The debates have been divisive and fractured, politicians have been booed and heckled and the BBC accused of being biased. The United Kingdom is now a country divided against itself but the debate for Scottish independence have respected the rules of democracy throughout. Separatist’s movements around the world including those in English speaking Cameroon have watched the debate over Scottish independence in awe. Tomorrow Thursday September 18, the electorate in Scotland will have to answer a simple Yes or No to the question “Should Scotland be an independent Country?
Southern Cameroons separatists have for long blamed Britain for not giving Southern Cameroonians the same option in 1961. How will the Scottish independence debate and vote affect or influence events in Cameroon?.
Southern Cameroons Youth League Chairman Ebenezer Akwanga tackles this and other questions in this wide ranging interview
He spoke to Francis Ngwa
Q Scotland votes in a referendum soon and a Yes vote will make the country independent from the United Kingdom. Any similarities between the desire for secession in Scotland and Southern Cameroons?
Scotland, just like the Southern Cameroons should not been seen from the “give-a-dog-a-bad-name-to-hang-it” prism because what both peoples want is separation not secession. Scotland join the United Kingdom in an Act of Union in 1707, some three hundred plus years ago and what the Scots are demanding through the “YES” Campaign is the right, their God-given right to once again reassert their naturally right as a people. In like manner, as much as Southern Cameroons people were tacitly compel into the creation of a union that was rejected by Cameroun and France and fraught from the beginning with uncertainties and bad faith: a separation from such an abusive, dehumanizing, depersonalizing and thingifying relationship that has subjected my people to nothingness, was the most reasonable thing to do. So, there should be no illusion of what a national identity means to both the Scots and the brothers and sisters of General Kuva Likenye, the great Bakwerian warrior who defied all odds to push back the violent onslaughts from early European colonizers.
Q There must be many differences?
Differences? Of course no two struggles are ever the same. However, on the issue of independence, the people of Scotland as those of the Southern Cameroons are bounded by a single garment of reasserting their belonging, what makes them a people, distinct to the rest of the United Kingdom and La Republique du Cameroun. So, if a people who have lived together since 1707, that is more than three hundred years of union decides that the Act of Union MUST be re-examined through a pacific means, and that this re-examination MUST be done by those who think all is not right with the status quo (the Scottish people), then how on Earth can anyone see a less than 55 years occupation born out of betrayal by the United Kingdom in its illicit diplomatic intercourse with France, a union conceived through a conspiracy of fraud and belittlement of my people to be inseparable?
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle instigated militant agitation in the Canadian province of Quebec which soon led to the kidnapping and murder of Quebec’s minister of labor and immigration, Pierre Laporte in 1970 just one year after French and English were declared Canada’s official languages. Yet, the Canadian authorities allowed the flourish of a separatist party in Quebec which did not only win the 1976 provincial election, but adopted what became a controversial law in 1977 restricting education in English-language schools, the changed of English place names in all public structures and the imposition of French as the language of business, court judgments, laws, government regulations, and public institutions. One would have expected an outcry from the government in Ontario, yet the separatist were allowed a referendum vote for independence in 1980 which was rejected and another one fifteen years later in 1995 this time narrowly rejected. So, why should France instigate secessionism in Quebec but think that the Southern Cameroons people do not have the natural right of deciding whether to ‘stay’ or ‘separate’ from a union which for all purpose and intention was stitched in the spirit of neocolonialist domination? Why should the Quebecois be given the choice, not once but twice with the possibility of a third time to decide their destiny pacifically in a referendum while from every pointer it is becoming more clearer that for me to liberate my homeland, I must invest in the arms industry and together with my brothers and sisters, spend a considerable time in the ‘bush’? Maybe it is a multiple standard cooked and dished by those who do not only want to keep my people conquered and dominated forever with the unstoppable carnage to our natural resources, but because deep in their hearts they see us Africans, black Africans as some sort of a human species good for nothing but murderous manipulation. It is even worse than this!
I haven’t heard David Cameron and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) tell the Scottish National Party (SNP) that they would be no referendum in Scotland because Scottish forefathers had opted for the Act of Union with the entire United Kingdom in 1707 – but this is exactly what Tony Blair and the FCO had written to me when in a 12-page letter I questioned their evil role in the present fate of my homeland. The Scotts with all purpose and intent have enormous ‘autonomy’ in comparison with the Southern Cameroons which to La Republique du Cameroun has never existed. Yet the people of Scotland are rightly not satisfied. Millions of Scotts would settle for nothing except out-right independence, and Her Majesty’s Government has acquiesced to them making that decision. To her HMG, let the Scotts decide, and to her HMG again, a 300 years old union deserves to be re-examined but that which is just five decades and above old can only be determined if those with separatist inclinations in the Southern Cameroons are willing to keep the small arms industry alive by beginning a new wave of slaughtering in the very heart of Africa. In a nutshell, the old refined sinister wine of Western diplomacy is that while the Quebecois and the Scotts deserve a walk to Church to decide their identity, the people of the Southern Cameroons, just like their counterparts in Azawad, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Mthwakazi, Cabinda, etc must be unwilling guest to the abattoir in deciding their fate. This is the reality, a reality that must surely haunt every true human rights defender, which must be pricking the conscience of ‘the God’ within us, it is a shameful reality.
Q Most people want strong independent countries like the United States of America to face challenges of today and not divided small entities. In what circumstances will secession be necessary in Cameroon?
What exactly are you trying to say and who are those people who think that the legitimate and natural rights of a people to decide their own destiny impact negatively on the challenges of today? There are far smaller countries in the world today with full membership within the United Nations, far smaller than 5 million Scotts and 7.5 million Southern Cameroonians. There is nothing so vital to anyone than his or her identity, and it is only in attempts to crushed that inalienable right that the independent feelings moves from the hearts to the streets and when street voices become stifled taking up arms becomes the last reachable option for survival. It is important here that those of you in the press do your job diligently by differentiating between secession and separation in the cases of the peoples of Scotland and the Southern Cameroons. The 1707 Act of Union which Scotland assert to is irrefutable proof that it was not originally a part of the United Kingdom; likewise the corpse-like plebiscite questions of Saturday, February 11, 1961 made allusion of ‘joining’ which clearly denotes that the Southern Cameroons was not and have been a part of La Republique du Cameroun which had gained its independence on January 1, 1960. I therefore do not need to become an English language lecturer to speak frankly of the historical position which both Scotland and the Southern Cameroons have opted for – a separation from a ‘union’.
Q Scotland has one unifying separatist leader Mr. Salmon but Southern Cameroons separatist are divided, always quarrelling and like you (Chairman of the SCYL) resident abroad. Some critics think this is the greatest weakness in the fight for English speaking autonomy in Cameroon.
Point of order: We are not seeking for autonomy but total and unconditional independence of our people and homeland. On the issue of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and its leader Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, it is not surprising to me but laughable that anyone would equate the political atmosphere in the United Kingdom which gave room for the formation of the SNP in 1934 to one in Paul Biya’s La Republique du Cameroun in which democracy is best defined as “government for Paul Biya, by Paul Biya for his tribesmen, political charlatans and misfits, marauding murderers, bureaucratic thieves, gluttonous buffoons and demonic proconsuls”. Yes, this sinister type of democracy has become a cursed to our struggle as former failed political opposition to Biya joined the struggle for independence without removing the cloak of party politics from a barbaric regime through which they became mainstream politicians. To these men and women, they are still finding it difficult to understand the inner meaning of a struggle for independence and that of obtaining political power. And then there are those who see our struggle as a pressure ladder through which they could tacitly compel the annexationist to return them back to the unviable position on the table of crumbs. So, after years of brain-washing, years of being told time and time again that we as a people are ‘nobody’, that as a people not even second-class citizenship is good for us, it not surprising that retired civil servants, failed politicians and individuals with no idea of what it takes to liberate a people would pass themselves around as ‘leaders’ of our struggle. I know that some of my people would say that my frankness is ‘un-African’ since am not proverbial – I owe no apologies to this. Some would say that I am too radical in my statements over the years and it is the reason they find it hard to publicly stand behind me though deep in their hearts they do agree with everything I say. To them too I owe no grudges and apologies, after all no one has been more radical in his approach to change things for the betterment of billions than Christ, the Messiah. As followers of the Judea-Christian Faith, how many of us would have openly permitted Jesus of Nazareth to lay his life on the cross for our own sake? How many? And to those both within La Republique du Cameroun, the Southern Cameroons and the international community who sees me as one full with bitterness, anger and madness – to them too I owe no apologies. However, it is important for me to reiterate what I have often prescribe to my comrades: that for anyone to be fully involved in the struggle for independence like ours, a certain degree, a significant degree of ‘humane madness’ is essential otherwise the course would in a short while become so dreary and tough to travel through. I am the symbol of that humane madness which has carried through the courageous and dedicated within our struggle, that humane madness that would not settle for respect for chiefdoms, fondoms, titles and age as long as the independent caravan is under threat; that necessary madness that would keep me alert, keep me going even when being betrayed by those I least expected; that humane madness that states categorically that the butchery of true peace and justice under the diplomatic surgical knife of stability would only inflame the powder store which is patiently waiting for that unholy hour for action.
On the issue of residing abroad, as much as this too is laughable, there is no doubt that the choice for most of us in the independent bandwagon would be a return to the land of our birth. However, history teaches us that all successful struggles, especially those which took the ugly, avoidable but necessary twist of the armed struggle have their backbone through their dedicated compatriots who made temporary aboard abroad. Ours is not different except of the fact that rather than support or rededicate our life to the struggle, many of our country men and women abroad have reduced themselves to mere machines of remittance. And the battle for the very survival of my people has been reduced to the struggle for the very existence of one’s stomach!
Q Back to the Scottish referendum, how will you describe the way the debates have been taking place?
Frank, passionate and engaging (The No campaign has resorted to a last minute attempt at scaremongering and deliberate distortion of facts about different economic data.
Q Some analysts will have thought some English speaking leaders will presently be in Scotland following the debates and campaigning to learn if for some strange reason; La Republique could one day be forced to also offer a referendum for Southern Cameroons. Why are you or no other leaders in Scotland now?
How many were in South Sudan on its independence celebration? How many of us truly engaged with the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement during the five years interregnum of autonomy before independence to fully have a better understanding of what it would take to navigate ever-extending cobwebs of frustration but yet determination to reach that goal of independence? I was with the South Sudanese before, during and after independence and I would continue to engage with them from the academic and revolutionary leadership perspective. I have not been to Scotland but have spoken to some officials of the SNP. As much as Scotland, South Sudan and Southern Cameroons are concerned, though the road map would be at best similar not the same, the end-goal remain the very existential question of IDENTITY.
By and large, some individuals passing for ‘leaders’ of our struggle think that reaching out to the Scottish is by sending lengthy, murmuring emails with boneless codification which does not serve our struggle but that egregious greed of individualism born of ‘let me make some noise and get noticed’ which has been the way forward for all who seek ‘ME’ first and Southern Cameroons ‘NO WAY’. By and large, let me finally be clear on the issue of leadership herein once and for all: though many are running through the now contagious craziness of what a very fine comrade of ours often described as ‘a cursed people’ because of our penchant for doing things which directly hurt the struggle, there is only one leader for our struggle for independence, and that person is me. I have stood the test of time for this struggle and even as age, academic background, traditional titles and social status have often been used as a barometer for which our leadership qualities have been measured – which indeed is a thinkable galore of insanity for a struggle like ours which cuts deep within the bones of the right to LIVE or DIE – I am hereby challenging anyone, I mean anyone to come forward and tell our people why they think I am not the leader of the struggle. This however does not make me immortal or perfect. But what our people need is that leader who would never give up; whom they know would never make a butchery of his or her conscience when it comes to the struggle; whom they know would always be selfless even when detractors and paid saboteurs goes to work against him; who will tell you today and tomorrow as he said yesterday that as long as a pacific settlement of the Southern Cameroons Question is denied, as long as La Republique du Cameroun continue to refused that my people’s right to decide their own fate is non-negotiable and as long as this annexationist refusal is tinkered by a sinister diplomacy of ‘civilized nations’ crying for “Blood first if you want independence”, there is no doubt that that day of Armageddon is far nearer today than it was a decade ago.
Q What do you personally think if Scotland was to vote ‘Yes’?
Frankly, whatever the outcome of Thursday’s Referendum vote in Scotland, there would only be one winner – the people of Scotland thanks to the SNP. A ‘Yes’ vote would be the best, however a ‘No’ vote would be far better for Scotland than the present status quo. For the first time, the “Chickens have come to roast” in Her Majesty’s own backyard after hundreds of years of policies which have refused to recognized the legitimate rights of not just the Scots, but the Welsh and the other groupings which made the United Kingdom what it is today. It is important that the Scottish Parliament, in the eventuality of a ‘No’ vote, should bargain for another referendum for independence vote two decades from now unless real power not camouflage, is passed over the Scottish people in running their affairs. Then the Welsh too should clamor for a better bargain, one that would not disintegrate the ‘union’ but give more and more powers to Wales in the management of its internal affairs. By and large, there is no doubt that the SNP has given the people of Scotland a far better deal than West Minister has anticipated.
Q Very briefly, where are we with the fight for Southern Cameroons independence today from Cameroon?
Gradually but sadly navigating towards the low road of a war for liberation. It would be a very sad experience and whether it would be through me or not, it is shamefully reaching the point of inevitability.