Where the ambazonian war all started: the dismantling of the federated state of West Cmr, 1961-1972
Where the ambazonian war all started: the dismantling of the federated state of West Cmr, 1961-1972
From the birth of the federation on 1 October 1961 onwards, the President of the Federal State, Ahmadou Ahidjo, started weakening the federal structure of the newly created state and undermining the autonomy and identity of West Cameroon.
The Federal constitution of 1961
The 1961 federal constitution granted few powers to the federated states. Making use of the constitutional provisions, Ahidjo succeeded in bringing most of these state powers under federal jurisdiction by 1967 (Ardener 1967; Stark 1976). By claiming nearly all the most important functions of state business itself, the federal government ensured the redundancy of the governments of the federated states and denied them any raison d’être, except a political one, and even that was purely cosmetic.
Moreover, the 1961 federal constitution had not provided for any autonomous financial resources for the federated states. West Cameroon was to give up its sources of customs and other revenues and was to be financed by federal subventions until a revenue allocation prescription could be fixed. However, such a formula was never found. Although the first prime minister of West Cameroon, J.N. Foncha, regularly requested the installation of a revenue allocation committee during the first years of the federation’s existence,1 Ahidjo simply refused to do so. As a result, West Cameroon continued to be dependent on the federal government for subventions from the beginning to the end of the federation to finance its activities.
This situation served as a kind of pressure for the further federalisation of state functions. As Ardener (1967: 317) put it: ‘The necessity to apply annually for federal help over the years made the economic arguments for the federalisation of many state services seem irresistible’.
The question of territorial administration in West Cameroon
Another issue that was soon to become a source of conflict between the West Cameroon leaders and President Ahidjo was the question of territorial administration. The Anglophone delegation in Foumban gave little thought to the constitutional clause that dealt with federal administration and so the proposal advanced by the Francophone delegation was adopted. Soon after reunification, Ahidjo, in exercising the powers conferred upon him by the constitution, passed decrees that enhanced federal supervision and control over the political and administrative life of West Cameroon. Decree no. 61-DF-15 of
20 December 1961 stipulated that the territory of the federal republic be divided into six regions. Each of the regions was placed under an inspector of administration, a civil servant appointed to the post by the president and directly responsible to him.
These federal inspectors were charged with ‘representation of the federal government in all acts of civil life and in judicial matters, supervision of the enforcement of federal laws and regulations, and the maintenance of order according to the laws and regulations in force’, having at their disposal the police force and gendarmes, as well as federal services. Under this system, West Cameroon was designated as only one of six regions. Ahidjo thus introduced an administrative system that basically ignored the federal nature of the country. The duality of authority it created in West Cameroon aimed at further weakening the authority of the West Cameroon government. In 1962, Foncha strongly protested to Ahidjo against this administrative system:
By this administrative division, West Cameroon has the same status as any of the five administrative regions into which East Cameroon is divided. We regret that this is inconsistent with the status of West Cameroon as a state in our federation of two states. Furthermore, we cannot at the same time regard West Cameroon as a state in the Federation and as a province in the same Federation. The powers given to the Inspector of Administration are far more extensive than those of either the Prime Minister of West Cameroon or the House of Assembly and Government. This system is anachronistic and in fact a resuscitation of what existed in the early colonial system. It is also derogatory to the authority and dignity of our Prime Minister and our government. It is tending to change the system of administration in this state and is causing a great deal of frustration and disappointment among citizens of West Cameroon. It is adversely affecting the operation not only of the state government but also of the federal machinery..2
Unfortunately, the Francophone federal inspectors in West Cameroon were generally hungry for power and acted as though they were senior to the prime minister of West Cameroon. There was a running battle for jurisdiction
2 Top Secret Representation to His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Cameroon by the West Cameroon Government requesting the Rectification of Certain Matters Tending to Hinder the Smooth and Effective Functioning of the Federal Republic, dated 4 October 1962, in ibid.
between the two officials until the late 1960s (Stark 1976; Johnson 1970; Fonge 1997). In addition, the federal inspectors were not only beyond the control of the state government but also exercised authority over local officials, some of whose duties fell within both the federal and local state’s jurisdictions. All this created much confusion and, at times, tension. Moreover, as federal powers expanded, these officials, like district officers, spent more and more time on federal rather than on state work.
And last but not least, the federal inspector was authorised to use the armed forces, gendarmes and police to reinforce his authority if he deemed such action necessary. Since the army and gendarmerie were federal forces, their presence in West Cameroon gave the federal inspector an edge over West Cameroon state officials, who could not employ these forces without approval from Yaoundé. The overzealous gendarmes themselves gave the impression that they were above the West Cameroon state authorities, a matter that was reinforced by the fact that Ahidjo declared a state of emergency in large parts of West Cameroon immediately after reunification for the claimed purpose of combating the UPC rebels who, he believed, used the territory of the ethnically- related Anglophone peoples as a safe haven when attacking Francophone targets.
On occasions, gendarmes stopped and searched top West Cameroon government officials, parliamentarians and even secretaries of state by the roadside for no apparent reason other than to demonstrate their power over these officials. The demeanour of the gendarmes generated considerable public protest in Anglophone Cameroon but it also indicated that effective power was in the hands of the federal inspector of administration who had direct control over the gendarmes (Fonge 1997: 190-91).
Simultaneously, Ahidjo put in place policies aimed at eradicating some of the Anglophone economic and cultural heritage and integrating the Anglophone community more and more into the Francophone-dominated federal state. Ardener (1967: 290) correctly observed that the story of the first few years of federation was ‘one of various attempts to link West Cameroon in some effective way to its partner, and of the gradual discovery of new ways of doing this by the East’.
In 1962 Ahidjo replaced the Nigerian pound in West Cameroon with the Communauté Française d’Afrique (CFA) franc, which then became the only legal tender for the whole country. The exchange rate was 692 CFA francs to the pound. This occurred without any consultation of West Cameroonian leaders. One of the West Cameroon newspapers asserted that the pre-reunifica- tion rates had been 800 CFA francs to the pound.3 As a result, there was a sharp and painful decline in the standard of living in West Cameroon (Ndongko
In the same year (1962), traffic in West Cameroon was made to drive on the right-hand side of the road in conformity with the practice then in existence in East Cameroon. In 1964, Ahidjo replaced the West Cameroon imperial system of weights and measures with the East Cameroon metric system. Of even greater significance was Ahidjo’s termination of West Cameroon’s ties with the Commonwealth of Nations and the sterling bloc. In their October 1960 Joint Declaration (see Chapter 2), Ahidjo and Foncha had agreed that a reunified Cameroon would at no time be a part either of the French Community or the British Commonwealth. Nevertheless, Ahidjo soon thereafter signed a series of cooperation agreements and treaties with France, which directly tied the then Republic of Cameroon to France (Joseph 1978: 16). Soon after reunification, Ahidjo cut West Cameroon’s ties with the Commonwealth but left the Franco-Cameroonian accords in force. In 1963, Prime Minister Foncha reminded President Ahidjo that:
All agreements made between Britain or any other foreign country and the then Southern Cameroons as well as similar agreements or treaties made between France or any other foreign power and the then Republic of Cameroon, which were devolved on the Government of the Federal Republic of Cameroon upon reunifica- tion should now be reviewed.4
Ahidjo simply ignored Foncha’s reminder. One effect of the withdrawal from the Commonwealth was the loss of ‘Commonwealth preferences’ for certain West Cameroonian export products. Those most threatened by the loss of preferences were West Cameroonian banana producers who had previously been allowed to export their bananas to Britain at a price that was 15 per cent higher than on the world market (Ngoh 1990: 193-94; Ndongko 1975; Konings 1993a). Another effect was the need in West Cameroon to shift away from British and Nigerian imports to French and East Cameroonian imports. Johnson (1970: 331) estimated that the difference in prices between the two states might have been as high as 100 per cent, a fact that severely affected the West Cameroon population.
Moreover, the two West Cameroonian ports of Victoria (Limbe) and Tiko became virtual ghost towns as most imports and exports to and from West Cameroon were diverted to the port of Douala in East Cameroon (Ngwafor 1989). To facilitate the transfer of West Cameroon export products through Douala, the Tiko-Douala Road, known as the Reunification Road, and the extension of the Douala-Mbanga railway line to Kumba were opened in 1969. In addition, the closure of West Cameroon Electric Power (Powercam),
4 See the letter from the Prime Minister of West Cameroon and Vice-President of the Federal Republic, Honourable John Ngu Foncha, to His Excellency Ahmadou Ahidjo, President of the Federal Republic, dated 14 September 1963, in Personal Library of S.T. Muna, File no. 98 (57), KNDP correspondence.
the company that supplied (relatively cheaper) electricity throughout West Cameroon, and its replacement with the more costly Société Nationale d’Electricité (Sonel) from East Cameroon were seen by most Anglophone Cameroonians as another attempt to exploit West Cameroon and make it economically dependent on East Cameroon (Kofele-Kale 1987).
Ahidjo’s attempts to undermine and Gallicise the Anglophone cultural heritage met with stronger resistance in West Cameroon than his attacks on West Cameroon administrative and economic autonomy, as they were perceived as a direct onslaught on the Anglophone identity. Foncha, in particu- lar, had been deeply concerned about the protection of cultural autonomy at the Foumban conference, and he consistently maintained this attitude throughout his time as prime minister of West Cameroon (1961-1965).
As a consequence, Ahidjo’s attempts to harmonise the educational and legal systems in favour of the Gallic system largely failed (Chem-Langhëë 1997; Fonge 1997; Stark 1976). One minor reform was the harmonisation in 1965 of the school calendar by shortening that of elementary schools in Anglophone Cameroon from eight to seven years. Although English and French were the constitutionally designated official languages, Anglophones proved incapable of warding off the decline and corruption of English. The Ahidjo government’s failure to make any real efforts to implement a policy of bilingualism in a country where Anglophones formed less than one quarter of the population ‘naturally tilted the scales in favour of French ascendancy’ (Chumbow 1980: 298).
The French language became increasingly the language of the administration, police, army, university, and so on. In short, it became the language of oppression and repression. Little wonder that Anglophones had the impression that English was only an official language of secondary importance and that official bilingualism was merely an attempt to convert English-speaking Cameroonians into Franco- phones, all the more so since Ahidjo himself never bothered to learn English, preferring to command directly in French or to adopt pidgin English in conciliatory moments.
These developments created disillusion with the federation among the West Cameroonian population. In 1967, the following observations were made about Anglophone attitudes towards the federation:
Though in the long run the advantages would well outweigh the disadvantages, right now West Cameroonians tend to feel they are getting a raw deal. The influence of the French-speaking East is now, for the first time, really being felt: not only are Yaoundé’s powers considerable, but prices have risen considerably; French and Common market goods are replacing the familiar British and Nigerian goods; the power of East Cameroon is being felt. Good or bad, if West Cameroonians were
today given the choice, they might well choose independence – from Nigeria and the French-speaking East.5
It is evident from our narrative so far that West Cameroonian political leaders, like Foncha, regularly protested against the growing loss of West Cameroonian autonomy and identity, and the blatant lack of West Cameroonian participation in the decision-making process during the first years of the federation’s existence. The most articulate spokesman for West Cameroonians was to become Dr Bernard Fonlon, one of the few highly educated leaders of the ruling KNDP and an author of international reputation.6 Fonlon had studied at the Sorbonne, Oxford and the University of Ireland where he obtained a PhD. He was generally regarded as the most accomplished Cameroonian of either colonial culture. He had been the secretary at the Foumban conference and later joined Ahidjo’s staff at the presidency.
Owing to his educational achievements, his fluency in both English and French and his political-administrative career, Fonlon was highly respected by both West and East Cameroonian political leaders. His influence was enhanced by his election in the spring of 1964 to the Federal National Assembly and his subsequent appointment by Ahidjo to the post of deputy minister of foreign affairs. Fonlon had helped in founding the bilingual cultural journal Abbia. In March 1964 he published an article in it entitled ‘Will We Make or Mar?’7 in which he condemned the unequal position of West Cameroon in the federation:
The two specimens of culture that are met in the country today are not of equal strength. The Anglo-Saxon is weaker, and this, for obvious reasons. The result of this many-sided inequality is that, in this federation … the power to introduce policy, to shape the course of events in things political, economic, social and cultural, lies, to all intents and purposes, entirely in the hands of East Cameroonians.
In three years of unification, sundry uses and institutions, thanks to articles five and six of the federal constitution, have now come from the East to the West. Furthermore, in West Cameroon, they now drive on the right, the franc has replaced sterling as legal tender, the school year has now been streamlined to fit that of the East and the scientific metric system has now replaced the unwieldy British measures.
But I have searched in vain for one such use or institution brought into the East through West Cameroon. Outside its own federal frontiers, the influence of West Cameroon is practically nil.
Therefore, unless the East Cameroon leader and intellectual, in whose hands cultural initiative lies, is prepared to share this authority with his brother from West of the Mungo, unless he is prepared to make the giant effort necessary to break loose from the strait-jacket of his French education, unless he will show proof of his intellectual probity and admit candidly that there are things
in the Anglo-Saxon way of life that can do this country good, there is little chance of survival, neither for English influence, nor even for African values in the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
With African culture moribund, with John Bullism weak and in danger of being smothered, we will all be French in two generations or three.
Fonlon stressed that cultural equality and equal participation would have to become the guiding principles of the federation if political integration was to be fully realised. To achieve cultural equality, he argued strenuously for genuine bilingualism in terms of a specific programme for the schools, which he considered to be the principal instrument for forming Cameroonian culture.
He was especially anxious to see the newly created University of Yaoundé become a unique and serious experiment in bicultural and bilingual studies. Bilingual- ism for Fonlon was a means of preventing West Cameroonian values and cultures from being overwhelmed but it also stemmed from a sincere intellec- tual cosmopolitanism (Stark 1976).
In September 1964, Fonlon organised a closed-door meeting of the top leaders of the ruling parties in the two states, Foncha’s KNDP and Ahidjo’s Union Camerounaise (UC). During this meeting, he expressed the KNDP’s dissatisfaction with the inequality of treatment of the West Cameroon state in the federation, especially in the formulation of policy at the federal level, and the need for a constitutional review in order to restore some of the authority the states had lost to the federal government. Consequently, he demanded effective KNDP participation in the conception, elaboration and application of policy in every field of government in the form of regular consultations on government policy between the parties and an equal quota of cabinet ministers in the federal government.
Fonlon was thus able to stir up West Cameroon regional feelings briefly in the mid-1960s but his efforts were frustrated by Ahidjo’s growing power in the federation and divisions among the West Cameroon political elite itself. Ahidjo was quick to realise that by the antagonism that developed among them, the Anglophone leaders had become like toothless bulldogs.
They could bark but in no way could they bite.
The party splits and political fighting in West Cameroon during the first years of the federation’s existence would fill a small volume. It is important to emphasise here that the divisions among the West Cameroonian political elite were not based on any ideological differences. It was rather their persistent struggle for the seizure, consolidation and expansion of power within the new federal state that divided the Anglophone political elite and preventing them from forming a united front against Ahidjo’s attempts to weaken the federal structure and undermine the autonomy and identity of West Cameroon. Their unbridled jockeying for positions of power intensified when they understood that the source of power was rapidly shifting from the Federated State of West Cameroon to the federal state. As Le Vine (1971: 96) pointed out, the years
1962-1966 which were a prelude to the formation of a single national party, ‘witnessed a complex political ballet in which the principal parties and politicians simultaneously strove to retain their influence in the West and manoeuvred to put themselves in the best possible position for the merger of all parties at the national level’.
Ahidjo was able to dominate the federation during the first years of its existence by playing off Anglophone political parties against each other and eventually persuading them to support the idea of a single national party. Only one month after reunification, in November 1961, Ahidjo first appealed for the formation of a single national party, which he rightly perceived as a major step to the realisation of his main objective: the creation of a highly centralised unitary state. Employing various strategies including intimidation, proscription, co-option and patronage, he succeeded by 1962 in transforming his UC party into the single party in East Cameroon. He then directed his attention to West Cameroon. The internal political developments in West Cameroon combined with his skilful use of federal constitutional powers and patronage ensured the outcome of political unification so desired by Ahidjo. At one time or another, all the parties in West Cameroon were for or against the idea of a single party, depending on whether to their own estimation, it increased or reduced their power and influence, and thereby their ability to bestow patronage (Johnson 1970: 280). The speed with which the West Cameroonian political elite, who had always championed a multi-party democracy, eventually embraced the single-party concept is clear evidence of their lust for power and influence within the changing power constellation in the federal state (cf. Kofele-Kale 1987).
Dr E.M.L. Endeley, the leader of the South West-based CPNC, was the first to be converted to Ahidjo’s idea of a one-party state. For example, during Ahidjo’s trips to West Cameroon in 1961 and 1962, Endeley expressed his party’s willingness to support Ahidjo’s vision of national unity and a central- ised federation, including the formation of a single national party. Apparently, there were two main reasons for his swift support of a one-party state. First, as the leader of West Cameroon’s minority party, Endeley saw Ahidjo’s plans not only as an opportunity for him to play a role in national politics but also as a means of preventing domination of his party by the majority KNDP. In his opinion, minority parties were constantly harassed in independent African states and were forced to stifle their views for fear of being accused of subver- sive activities against the government.8 Second, he and other party members
8 For example, Endeley himself was arrested on 10 October 1962 after he had given an exclusive interview to the Nigerian Daily Times entitled ‘My Country is in a Bad State’ but he was later released on bail with a surety of FCFA 69,200. See letter from
saw South Westerners as a subordinate group in West Cameroon. They were therefore inclined to embrace the one-party state and saw it as a way for the South West to escape North West domination. They regularly accused the ruling North West-based KNDP of giving preferential treatment, at the expense of the South West, to the North West in terms of development. They also frequently alleged that the KNDP government tended to discriminate against South Westerners in appointments and promotions in the civil service and to arbitrarily dismiss them from their posts, particularly if they had any history of association with opposition party members, whether by political affiliation, friendship or even marriage.9 Due to these two factors, the CPNC became the principal advocate in West Cameroon of the idea of a one-party state (Rubin 1971: 150; Stark 1976: 435; Johnson 1970: 265-67, 276).
The fear that an Ahidjo-Endeley agreement could undermine his authority as prime minister of West Cameroon and leader of the KNDP prompted Foncha on 27 April 1962 to agree to an alliance between his party and Ahidjo’s UC in the Federal Assembly and the formation of a National Coordinating Committee between his party and the UC. Among other things, the committee was designed to explore ways of merging the two parties into a single national party. But until that goal was achieved, the agreement called on both the KNDP and the UC to restrict their political activities to their own states.
Such a restriction was important to both Ahidjo and Foncha because it removed the opportunity of an alliance by either man with any political parties or groups in either East or West Cameroon that might undermine their authority. However, the idea of uniting the two parties was not immediately popular in KNDP circles and many voiced their opposition when the KNDP met in Bamenda in June that same year.
A major factor that encouraged support for the one-party state was the internal struggle for power within the KNDP itself. A rift occurred within the KNDP when Foncha, who had retained the post of prime minister of West
J.N. Foncha, Prime Minister of West Cameroon, to the Minister Delegate to the Presidency, dated 3 October 1962, in BNA, File Vb/b (1962) 2, Dr E.M.L. Endeley.
9 Due to these perceived North West injustices against the South West, a South Westerner, Walter Wilson Mbong, started propagating a Victoria-Kumba-Mamfe Alliance (VIKUMA) to destroy North West domination over the South West and to establish a separate South West state in the federation, with or without the inclusion of related ethnic groups in East Cameroon.
In 1965, he was jailed and his newspaper The Cameroon Spokesman was banned. See Ngwane 1994: 9 and The Cameroon Spokesman, 14 November 1964. It is noteworthy that A.N. Jua, Foncha’s successor as prime minister of West Cameroon formed a coalition government between the KNDP and the CPNC in 1965. Endeley then became leader of government business, a position he had previously held during the British trusteeship period. See Mbile 2000: 196-98.
Cameroon along with that of vice-president of the federal republic, was requested by the constitution to relinquish one of the offices by 1965. Foncha’s decision to give up the post of prime minister of West Cameroon resulted in a contest for the vacated premiership, starting in 1963, between Augustine Ngom Jua and Solomon Tandeng Muna. Jua, who was the West Cameroon minister of finance at the time, enjoyed the support of the rank and file and had cultivated an image of being determined to brook no nonsense on matters of West Cameroon’s interests in the federation.
Muna, who was the federal minister of transport, works and telecommunications at the time, had the support of the party leadership because of his long administrative experience. He portrayed himself as being a federalist first and then a West Cameroonian. The victory eventually went to Jua. When Muna refused to accept defeat, he and his supporters were expelled from the KNDP. They quickly formed a party of their own called the Cameroon United Congress (CUC) ‘with policies and initials aimed at reflecting Ahidjo’s ideas and obtaining his favour’ (Stark 1976: 435; Johnson 1970: 274). The CUC pledged support for the federal constitution but advocated the creation of a single political party and a unitary system for the whole country.
Its popular slogan was ‘one country, one government, one flag, one currency’.
The rivalry among West Cameroon political leaders provided an excellent opportunity for Ahidjo to call for the dissolution of West Cameroon’s parties and the formation of a single national party. To most West Cameroonians, the idea of a single national party was abhorrent. The newspapers, especially the usually pro-government Cameroon Times, wrote editorials and carried letters from their readers denouncing the idea of a single party, which they felt would invariably lead to dictatorship (Johnson 1970: 264). Even some KNDP leaders came out strongly against the formation of a single national party. In early 1966, Fonlon (1966: 7-8) stated that:
Everywhere in Africa, people are being told that in order to speed up the economic and social development of the continent, the one party state has become a must. But almost everywhere where the system is being implemented, we witness the suppres- sion of liberty, the elimination of debate, the imposition of silence and the use of despotism.
Afraid of being upstaged by members of the CUC and the CPNC who had expressed support for Ahidjo’s call for a single party, even those leaders of the KNDP who had initially been opposed to the single party idea were forced to embrace the idea so as not to lose positions of power and influence in the federal state. On 11 June 1966, Ahidjo summoned the leaders of the three surviving West Cameroon political parties and the prime ministers of the two federated states to Yaoundé. He then reiterated that the multi-party system
formed an obstacle to national unity and development, leading instead to strife, conflict and embitterment. He urged the party leaders to dissolve their parties. Within two days, each and every one of them consented and agreement was reached on the creation of a national party, to be called the Cameroon National Union (CNU) (Takougang & Krieger 1998; Johnson 1970; Fonge 1997).
Once agreement on the creation of the CNU had been reached, Ahidjo moved fast to set the month of August 1966 as the deadline for the birth of the new party. Details of its framework were left to a steering committee whose composition reflected the dominant position of the eastern state’s single party, which supplied 22 of the 30 committee members.
The western state’s parties combined were given only 8 members: four from the KNDP and two each from the CUC and the CPNC. The West Cameroon newspapers strongly protested against the lack of West Cameroonian influence in the CNU steering committee. They insisted that Fonlon be appointed Secretary-General of the Steering Committee. In addition, they alleged that the newly presented CNU constitution did not provide any safeguards for the preservation of the culture and institutions of the Anglophone minority, and they expressed their fear that the creation of a single national party in the federation would eventually lead to the creation of a unitary state.
Despite such criticisms, the CNU was launched on 1 September 1966. Ahidjo became its president and Foncha became one of its vice-presidents.
While the euphoric celebrations of the birth of the CNU were still reverber- ating, Ahidjo attempted to introduce one of his anti-federalist reforms. On 1 October 1966, the Kumba-based newspaper, The Mirror, published a story captioned ‘Federal Regions May be Recarved’. The paper stated that Ahidjo planned to redivide the existing administrative divisions in such a way that the East Cameroon administrative divisions would cross the Mungo border and incorporate the West Cameroon administrative divisions. This information alarmed Anglophones who saw in such a measure a blatant attempt to submerge them and destroy the federal character of the country. Prime Minister Augustine Ngom Jua reacted swiftly and resolutely to this alarming news:
It must be emphasised that the Federal Republic of Cameroon is a federation of two states with different backgrounds, cultures and traditions; the present arrangement was in fact envisaged as the most ideal solution to reunification… Any exercise, therefore, that is designed to alter this arrangement … will clearly alter the basis on which the entire Federation rests and will throw our present system of government into complete disarray … It is equally clear that since ours is a democratic republic, a matter of far-reaching significance and consequences cannot be conceived and executed in secret without the full knowledge and concurrence of the people of West Cameroon through their accredited representatives, to wit, the West Cameroon Government.
Ahidjo’s rejoinder was not long in coming. He did not deny the authenticity of the newspaper report but he did question what Jua meant by ‘integration and absorption of one part of Cameroon by another part’, stressing that there was a single Cameroon nation in which citizens had equal rights and duties. He asserted that:
The people of West Cameroon massively voted in favour of reunification; after reunification itself we freely consented that it was necessary to create a federation between the two states, and to create federal institutions. But that does not permit us to say there are two Cameroon nations.12
The controversy that the ‘recarving’ of the Cameroon Federation generated clearly brought Jua into the limelight as a champion of West Cameroon identity, and demonstrated the difficulties of his coexistence with centralist Ahidjo. Jua was definitely not the type of collaborator Ahidjo could work with towards the realisation of his unitary schemes.
Following the establishment of a one-party state, Ahidjo started consolidat- ing his hold on West Cameroon by giving positions of power to supporters of a strong centralised federal state among the Anglophone political elite. In 1968, Jua, a staunch advocate of the state’s rights, was replaced by Muna as prime minister of West Cameroon. In 1970, Foncha, the West Cameroonian architect of the federation, was replaced as vice-president by Muna. On this occasion, Ahidjo had the constitution amended to allow Muna to accumulate the functions of federal vice-president and prime minister of West Cameroon. Foncha did not protest against his removal. Foncha was a simple, modest, honest and religious person who was too weak and naive to be able to challenge someone of Ahidjo’s cunning and subtlety.13 After Foumban, he lost control
In his unofficial biography of Foncha, Soh (1999) mentions two major blunders made by Foncha in the post-reunification period, seriously weakening his power position. First, his refusal in 1965 to run for the presidency, opting instead to run for the post of vice-president for the sake of peace and stability in the young nation. Foncha’s decision was not pleasing to Ahidjo’s political opponents in Francophone Cameroon. In fact, the opposition leaders in the southern part of Francophone Cameroon who had been victimised by Ahidjo and the Bamileke were hoping to throw their weight behind Foncha and remove Ahidjo from power. Second, his agreement in 1966 to fuse his KNDP party with Ahidjo’s UC party led to the formation of the one-party state. By so doing, he made himself a political underling
over developments in his former party, the KNDP, and in the federation. In late 1971, Fonlon, who was considered to be too independent, was dropped from Ahidjo’s cabinet. Bilingualism, the cause he had fought for within the federation, was still official government policy but was symbolic only. Fonlon might have been dropped but his support and faith in Ahidjo’s leadership qualities remained firm, even at the risk of straining his relations with Paul Biya when the latter became president in 1982, with Ahidjo staying on briefly as party leader.
With the changing power relations in the federation, the Anglophone political elite appeared to be more interested in seeking Ahidjo’s patronage than in safeguarding West Cameroonian autonomy and identity. The Anglo- phone administrative elite, too, increasingly favoured the federalisation of state services, enticed by the higher salaries and better conditions in the federal services than in the state services (Fonge 1997). Given this situation, Ahidjo played his trump card. On 6 May 1972, he announced in the National Assembly that he intended to transform the federal republic into a unitary state provided the electorate supported the idea in a referendum that would be held on 20 May, thereby abrogating Clause 1 of Article 47 of the 1961 federal constitution, which read: ‘Any proposal for the revision of the present constitution, which impairs the unity and integration of the Federation shall be inadmissible’.
This important clause had been specifically inserted into the constitution to assure West Cameroonians that the federation could not be dissolved. Even if the constitution were to be amended, it should not be done by referendum because Clause 3 of Article 47 stipulated that ‘proposals for revision shall be adopted by simple majority vote of the members of the Federal Assembly, provided that such majority includes a majority of the representatives of each of the Federated States’.
Ahidjo probably chose the use of a referendum to avoid any public debate about the new constitution and to secure an overwhelming turnout in its favour (Le Vine 1976: 276). The president’s justification for what he referred to as a ‘peaceful revolution’ was that federalism was too costly an administrative system for a developing country and that it fostered regionalism and impeded economic development. Yet, there were still two other even more important reasons for his proposal.
First, there was the discovery of oil in West Cameroon in 1967. And second, there was Ahidjo’s persistent suspicion that the Anglo- phones might secede from the federation. This suspicion was given added weight by the outbreak of civil war in Nigeria in 1967 – a war provoked by secessionist tendencies among the Igbo with whom the West Cameroonians had to Ahidjo, who could move him around as he liked. As long as Foncha’s KNDP party existed, Ahidjo was afraid of it because it was a vast political organisation that could mobilise votes even East of the Mungo and throw him out of power.
shared a common colonial administration. In sharp contrast to the Cameroonian federal government, the Anglophones tended to sympathise with the breakaway Eastern Region of Nigeria that had established itself as the independent Republic of Biafra. The Ahidjo government was afraid that should the secession of the Eastern Region of Nigeria succeed, the chain reaction of the domino theory could affect West Cameroon. Ahidjo’s call for a unitary state thus aimed to contain any threat of secession by West Cameroon and to ensure that the petro-dollars would not escape his control.
The Ahidjo regime claimed massive popular support for the draft constitu- tion during the referendum, and hence the immediate establishment of the United Republic of Cameroon.15 Given the growing disillusionment of the West Cameroonian population with the union between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon as sketched above, the referendum results are more likely a manifestation of the regime’s autocratic nature than of the West Cameroonian population’s support. In other words, fear prevented West Cameroonians from expressing their objective interests.
The ballot was far from secret, election results were arranged beforehand, and it was neither politically wise nor politically safe to hold and express views different from the president’s, let alone oppose in words or deeds any of his plans or actions. Anecdotes to show that the referendum was completely stage-managed by party stalwarts abound. At the Cameroon College of Arts, Science and Technology in Bambili, for example, only ‘yes’ ballots were provided. When students refused to vote in the absence of ‘no’ ballots, the army was rushed in under the pretext of pre- empting any disruption of the voting process.
Professor Kofele-Kale noted that ‘there were Bakweri villages where people had all gone to their farms and thus did not vote, yet the returning officers turned in vote tallies of 99.9 per cent, suggesting that the results were cooked’.16 The West Cameroon political elite, too, was well aware of the widespread opposition of the Anglophone population to the introduction of a unitary state but it lacked the courage to tell Ahidjo, for fear of losing pockets of power and privilege.
In 1991, Solomon Tandeng Muna, who was at the time of the referendum prime minister of West Cameroon and vice-president of the federal republic, admitted in a radio interview that he had not dared to reveal to Ahidjo the true feelings of the Anglophones in the referendum because it would have been tantamount to signing his own death warrant (Boh & Ofege 1991: 16).
The new constitution increased the already enormous powers in the hands of
It eliminated the office of the vice-president, of prime minister of West and East Cameroon together with the cabinets of the two states, the two legislatures and the West Cameroon House of Chiefs. Although the post of vice-president was abolished, Muna remained second in the hierarchical order in the unitary state, becoming speaker of the largely ceremonial National Assembly. To reduce any danger of united Anglophone action, Ahidjo decided a few months later to divide the erstwhile Federated State of West Cameroon into two provinces, the South West and North West Provinces, informed by the internal contradictions within the Anglophone community between the coastal/forest peoples (in the South West) and the Grassfields peoples (in the North West). Like the other five Francophone provinces, the two Anglophone provinces were headed by a governor appointed by the president and directly responsible to him through the minister of territorial administration.