrity
The Muteff Boy’s Take