FEDERATION – WHY NOT CAMEROON
Dear Cameroonians, it is important for us to be enlightened, so that we are not misled and/or brainwashed. A federation is a political entity, characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions under a central (federal) government. In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is typically constitutionally entrenched. According to the CIA Fact book, Federation is a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided between the central authority and a number of constituent regions so that each region retains some degree of control over its internal affairs.
Here, we are not out to explore the merits and demerits of a federation. We only seek to cancel the idea or impression that it is an evil. For weeks now, some members of government in Cameroon have been singing in favour of the unitary state. The Head of State, in his 2016 end of year address to the nation raised the dynamics of the song – by which time it might have even become boring – when he said: “Cameroon is one and indivisible! It shall so remain”. This has since been the refrain over the country’s national broadcaster, CRTV. But what is not said is why Cameroon cannot be a federation, apart from insisting that it is anti-constitutional.
Truth is, the post-independent Cameroon was not always a unitary state. She began with a federation. And in fact, for many, as for the founding fathers of the federation, that was the best form of government in the circumstances. Following the defeat of Germany in the First World War, the territory was divided between France and Britain as a protectorate of the League of Nations, and later became UN trust territories the same. It was obvious that in the course of almost half a century, the two portions of the country had been schooled in different cultures. The federation was going to help the two parts to continue enjoying a lifestyle that had become part of them, while staying together as a nation.
The federation came to an end in May of 1972, when President Ahmadou Ahidjo proposed a Constitution that would make the Federal Republic a unitary state, the United Republic of Cameroon. The 1984 constitutional amendment which changed the country’s name from the United Republic of Cameroon to the Republic of Cameroon (the name which French Cameroun had before the federation) is still a pain in the hearts of many Cameroonians of Anglophone extraction. And the insistence on the current system of government, and more so the manner in which the said insistence has recently come across, has been to many, a deliberate bruise on a wound that is healing reluctantly.
Now the Head of State and his ministers claim a federation is not possible, without saying why. Many from the English-cultured part of Cameroon have cried foul at the fact that their cultural heritage is being erased by the government. This erosion – with every look of being systematic – has been typified especially in the education sector, the legal system, the area of development, harnessing and use of human and material resources among others. Instead of dealing with the real problem, the government is electing to isolate some of the affected areas and deal with them, while it has become obvious that they are only symptoms of what has been called the Anglophone Problem.
The two sub-systems of Cameroon could never really both stay intact, without being separate in some way. And the two could come together even for the purpose of preserving them as a goal, while being a nation. After all, one of the definitions of federation provided by Microsoft Encarta is an alliance, a group of various bodies or parties that have united to achieve a common goal.
When government insists that Cameroon must be a unitary state, having as an only reason that a federation is against the constitution, while that is not the constitution at the time of coming together, it seems to betray some ulterior motives. If the fear is to go against the constitution, an easy solution is to get a constitution that provides for a federation, which is what was there initially. This would eagerly be done, if there is any real interest in preserving the two sub-systems in Cameroon. This is, in part, what the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda called for in their December 22, 2016 Memorandum to the Head of State.
The government of Cameroon is giving the impression that a federation is impossible. Many ministers have taken to the Mass Media to defend the view. They seem to be operating under the guidelines of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Big Lie’ propaganda technique, an expression he coined when he dictated his 1925 book ‘Mein Kampf’, about the use of a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Many might come to believe, but not those who are well informed.
One may wonder whether all the countries with federal systems of government are unaware of how dangerous it could be – although the government of Cameroon is yet to actually explain how. But if these same countries have been in this system of government, it must be that they have capitalised on the advantages, and sought ways of dealing with the setbacks. It will be important to know the current federations in the world, and when they were established: Argentina (1853): Australia (1901); Austria (1920); Belgium (1970); Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995); Brazil (1889); Canada (1867); Comoros (1995); Ethiopia (1995); Germany (1949); India (1950); Iraq (2005); Malaysia (1963); Mexico (1821); Federated States of Miconesia (1979); Nepal (2015); Nigeria (1963); Pakistan (1956); Russia (1918, 1991); Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983); Somalia (2012); South Sudan (2011); Sudan (1956); Switzerland (1848); United Arab Emirates (1971); United States of America (1776); Venezuela (1863).
Of course there are different ways of being in the federation. But whatever the particular nature of the federation, that some of these federations have existed since the middle of the 18th century proves that the system of government can be managed to endure. The fact that some are as young as the 21st century also serves as evidence that more peoples find it good and workable. These various countries are sovereign entities; undivided! So we still ask the question why federation has been made to look like division; why it is no longer possible for Cameroon when it works pretty well elsewhere!
Federation is a system of government. It is not division of a country. It is simply another way of being together. Let not one be fooled by a repeated lie.
NB: This brilliant paper was sent to us without the name of the author(s)