BaretaNews caught up with Shey Kaavi, Chairman Southern Cameroons National Council, Belgium to understand how Southern Cameroons movement came about and other worries. Read on
AAC means All Anglophone Conference, and we had AAC 1 on April 2-3 1993 in Buea and AAC 2, April 29th- 1st May 1994 in Bamenda.
2. What engineered the AAC?
To be able to understand what engineered the AAC, it is good to examine or x-ray what has been happening to the Southern Cameroonian people, known as Anglophones then.
The root cause of this problem may be traced back to 1961 when the political elites of the two territories with different colonial legacies, one French and the other British, agreed on the formation of a federal state. Contrary to expectations, this did not provide for the equal partnership of both parties, let alone for the preservation of the cultural heritage and identity of each, but turned out to be merely a transitory phase to the total integration of the Anglophone region into a strongly centralised unitary state. Gradually, this created an Anglophone consciousness, the feeling of being `marginalized, exploited and assimilated by the Francophone-dominated state.
They also saw the closures of all Anglophone state parastatals like Cameroon Bank, Marketing board, Santa coffee, PWD, Sea and airports, power cam etc. It was not until the political liberalisation process in the early 1990s that the Anglophones asked for a sovereign national conference, and when President Paul BIYA rejected the Sovereign National Conference and opted for a tripartite meeting of representatives of Government, political parties and Independent personalities from 30th October -18 November 1991. This became the stimulus for the All Anglophone Conference (AAC I) of April 2-3, 1993.
3. Who were the brains behind it?
“Anglophones” from different areas across the nation started the movement. Work towards AAC actually began in Barrister Charles Taku’s Chambers with the main actors being Barrister Charles Taku, Prof Carlson Anyangwe, Munzu, Elad,Ntoko, Tabot,Wirsuy Ekiko, BB, Anu, Ekema, Monangai, Tazifor, Njang, Nganda, Django.Ebini, Feko, Visha, Nsoh, Kebila, Pa Chi, Zama, Eba, Nsamenang, NwangNgumne Pa Jumbam etc.
4. How many Anglophones were in attendance and what were the resolutions?
There were more than five thousand participants including the late Dr. Foncha. The AAC came out with what was known as the “Buea Declaration”. This documents asked the government to review the constitution and to make a positive move back to the federal system or Anglophones will be forced to readdress their independence. They even submitted a proposed federal constitution to the state.
5. What was the reaction of the government?
As always, the government of Paul Biya did everything possible to stop the conference. The All Anglophone Conference (AAC) was supposed to be held at the Buea University hall, but Mrs.Njeuma’s bosses in Yaounde had placed a phone call to her, threatening to dismiss her from her job if she were to let the Buea University hall to be used as she had previously agreed to do with the convenors of the AAC, and she slammed the doors of the University hall on the faces of AAC Members. With the confusion, the Catholic Reverend Sisters damned the consequences and opened the Mount Mary Maternity Centre’s door for AAC.
Thus the famous statement of Dr. Carlson Anyangwe “the frog came to Buea and we welcomed him as a brother. Today, we cannot even use a hall in our own historic city without his permission; a permission he even refuses to give us! And who can still claim that we don’t have cause to complain in this country” From hence the government instead reinforced all the military barracks and imposed its presence in every Anglophone region than it was before AAC 1
Note here that, the Paul Biya’s government used tear gas and rubber bullets to send attendance off the meeting ground during AAC2 in Big Mankon Bamenda in 1994. As an eye witness, I remember tasting tear gas for the second time as the youths of Big Mankon Parish were directly involved with the arrangements of chairs and tables for the meeting.Till date as far as the government is concerned, there had been nothing like AAC 1 or 2. No reply of any kind has ever been issued to the AAC 1 or 2 except in brutal reprisals.
6. Why didn’t AAC stay with the original objective?
It is good to know what transpired between AAC 1 and 2 coupled with the bad faith of the Paul Biya’s government and the lack of concern or respect to the Buea declaration by Paul Biya. Instead of having a meaningful dialogue with the Anglophones; Paul Biya instead increased the presence of his colonial gendarmes and military units in the Anglophone provinces waving aside the Buea declaration. Many attempts were made to see the president by the AAC, and many letters were written that saw no reply from the president or governors. The Anglophones were frustrated and saw the need for an AAC 2 with one option on the table which was to re-address the independence of the Southern Cameroons (the Zero option) in what was known as the Bamenda declaration. Since Paul Biya did not find it necessary to dialogue with the Anglophones or to make the necessary move back to Federation, he turned federalist sheep into “secessionist” wolves.
7. Why not refer to it as ASCC instead of AAC
By ASCC, I think you mean All-Southern Cameroonians Conference.
It could not have been referred to as ASCC because, at that time, the Anglophones did not know the bad faith of their francophone brothers. At that time, they were still dreaming of a federation, and time would prove to them that would never be. As God will make it, just a year later they noticed how insignificant they were in the unholy union. They called for an AAC2 in Bamenda, after escaping tear gas and rubber bullets at the first site at Big Mankon Bamenda, they were more convinced it’s high time we go back home and so the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) was born to take us home. But today there is a high need for an ASCC.
8. Where is AAC today?
Today, I will say AAC is dead and buried. It died after AAC 2 in Bamenda when they came out with the zero option and the birth of the SCNC. AAC means All Anglophone Conference and not all Anglophones are Southern Cameroonians and all Southern Cameroonians are not Anglophones. So the word Anglophone no longer refers to Southern Cameroonians. But the spirit of the AAC lives in all Southern Cameroonians, be you of the SCAPA SCNC, SCYL, SCAPO, SCAM,CAM, Ambazonia, UN state of British Cameroons etc, we all are the work of AAC.
9. Can there be another AAC?
No, a big fat no, there can’t be another AAC because there is no longer any Anglophone problem in the Cameroons. What we have now is a Southern Cameroons question that needs an all-Southern Cameroonian conference, not AAC. If you use the word Anglophones referring to Southern Cameroons, then you are very wrong and trying to reduce the country Southern Cameroons to an ethnic group of La Republique Du Cameroun. So the Southern Cameroons problem is an international problem and not a domestic problem, it is a problem of Neo-colonialism.
10. Can we, therefore, state that SCNC speaks for all Southern Cameroonians?
Yes, by virtue of the fact that, SCNC was born from the AAC which had Southern Cameroonians from all strata of life in the Southern Cameroons, the SCNC becomes the official mouthpiece and the legitimate representative of the peoples of Southern Cameroons.
11.What is the way forward for Southern Cameroons?
There is only one way forward, let president Paul Biya gets into a constructive dialogue with the representatives of the Southern Cameroons liberation movements. This will avoid us taking our freedom by force, because as far as we stand, the only way, is the only one way home. Southern Cameroons must be completely free. However, I will acknowledge the pressure the Southern Cameroonians lawyers are presently doing and many others who are preaching federalism but I think that Southern Cameroons solution lies with independence. The time for federalism is gone and gone for good.
Thankyou Mark Bara
Interviewed by Mark Bara
Responses by :Shey Kaavi Wo Melim
Southern Cameroons Activist and Chairman, SCNC , Brussels, Belgium.