Ambazonia may be a strange name to most of you, my dear readers. You may think: ‘has that to do with the Amazon, this mighty river in South America?’ Yet to many others the name encompasses their deeply personal desires, their hopes, their imagination and their determination for Ambazonia to become a reality.
As you continue to read, please note that this is a compilation of expressions of groups of people and individuals about Ambazonia and not the opinion of The African Bulletin.
As for myself, read the conclusion, which represents my feelings of sympathy, personal involvement and my objective view, obscured by having close relations to those considering themselves Ambazonians.
Where and what is Ambazonia
Ambazonia covers the two Anglophone provinces of the Republic of Cameroon and has a land mass of 43,000 square kilometres and a population of approximately 6 million people according to the Cameroon state census, though the number is likely closer to 8 million. This makes it larger than the Netherlands in size and more populous than 60 UN and 18 AU (African Union) member States. Independent Ambazonia would share maritime and land borders with Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Cameroon.
The name Ambazonia is derived from Ambas Bay, the bay at the mouth of the Mungo River and part of the lager area the Bight of Biafra. Ambas Bay forms a natural boundary between Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon.
As early as 1858 English Baptist Missionary Alfred Saker founded a settlement on Ambas Bay, later called Victoria, now known as Limbe. In 1884 Britain established the Ambas Bay Protectorate, of which Victoria was the capital. It was then ceded to Germany in 1887.
‘Ambazonia’ is said to be coined by a group of citizens of the former UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons, led by Barrister Fon Gorji Dinka, an ancestral leader of the Widikum people.
Status of Ambazonia
The self-declared Republic of Ambazonia is an as yet officially unrecognized country, which is to gain its independence when separating from the Republic of Cameroon becomes a reality. The desires and intentions for a free Ambazonia, replacing its dependant provincial status within the Republic of Cameroon, are not just recent, but have been simmering for many years.
As noted, the name Ambazonia was used in 1984 by Fon Gorji-Dinka (leader of the Ambazonia pressure group), when the parliament and government of the Republic of Cameroon changed the name of the country from the “United Republic of Cameroon” back to the pre-reunification name of the French Cameroun, the “Republic of Cameroun”. In the view of some, including Gorji-Dinka, Prof Bernard Fonlon, and Prof Carlson Anyangwe, particularly in the former British Cameroon, this meant dissolution of the 1961 personal union or federation. It was in this light that beginning in 1984, Ambazonia, was declared to represent a timely intervention of the people of Southern Cameroons to return the statehood of the former British Southern Cameroons territory. Ambazonia saw this not as the fait accompli of a one Cameroon state but as an opportunity to engage both states into a ‘constitutional review’ of their post-1984 relations. Ambazonia believed that by “operation of the law”, there should be an equal participation by the two states that made up the now extinct federation, in a new vision for their countries’ (Republic of Cameroon and the Southern Cameroons) relations with each other. In the document, dubbed the “new Social Order”, the Ambazonia’s proposal of CACIN (the Cameroon-Ambazonia Confederacy of Independent Nations) was summarily rejected by the Republic of Cameroon. Instead, the leader of ARC (Ambazonia Restoration Council), Fon Gorji-Dinka, was arrested and tried for treason for claiming the continuing existence of the sovereignty of the ‘Southern Cameroons’ in the Republic of Ambazonia.
In 1992, Fon Gorji-Dinka, on behalf of the state of Republic of Ambazonia, filed a lawsuit against the Republic of Cameroon and President Paul Biya on the main charge of the Republic of Cameroon’s illegal and forcible occupation since the 1984 dissolution of the United Republic of Cameroon and the declaration of the Republic of Ambazonia. This suit was registered with the Bamenda High Court in the Northwest region of Cameroon as case number HCB28/92. Conflicting reports exist relating to the outcome of this case. However, the plaintiff, Fon Gorji-Dinka maintains that the Bamenda High Court reached a decision according to which the court among other things held that President Paul Biya is guilty of treason for furthering and completing the treason of Ahidjo by bringing about the secession of the first defendant (East Cameroon) from the United Republic of Cameroon on February 4, 1984, reinstating its name “Republic of Cameroon” which had not been used since January 10, 1961. That the break-away Republic of Cameroon continues, illegally and forcibly occupy the territory of the first plaintiff, which means the first defendant is guilty of an international offence of aggression and annexation, The report made the Restoration of the statehood of the first plaintiff the starting point of restoration of legality.
Followers of the Ambazonia pressure group led by Fon Gorji-Dinka assert that this decision was published in a Cameroon newspaper, Le Messager, Vol. II, No. 04, February 10, 1993. Other accounts hold that the case was never heard hence a decision was never reached
Where are sounds of Ambazonia heard?
Incidentally not, or hardly in Ambazonia-to-be itself, as it is still officially part of ‘La République’ or the Republic of Cameroon. Though the desire for separation or return to a Federal State is being felt and tentatively expressed, a call or movement to create Ambazonia would be interpreted as treason. Reportedly arrests and detention have been taking place in this sense already, mostly in Bamenda.
Sounds of Ambazonia are however loud and clear in the worldwide Cameroonian Diaspora, particularly those from the Southern Cameroons. The blocking of the internet, for several months, in Southern Cameroons did not stifle but rather increased the Sounds of Ambazonia. This desperate measure of the Government of ‘La République’ was too late and counterproductive. A Pandora’s Box had been widely opened and could not be closed again.
Ambazonians in the Diaspora started organizing themselves, forming groups, teams and even working conclaves. They are considering how to help their relatives in Southern Cameroons. They are of course also thinking of the future Ambazonia and preparing for Ambazonia’s independence.
There is more than ample information and exchange of it on the internet. There are continuous WhatsApp messages and videos throughout the day buzzing around in the diaspora. Courageous members of Parliament like Hon. Joseph Wirba speaking out.
Last but not least, let me state the obvious that the internet is a truly global communication medium, wherever in the world one is able to capture one of its forms through, be it E-mail, LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or Skype. Information gained through it can appear as a stark reality, but also be a fluid wavering questionable uncertainty. Unfortunately this also goes for some of the information I have given above.
It is unavoidable that my regular readers think back of my column in the March 2017 issue of The African Bulletin entitled “A Union gone sour or one that never really was …”, which you can re-read through link: http://mediablackberry.com/a-union-gone-sour-or-one-that-never-really-was/
The ‘Sounds of Ambazonia’ are heard around the world and are getting louder and louder. The stand-off between the people of Southern Cameroons and the Government of ‘La République’ continues unabated. Lawyers and teachers are still on strike, schools have been closed since last year, a year lost for all children and pupils.
Unless there is credible and transparent negotiation the current situation is a recipe for disaster. The strike and the one day a week ‘ghost town’, all shops and markets closed, is thank God, still a peaceful protest. How long can this situation continue? Southern Cameroonians I have spoken to are afraid this may lead to a crisis in political and economic refugees. Personally I feel very much affected by the situation because of personal contacts, causing sympathy and concern.
*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org