In December 1994, John Ngu Foncha, the “architect” of the unification of Cameroon, spoke at length about the outcome of the unification between the British and French Cameroons. This was just before he walked out of Biya’s Constitutional Consultative Commission which had refused to include a discussion of constitutional protections of Anglophone minority rights on its agenda.
Here are excerpts of what turned out to be Foncha’s last major public declaration on the Cameroon unification experiment:
There is no one here in this hall today who can claim not to know how much I struggled on the eve of independence of our country in favour of the reunification of our fatherland. For more than forty years, our country was divided into three different parts and governed simultaneously by two different European powers. Everyone knows the fundamental character and differences that exist between the British and French systems of government and of the conduct of public affairs in general. Patriots in both British and French Cameroons saw the necessity for unification of our country. However, they could not deny the fact that forty years of our separate experiences had left an impact which we could not neglect. It was recognized on both sides that for unification to be meaningful and a source of satisfaction to us all, it had to proceed on the basis of a federal union in which the specific character of each component of the union would be safeguard and protected….
Mr. Ahidjo publicly stated to the people of southern Cameroons during successive visits to that territory in 1960 and 1961 that unification would not mean annexation, that its modalities would be negotiated between representatives of Southern Cameroons and those of La Republique du Cameroun and that to render unification viable and useful; a flexible and federal form of the state which he qualified as unique and diverse, was envisaged…
I can state here and now that the People of southern Cameroons would never have voted in favour of unification if it had not been for the assurances given that the resulting union would take the form of a federation…
The hounourable S. T. Muna and I have often been accused of having allowed this situation [i.e. ‘annexation of Southern Cameroons’] to come about. History will reveal that these accusations are largely unjustified. They fail to acknowledge the several endeavours that we made at various stages of the evolution of post-unification Cameroon to dissuade those who monopolized and held the full reigns of political, financial, judicial, military and police powers in our country from acting autocratically in breach of promises that they had given us and our people, and which had served as the foundation of the union of our two territories.
At this point in time I do not feel the necessity–nor, I suppose, does the Honourable S. T. Muna– to defend myself against these accusations, unjust though they are. What is important is that the Good Lord who, in his infinite wisdom determines the affairs of each man and of each people, has preserved me long enough to have the opportunity of pleading before the Cameroon Nation for the correction of the wrongs which have been done, over the past three decades and more, against an unsuspecting and trusting people that I, acting in good faith and as a Cameroonian patriot, led into what I was assured would be a union of equal partners, but which has since turned out to be an arrangement for the annexation, subjugation and domination of one of the partners by the other…
I responded to the invitation of the President of the Republic to attend this Committee in the confident expectation that the deliberations of the Committee would offer us the opportunity to correct the wrongs which I have referred above. For nearly two years, the people of Southern Cameroons whom I led into the union with La Republique du Cameroun have, through the All Anglophone Conference- AAC (now the Southern Cameroons People’s Conference-SCPC) carefully studied, responsibly formulated, and respectfully submitted to government, substantial constitutional proposals. These proposals are aimed at ensuring a better governance of the entire united Cameroon, while also putting an end to the annexation, subjugation and domination of one of our two territories by the other, thus restoring the spirit and intent of the union of 1961…
In any event, in the proposals that have been submitted before us, I do not see any provisions at all which go in the direction of making even a token attempt to respond to the grievances of the Southern Cameroonian People…
In the final analysis, the people of Southern Cameroons never participated in the elaboration and adoption of the supposed federal constitution of 1961 which was adopted by the National Assembly of La Republique du Cameroun on September 1, 1961, that is to say, one month before the birth of the federal Republic of Cameroon. These same people never participated in drawing up the unitary constitution of 1972 which was imposed upon them in a nationwide referendum.
Bearing this in mind, I had hoped that the present constitutional reform process would provide the people of Southern Cameroons the opportunity, for the first time since independence of our respective territories and the reunification of our fatherland, to contribute effectively to the elaboration and adoption of a truly Cameroonian constitution which responds to their aspirations as well…
I feel distressed that the constitutional proposals put before this committee do not offer the opportunity for us, as a nation, to address our minds to, and resolve, the genuine and legitimate grievances of the Southern Cameroonian people in particular and the Cameroonian people in general.
I feel all the more distressed that this should be happening under the chairmanship of a son of Southern Cameroons whom, I believe, is as sensitive as any one of us to the injustices which his People and their Territory have suffered in more than three decades. Today, he has been designated to preside over the completion of the process of annexation of that People and that Territory.
For this, He shall tomorrow stand accused by his People, as I stand accused today. However, whereas in 1961 the bitter experiences of Southern Cameroons lay in the future that we could not predict, in 1994 we have behind us thirty-three years worth of these experiences, with the prospect of more to come unless something is done now. In the light of these experiences, we have no reason in 1994 to repeat the mistakes of 1961.
Mr. Prime Minister,
I would like, through you to express my gratitude to the President of the Republic for having invited me to this Committee. I assure him of my readiness at all times to collaborate with him and with your government to provide a suitable constitution for our dear, complex and diversified country which I have contributed however modestly, to build.
In the light of this foregoing, and pending the creation by government of a more appropriate forum for a broad-based debate on the constitution, I have no other option now than to withdraw at this point from the deliberations of the present consultative Committee.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Hon. Dr. John Ngu Foncha,
Architect of the Unification of Cameroon,
Ex Vice President of the Federal Republic of Cameroon.