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On sidelines of Biya’s 40th Anniv celebs: Yang makes startling revelations on self-determination of Anglophone regions
In his capacity as frontline North West elite and leader of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM permanent Central Committee Delegation, former Prime Minister, Head of Government cum Grand Chancellor of the National Orders at the Presidency, Yang Philemon has been making a strong case for self-determination of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, three years since the coming into existence of the Special constitutional Status.
Speaking on November 7, 2022, in Bamenda during an education and sensitization meeting organized for NW elites and Members of Parliament by the Office of the Public Independent Conciliator, Yang Philemon was categorically and unequivocally revealing to all who cared to listen, that the special constitutional Status granted the two English speaking regions of the country was the best thing ever to have happened to those clamouring for greater autonomy for the two linguistic minority regions of the country.
Premising on a book recently commissioned by Dr. Simon Munzu to the effect that there wasn’t anything so far special on the Special constitutional Status granted the two English speaking regions of Cameroon, Yang Philemon rather capitalized on that shortcoming to reveal that it was instead the responsibility of those living in the Anglophone regions and all stakeholders involved in birthing and nurturing the special status to write the content they would love, into the Special Status.
Yang Philemon wondered how anybody in his/her right senses would expect anybody living out there in Yaounde or other francophone region of Cameroon, (who have never lived the experience of a Special Status), to write the content of a Special Status for the North West and South West regions. He was the more audacious and revealing that the least Yaounde constitutional drafters and policy makers could do, was to initiate the legal process for a Special Status for the two English speaking regions as suggested by the 1996 constitutional arrangement, and nothing else more.
The Grand Chancellor of the National Orders and former Prime Minister, Head of Government urged all well-meaning Anglophones to do all within their powers, to propose the writing of workable content into the Special Status as nobody in Yaounde would do that for them. He opined that since the law setting up the Special constitutional Status stated that its applicability would be laid out by another separate instrument; that to him was ocular proof the constitutional drafters expected citizens of the two linguistic minority communities to collectively suggest how they would want to manage the affairs of their regions.
He would challenge those entrusted with the running of the two Regional Assemblies to be more daring in challenging the boundaries of conventional thinking and the limitations of the law rather than tying themselves down to what the law says or doesn’t say. He was the more suggestive of the fact that if by trying to upload content into the Special constitutional Status those charged with doing so went against the limits of the law, the Constitutional Court would call them to order; instead of tying their hands themselves under the pretext of what the law says or doesn’t say.
In an unusually frank and unprecedented manner, the North West Central Committee Delegation leader told the people of the North West and by extension South West, to make use of the political overtures now available to them and self-determine how they would love to see the affairs of their respective regions managed.
He further opined that if those charged with running the two Regional Assemblies were to be daring and foresighted enough, the content of the Special Status would be embellished in such a way that those clamouring for federation and secession would have no reason and justification to complain. He also suggested that although beautiful examples of special statues existed in places like Canada and other European countries, that was merely an over-simplification of a complex situation and so, Anglophones who are clamouring to run their affairs differently from francophones, have the opportunity to write out their own idea of a special status that suits their uniqueness, and not a copy and paste kind of things.
This particular inkling was suggestive of the fact that those clamouring for greater autonomy for the people of the two English speaking regions, cannot be claiming to be that enlightened and informed, yet just wanting to copycat the recipe of a system of government found elsewhere, instead of trying to invent what suits their environment.
Against the backdrop of nationalists of former native West Cameroon who have been contesting the Cameroon citizenship and opting to be referred to as Ambazonians, Yang Philemon made bold the point that there would neither be a government formed from abroad nor a new country ever emerging from the inviolable boundaries of the current Republic of Cameroon.
While violently opposed to proponents of external self-determination, Yang Philemon was more than welcoming of internal self-determination which according to him, was not only feasible but already on the way; (as enunciated during the Major National Dialogue and captured in the 2019 law on Decentralization), which law erects the two linguistic minority regions of Cameroon unto a special constitutional Status-with not only primary but remedial rights as recognized in international human rights law.
The message Yang Philemon sort out to transmit can be better captured in time and space by bringing into sharp focus the struggle for independence from mainland Abuh, by the minority Muteff community in Komland, Boyo Division of the North West region in the 70s and 80s. Although not necessarily schooled on the legal principles of internal and external self-determination, opinion leaders by hindsight in Muteff knew that it was better to self-determine internally than externally. They would have opted to be a chiefdom on its own by completely breaking away from Komland. Yet, they opted to simply cut away as a village under mainland Abuh, while endearing themselves to the oneness and indivisibility of the Kom fondom.
This was skillfully and boldly done by writing the independence content of their Special traditional status without tampering with the inviolability the the boundaries of the Komland, even as they could have opted to become an independent satellite chiefdom like Mbessa and others surrounding the Kom kingdom. Knowing that a village was independent of another under Kom law by having its own traditional council, they worked to have a traditional council. Knowing that an independent traditional council gave them entitlement to goats head, they worked hard to have the right to goats head.
Knowing that a community could only be recognized as independent of another if it participated as such in the annual royal hunt, Muteff worked hard to achieve that. Knowing that the independence of a village community in Komland dependent on the village’s ability to construct it’s village house in the Kom palace, Muteff community worked hard at that. And knowing that the easier way of self-determine from Abuh was by respecting the inviolability of Komland boundaries obtained since the founding of the kingdomship, Muteff village community decided to shy away from external self-determination in favour of the deadly project of external self-determination.
Beyond the Muteff example demonstrated in triumphant detail above, the Yang Philemon thinking might have been informed by the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities as well as African Union and United Nations convention on people’s right to self-determination.
Given that the right to self-determination is more of a declaratory than a binding treaty to member states, the UN has always been very cautious in cautioning the right to external self-determination, mostly preferring internal self-determination. That’s why during celebrations marking the peace charter in 2010, the United Nations Secretary General stated emphatically that the UN has not closed its doors on self-determination and independence of peoples, but that if every ethnic, tribal, linguistic or cultural minorities sort and obtained independence, the UN would never achieve it’s objective of creating a fair and balanced development environment for everyone. And for the European Union Ambassador on a recent visit to Bamenda to opine that although the boundaries of states are artificial and imperfect, yet any attempt at readjusting them today would only create further imperfections.
Yang Philemon may just as well be a student of this school of thought
*Colbert Gwain is digital space native, author, radio host and content creator @TheColbertFactor. Talk back at email@example.com or 237 677852476