On the 2nd and 3rd of April, 1993, a delegation of over five thousand Anglophone Cameroonians gathered in Buea to discuss the state of the union that created the second Republic of Cameroon and to chart out the foundation of what should define the fate of the union years after. Attended by various high-ranking political, traditional, civil society, business and professional elite of the two then-provinces of North West and South West Cameroon, the Buea Conference can rightly be said to be the precursor of the events that are taking place today in the former British Southern Cameroons.
The narrative that describes the resolutions reached at during the conference culminates in what became the Buea Declaration of April 1993. Among other things (all similar to current charges brought against the Republic of Cameroun by the people of the former British Southern Cameroons), the declaration decries what its signatories saw as a systematic attempt by the successive governments of the Republic of Cameroon to annihilate the values, mores, cultures, economy and status of the Anglophone Cameroonian as an equal partner in the birthing and construction of the new state of Cameroon.
It is important to emphasize that after 25 years of its coming to effect, the Buea Declaration remains a monument that speaks of the truth of enslavement that English-speaking people in Cameroon have perceived to be going through since 1961. As it is today, you will find in the document that the government of Cameroon had attempted to dislodge the holding of that momentous conference and had arrogantly dismissed itself from the discussion of a matter that would land its peace to jeopardy two decades later.
After reading The Buea Declaration within the framework of the current conflict over former British Southern Cameroons, it only becomes clear to the eye of the seeker that current claims of attempted assimilation, systematic effacement of the “Anglo-Saxon” heritage of former British Southern Cameroonians by their supposedly equal state partners of the former La République du Cameroun, can no longer be treated as a matter of doubt. The nonchalance with which the francophone government greeted the all-important Buea Conference has continued to this day, yielding nothing but an extension or the actualization of what one may term a plot to weed and replace the British Southern Cameroonian with the French Camerounaise.
One finds evidence of this in the indolent lethargy that both the everlasting ruler of Cameroon, Mr Paul Biya, and his government has shown towards adducing the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon as one affecting the entire nation. Not only has this crisis been largely ignored to be handled within the framework of reason, it has become the devil’s bundle that threatens the entire Bight of Biafra as Yaounde continues to handle Anglophones with murderous brutality.
The massive and merciless destruction of whole towns and villages, the ruthless killing and vicious abduction of civilians and government officials for ransom, both by government agents and so-called “freedom fighters” is testimony of the animosity that has hidden beneath the green, red and yellow colours of the Cameroonian nation for over 56 years. While more women, children and communities lose their sons, fathers, daughters and progeny to death in this senseless infamy, president Paul Biya has embarked on the recruitment of more young men and women into the armed forces to continue this Ambazo-Cameroonian War. In the face of this monstrosity is the conspicuous and uncomfortable silence of the international community, which, as was the case in Rwanda 24 years ago, thinks the conflict in Cameroon is an internal issue needing no urgent external intervention. The result, we see, is a situation where Cameroonians are left to themselves to kill and maim each other; where the weak become prey to the strong and the reality of genocide remains evermore glaring.
Would it be too late to think that Cameroon, as it has been for the past 60 years, will bounce back to its former point of unity (all be it a fragile one) and continue paving the way for a more cohesive, democratic and frankly decentralized (federal) future? Would it be too early, on the other hand to assume that no chances remain for a country that has so much hated itself to reclaim its sanity and seek for a reasonable solution to its current impasse? The truth of what has happened in Cameroon for the past 16 months and counting and the shouting negligence of all relevant parties to address the situation once and for all (all though this is usually impossible) tilts reason to the corner of hopelessness. But should we not have hope?
Whether or not we should believe in hope depends on the attitude that we as a people must collectively have towards this conflict; is it just for unity to strive in coercion or for cohesion to be nurtured through separation? While these remain questions that all Cameroonians must answer, the seeker is left only to wonder about the true fate of this one-time “peaceful” and somehow glorious country (at least in sports). The question of whether or not that fate will be sealed is inconsequential but that of how it will be defined in the face of the current malice that has been sown amongst Anglophones and Francophones in Cameroon frightens to think of.
Read The Buea Declaration