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Jua-Ahidjo Tug-of-War PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 03 June 2011 13:24

Throughout the 1960s the idea of an 'Ambazonia Republic' circulated among members of the Buea Mountain Club. Chief Ewusi, the Club chair, was even taken to Yaounde and interrogated on this subject. Ahidjo's secret police in Ambazonia (the Southern Cameroons) busied itself churning out and dispatching to him, through his on-the-spot Camerounese lnspecteur, intelligence reports styled 'rapports trimestriels de synthase' (quarterly intelligence digest). In the eyes of Ahidjo, Jua's Government had become "something of a monster, harassing his central Government, condoning and exerting centrifugal forces in the Federation."

Ahidjo was particularly piqued by what became known as the Ndifor Case, 1966. That case clearly demonstrated that if challenged, even militarily, Ambazonia was capable of giving an appropriate response. Police Inspector Ndifor, as procurement officer, had ordered arms through the CDC on behalf of Government of Ambazonia for use by the state's Police. Ahidjo probably thought there was a secessionist bid in the making. A month or so after unification, he had established a military tribunal in Buea and Sandhurst-trained Captain Robert Mbu, a citizen of Ambazonia, was its military prosecutor. Acting on orders from Mr. Sadou Daoudou the Federal Minister of Armed Forces, himself acting on instructions from Ahidjo, Captain Mbu had Inspector Ndifor arrested. Ndifor was arraigned before the military tribunal for 'possession of arms'. The tribunal was composed of an English expatriate judicial officer. Magistrate Wyatt, and two soldiers sitting as assessors. At the conclusion of the trial, the tribunal found the accused not guilty and accordingly acquitted him.

Ahidjo saw a conspiracy in this court decision and thought the acquittal was unmerited. He ordered his soldiers, garrisoned in Buea, to capture Ndifor. Special Branch (Ambazonia Intelligence Service) informed Jua that Ahidjo had ordered the abduction of Ndifor in spite of his acquittal by Ahidjo's own military tribunal. The rule of law was being flouted and the liberty of a citizen of Ambazonia was at stake. Jua at once summoned a crisis cabinet meeting, which discussed the matter and then sent for the state's Commissioner of Police, Mr. Michael Ntune. The Prime Minister told him, "It is the decision of my Government that you resist to the last man the planned abduction of Inspector Ndifor."

Back at Police Headquarters, Mr. Michael Ntune summoned two tested Senior Superintendents of Police, Agbor and Shiyntum, briefed them and entrusted the mission in their hands. Agbor and Shiyntum were the ablest and most daring officers of police ever and even in his lifetime Paxson Agbor was already a legend for feats of skill, strength, courage and valour. In the Ndifor Case, he and Shiyntum lived up to their reputation as skillful and brave officers. They got battle ready, a detachment of the state's Mobile Wing Police, famed for bravery, ingenuity, mobility and effectiveness. The two Officers of Police devised a 'battle' plan and tactically deployed the Wing in wait for the 'enemy'. Buea was tense but ready for a show down with Yaounde. Paxson Agbor and his men secured the surrender of Ahidjo's Camerounese soldiers near the Buea Clerks' Quarters without firing a single shot. It was a most edifying story of wit and bravery. This was a clear indication of the extent to which Ambazonia was prepared to go to defend itself and its interests given the right leadership, which Jua ably provided at that time.

This incident further endeared Jua to the people of the state. He was affectionately called simply by the Kom word of endearment, 'Bobe'. But the incident also sealed his fate as Prime Minister and was a contributory factor to the somewhat suspect circumstances of his death a few years later. Moreover, that was not the end of the Ndifor saga. Ahidjo soon dispatched a strong 4-man delegation of his Camcrouncse Ministers to Buea to sec the Prime Minister. The delegation, the composition of which was very significant, was made up of Mr. Happi, Delegue General a la Surete Nationale; Mr. Sabbal Lecco, Ministre de la Justice, Garde des Sceaux; Mr. Enoch Kwayeb, Ministre de l’Administration Territoriale; and Mr. Sadou Daoudou, Ministre des Forces Armies.

The delegation had a long audience with the Prime Minister, forced the case back to the military tribunal, and pressurized it into convicting Ndifor and sentencing him to four years imprisonment. Magistrate Wyatt could not stomach this travesty of justice and resigned his appointment in protest. Jua was scandalized. He had thought the tribunal would still acquit Ndifor since the facts of the case were the same and there was no new evidence. But he had not reckoned with Ahidjo's practice of always interfering with even the ordinary courts and of using the soldiers who constitute the military tribunal as cat's-paw.

Ahidjo never forgave Jua for what he must have considered the latter's affront to him. He accused Jua of keeping a private army and called on him to disband it. To Ahidjo, the Mobile Wing Police was simply Buea's army in disguise. Jua had a ready answer for Ahidjo. He refused to disband the Wing. He pointed out that the state's Police, responsible for the maintenance of internal security within the state, was constitutionally established and was responsible to the Prime Minister. Jua further argued that if the Mobile Wing Police is a private army, then the Camerounese gendarmerie and Ahidjo's garde republicans (his praetorian guard composed entirely of his northern tribesmen) answered more the description of a private army and Ahidjo needed to set the example by disbanding them first.

Ahidjo was not amused. In January 1968, Ahidjo, in complete disregard of the constitutional conventions of Ambazonia, appointed Muna to replace Jua as Prime Minister in Buea. Then in October 1968, he signed a decree placing Ambazonian Police Force under his direct authority, in flagrant violation of the constitution of the federated state. In a continuing effort to eliminate all reality of the autonomy of Ambazonia, in 1970 Ahidjo 'federalized' Ambazonian Police Force, that is to say, he fused it into the Camerounese police force known as 'Surete Naiionale'.

Meanwhile, the able and distinguished Speaker of the state House of Assembly, the Honourable Mr. P.M. Kale, the well-respected elder statesman of Ambazonia, suddenly passed away in August 1966. He was given a befitting state funeral with pomp and circumstance, including full police honours. The state's Police led the slow and forlorn funeral march to Buea Town where he was interred in the yard of his house.

Two months later, in October 1966, an incident occurred, illustrative of Jua's determination to defend the territorial integrity of Ambazonia. On 1 October 1966, Mr Emmanuel Epie, Editor of the Cameroon Mirror, published a lead story captioned 'Federal Regions May be Re-carved'. The paper stated that Ahidjo planned to re-carve administrative regions in such a way that the result would be the extinction of Ambazonia as a distinct and separate cultural, political, and legal unit.

According to the report Ambazonia would be cut up into several parts, each of which would then be fused into the region in Cameroun Republic closest to it. The planned reconfiguration was to look something like this. As part of Region du Littoral, Victoria Division would be incorporated into departement du Wouri and Kumba Division would be merged with departement du Moungo. As part of Region de I'Ottcst, Mamfe Division would be swallowed up by departement de la Menoua, and Bamenda and Wum Divisions would be fused with departement de la Mifi. As part of Region du Nord, Nkambe Division would be integrated into departement du Banyo.

Jua's reaction to this alarming news was swift and robust. In a statement issued to the press he declared:

"It must be emphasized that the federal Republic of Cameroon is a federation of two states with different backgrounds, cultures and traditions; the present arrangement was in fact envisaged as the most ideal solution to reunification ... Any exercise, therefore, that is designed to alter this arrangement ... will clearly alter the basis on which the entire federation rests and will throw our present system of government into complete disarray ... It is equally clear that since ours is a democratic republic a matter of far-reaching significance and consequences cannot be conceived and executed in secret without the full knowledge and concurrence of the people of West Cameroon through their accredited representatives, to wit, the West Cameroon Government."

Ahidjo's rejoinder was not long in coming. He denied any conspiracy to absorb Ambazonia, and said there was a single Cameroon, its citizens having the same rights and duties. Then he added, significantly,

"After the people of West Cameroon massively voted in favour of reunification and not for federation, after reunification itself we freely estimated that it was necessary to create a federation between the two states, and to create federal institutions. But that does not permit us to say that there are two Cameroonian nations.”

Of course, true to his character Ahidjo was lying and misrepresenting the facts, it is beyond peradventure that Ambazonia voted for independence first and foremost and, as an eventuality, for political association in a federal union, and that Ambazonia and Cameroun Republic arc two territories, two countries, and two nations. There was no such thing as voting in favour of 'reunification'. That term does not appear in any UN records bearing on the plebiscite. Even at the Foumban meeting the welcoming banner that hung across the hall exclaimed, 'vivre le Cameroun unifie!' and not 'vive le Cameroun reunifies'

Furthermore, there was no such option in the plebiscite as 'reunification'. The framers of the plebiscite questions used the term 'to join'. By common agreement between Ambazonia and Cameroun Republic, well before the plebiscite, that expression was understood to mean 'to federate'. Both parties committed themselves to a federal form of political association. Statements by government ministers in the Cameroon Times newspaper and the contents of the UN-sanctioned official campaign pamphlet, The Two Alternatives, informed the electorate that 'to join' meant 'to federate' and the electorate went to the polls with that in mind. The people of Ambazonia therefore voted in favour of independence and federal political association, and not for so-called 'reunification' (whatever that meant).

'Reunification' is not a legal term of art but a mere self-serving political slogan used by Ahidjo, aware that terminology preconditions thinking and perception. In fact, the term was never used during the plebiscite campaigns, even as a piece of political sloganeering. The political expression that was sometimes used during the plebiscite politicking was 'unification'. Even then, it appeared to have been used only by the pro-Cameroun Republic campaigners in opposition to 'integration', a term that was sometimes used by the pro-Nigeria campaigners.

Whatever the case, Jua had made his point. There could be no question of a unilateral alteration of the well-known frontier between the two component states of the informal federation without the concurrence of the people of Ambazonia acting through their democratically elected Government. It was clearly implied in Jua's press statement that such concurrence would not be forthcoming as that would alter the very basis of the federal association, albeit informal, and put the federation itself asunder.

As a reaction to Jua's unshakable stand, however, Ahidjo moved in 1969 to further strengthen 'territorial administration', that is, limit still further whatever autonomy Ambazonia still had left. Ahidjo increased the power exercisable by the 'prefets' and the 'inspecteurs'. The extensive powers they had included the power: to order the torture of individuals as a means of forcing compliance with their every command; to order the indefinite detention of persons, such order not subject to inquiry by any court of law; to order the confiscation of people's property, such order not also subject to question by any court of law; and to order the suspension of freedom of the press, of expression, of information, of movement (of persons and goods), and of assembly and association, without due process of law. The 'prefets' and 'gouverneurs' continue to enjoy these arbitrary powers to this day, unchecked neither by law nor morality.

Jua s headaches with Ahidjo were not over yet. In December 1966, the Cameroun Republic army carried out a pogrom in Ambazonia. History records the organized mass killing as the Tombel Massacre. Fleeing relentless repression in their native Cameroun Republic, thousands of Bamileke refugees and so-called 'terrorists' had sought asylum in the safety of Ambazonia and were given sanctuary as migrants. These Bamileke tribesmen settled principally in Victoria, Tiko, Bamenda, Kumba and Tombel. In Tombel they acquired pieces of land (some say dubiously), laid doubtful claim to others, and took control of petty trading in the area.

The land issue was particularly critical for one reason. Within Cameroun Republic itself the land-pressed Bamileke tribe had already expanded from their native Region de I'Ouest southwards into Region de Littoral, colliding with and provoking a lot of anger and resentment among the aboriginal Sawa people of that region. The Bamileke were now seen as insensitively determined to expand from the Manengouba/Loum district in Cameroun Republic westward across the border into Bakossiland in Ambazonia. The people of Bakossiland resented this 'invasion by foreigners' and tension began to mount between the two communities.

Shortly before Christmas 1966, Bamileke terrorists operating from their bases across the border in Cameroun Republic slipped into Tombel and cowardly shot dead four defenceless Bakossis. The Bakossi retaliated by venting their anger on resident Bamileke. There were two or three casualties and some property was also damaged. A civilized government would have called for calm, given police protection to the two communities, ordered a commission of inquiry, and arrested and prosecuted the culprits. But the Yaounde regime was not a civilized government. It ordered in its troops from Loum across the border. "Tombel must be destroyed". That seems to have been the order given to the army. And Tombel was indeed destroyed. The Ahidjo government hoped thereby to force so-called Bamileke 'maquisards' out of their presumed hiding place in the hills of this part of Ambazonia by a show of military power in the locality, and also to teach the local people a lesson for harboring the Bamileke in the first place irrespective of the cause of the unrest.

Ahidjo's soldiers opened fire against the unarmed Bakossi people. Tombel wept. Houses and other property were destroyed. People were abducted from their homes and mercilessly tortured. Blood flowed. Two hundred and thirty six (236) Bakossi men, women and children, were massacred. Another one hundred and forty three (143) were abducted and transported, under inhuman conditions, to Yaounde and 'tried' by a military tribunal for 'subversion and the dissemination of false news'. Seventeen were sentenced to death and executed by firing squad. Seventy-five were sentenced to life and ten to 10 years' 'detention', in various detention camps in Cameroun Republic. Those so jailed were in effect sentenced to slow death, given the very cruel and life-threatening conditions under which prisoners were held in those camps. Four people were each sentenced to 2 years' in jail. One man died during the trial and 36 persons were discharged. In all, about 330 Bakossi people were killed by the Ahidjo dictatorship. An unknown number were incapacitated as a result of torture and a further unknown number suffered psychological trauma. Few are the Bakossi families that were not affected, in one way or another, by this massacre.

This tragedy was all the more revolting as only six years earlier, in 1961 Cameroun Republic violated on several occasions and with impunity the territorial integrity of Ambazonia. For example, a combined French and Camerounese force led by French officers illegally crossed Ambazonia frontier on 8 August 1961 and massacred twelve defenceless CDC workers (by mistake, it was said) at Ebubu Village near Tombel.

Later, another contingent of Franco-Camerounese troops also crossed the frontier into Bamenda, raided houses and killed a number of persons in the process. In both cases the excuse was that the soldiers were in pursuit of UPC terrorists who had found sanctuary in Ambazonia.

"Maurice Delauncy, futur ambassadeur au Gabon, commandant de la region insurgee, est tin partisan de la maniere forte, n'hesitant pas a violer i'intcgrite du Camerouu britannique lout proche, oil se trouve te siege de I'UPC. II etait particulierement tentant, explique-t-il, d'essayer de detruire tin chancre situe a noire porte d'oit venaienl le ravilaillanent en amies et en munitions et toutes les consignes et instructions destinccs aux maquisards pour realiser les actes de lerrorisme ... Par une belle unit, quelques homines decides, frangiis et camerounais ... franchircnt done la frontierc britannique, arriverent a Bamenda, penetrerent au siege du 'UPC, incendierent I'ensemble des bailments, mirent hors d'etat dc nuirc quelques responsables du parti. Mouniie, I'un des chefs, conclut Vadministrates francais, n'ctait malheurettseinent pas present ce jour-la."

Little was it known at that time that these massacres were a foretaste of Cameroun Republic's addiction to bloodletting. Soon, Ambazonians (Southern Cameroons citizens) who travelled to or through Cameroun Republic began giving horrid accounts of people's heads sadistically decapitated by Franco-Camerounese troops and gruesomely displayed on stakes along the roads in that country, from Loum to Mbouda, as a dreadful warning to locals to desist from giving aid and comfort to 'maquisards'. But few were those who imagined the level of depravity, brutality and barbarism of those troops until they started visiting their cruel atrocities upon the people of Ambazonia. Little was it then known that an attempt would be made in Cameroun Republic to assassinate Mr. J. N. Foncha, the Prime Minister of Ambazonia, and that Zacharia Abendong, MP in Buea, would be killed in that botched Foncha assassination attempt.

In January 1968, the vindictive Ahidjo took his sweet revenge on Jua. In that month of that year, Ahidjo replaced Jua with Muna as the Prime Minister of West Cameroon, much to the universal consternation and chagrin in Ambazonia. The people of Ambazonia were devastated. For most of them Muna's appointment was nothing short of a coup d'etat and an act of provocation. The common classification of Ambazonian politicians was into those who stood up for the interests of the state and those who were considered sell-outs. The people of Ambazonia lionized Augustine Ngom Jua and Nzo Ekhah-Nghaky as exponents of the state's autonomy. They angrily referred to Solomon Tandeng Muna and Emmanuel Tabi Egbe as Ahidjo's hatchet men and as having sold out to Cameroun Republic. And well might they have so considered Muna and Egbe.

Muna's government in Buea was characterized by his espousal of 'centralist federalism', indistinguishable from Ahidjo's nonsensical 'unitary federalism'. It leaned heavily eastwards, towards Cameroun Republic, and was perceived by political watchers as a mere agency of Ahidjo's dictatorship. By mid-1965 Muna had ceased being a member of the state legislature in Buea. At the time of his appointment as Ambazonia’s Prime Minister in January 1968 he was not even one of the thirty-seven elected members of the state House of Assembly. Since Muna owed his premiership entirely to Ahidjo he was of course beholden to him. He and his government were accountable to Ahidjo personally and not to the people of Ambazonia.

It was not long before Muna incurred the displeasure of Ahidjo. This came about as a result of a little incident in London involving the detention for a few hours of Wali Muna for entry into the UK without a visa. When Muna got word of his son's detention he had him released through the intervention of a British friend of his, Anthony Steele, chairman of the Anglo-Cameroon Society in London. The Guardian newspaper of 7 July 1969 reported the detention under the heading, 'African Prime Minister's son not allowed in Britain.' In the story, the London paper referred to Anthony Steele as the Ambassador of Ambazonia in the UK. Ambazonia had an ambassador accredited to the Court of St James? Ahidjo went berserk. And he lost no time in conveying his rage to Muna, accusing him of securing the release of his son "without using the official channel", that is, without going through him, Ahidjo.

Now, Jua took his humiliation by Ahidjo with equanimity. He was not through yet with his criticism of Ahidjo's iron-fisted rule. He would openly cross swords with him again in 1975. During the Douala jamboree of the Union Nationale Camerounaise, parti unique, Ahidjo pretended, Caesar-like, that he was not interested in again appointing himself the presidential 'candidate' for the habitual one-horse presidential 'race' choreographed every five years. His party cadres, both high and low, pleaded and pleaded with him to go back on his decision. They insisted that Ahidjo should 'accept' to be the presidential candidate. Jua then wondered aloud what all the fuss was about. He indicated that he, Ngom Jua, was able, willing, and ready to assume the high office of Head of State. As far as Ahidjo was concerned this was blatant effrontery, if not subversion. From that moment, Jua became, to all intents and purposes, 'dead man walking'.

There was one nagging problem of capital importance to the autonomy of Ambazonia. It concerned the revenue of the state. Jua boldly made efforts to resolve this problem. A gaping lacuna in Ahidjo's federal constitution' was that the principle of revenue allocation was not included in its provisions. In other words, no provision was made for revenue sharing between federal and state governments. This was deliberate. The biggest sources of Ambazonia’s revenue were customs and excise duty and export of cash crops.

By order of Ahidjo all the revenue from these critical sources went entirely and directly into the coffers of the federal government in Yaounde. For example, Ambazonian taxes amounted to FCFA 418 million and licenses 125 million in the 1966-67 fiscal year, taxes 647 million and licenses 130 million in the 1968-69 fiscal year. This money went to Yaounde. Ambazonia was therefore deprived of its main sources of revenue. As a result Buea depended on Yaounde to subsidize its budget. Jua requested the federal government for there to be negotiated a permanent system of revenue allocation, a fixed and secure source of revenue. Ahidjo refused and he also refused to allow the government of Ambazonia any significant financial autonomy.

Jua then tried to set up a mechanism for auto-financing. He described as "a hazardous adventure" the system by which Ahidjo granted an annual subsidy to cover the budgeted expenditures of Ambazonia to make up the deficit over income, since Ambazonian government could not tell in advance the amount which it would please Ahidjo to make available to it. This was a system deliberately created by Ahidjo. Its sinister objective was to cast Ambazonia in the mould of a beggar and to leave its government at the mercy of Ahidjo. "These ad hoc subsidies are thoroughly unsatisfactory", lamented in 1966 the Hon. P.M. Kemcha who was then both Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Ambazonia.

Jua wondered aloud: "How can a State develop by itself according to its priorities if it cannot know how much it has at its disposal?" He then proposed to Ahidjo that there be set up a Joint Allocation Committee to decide in a permanent manner the sharing out of public revenue between the component governments of the Federation. "Otherwise," he added, "the [Southern Cameroons] Government would not be able to hold out for long as a real government, taking decisions itself in areas over which it enjoys sovereignty."

This was precisely the level to which Ahidjo wanted to reduce Ambazonia. So he rejected Jua's proposal. He was bent on inducing a dependency syndrome in Ambazonia, on weakening the government of Ambazonia and on promoting the fiction that Ambazonia could not survive without Cameroun Republic. He was out to kill the government of Ambazonia as a real government. Perversely, Ahidjo would in 1972 turn round and advance Ambazonia's alleged poverty as one of the reasons for his dictatorial scrapping of the Federation and his formal annexation of Ambazonia.

Culled and edited in parts from “Imperialist politics in Cameroon: Resistance & the inception of the restoration of the statehood of southern Cameroons” by Carlson Anyangwe (2008) pp 60 - 70.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 June 2011 09:19


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“I President Paul Biya of the Republic of Cameroun do hereby, in a bid to provide lasting peace to the Bakassi conflict, commit myself and my government to respect the territorial boundaries of my country as obtained at independence.”
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