Two years ago, President Biya of La Republique du Cameroun in his traditional New Year message broadcast on CRTV, reminded his audience that the first of January marks the date in which one part of the country (French Cameroon) gained independence (January 1, 1960).
It was, indeed, a very thoughtful reminder that what passes for La Republique du Cameroun today is in effect a fractious entity made up of two states of equal status which came together on 1st October 1961 to form a federal republic that was subsequently abrogated in May 1972 by political fraud and subsequent presidential fiats.
Biya's motive for that reminder can only be perceived as a cynical exercise in downplaying the significance of the Southern Cameroons struggle to restore its sovereignty and nationhood that have been trampled upon by the assimilationists and annexationists forces of the Francophone led regime in Yaounde.
I do not recall any instance in which Mr. Biya mentions the October 1st 1961 unification in all his 24 years in power. The man would go down in history as the President who with a reckless stroke of the pen, buried the last relics of unification by simply changing the name United Republic of Cameroon (1972) to La Republique du Cameroun (1984) the name of French Cameroon when it attained independence in 1960.
Despite all political acrobatics to undermine and obliterate the political identity of the Southern Cameroons, the vanguard for the restoration of the territory's sovereignty and self determination for its people has made significant diplomatic breakthroughs to win international recognition and support at the African Union Human and People Rights Commission, the Unrepresented Peoples Organisation, the UN Human Rights Committee etc.
The vanguard movement for restoration, the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC has experienced the rise of faction leaders like Justice Ebong and Mr. Henry Fossung but that has had little or no effect on the validity of the restoration struggle.
When leaders of the Free West Cameroon Movement, the Cameroon Anglophone Movement which later became the Southern Cameroons Restoration Movement, and many others converged at the Mount Mary Maternity in Buea in April 1993 to give birth to the SCNC, all Southern Cameroonians spoke with one voice and one sentiment and expressed the unshakeable desire to take their destiny into their hands.
All political processes based on the right to self-determination must overcome the first and most difficult hurdle i.e. that of creating a political consciousness. In this light, the Southern Cameroons struggle has scored very high marks.
Gone are the days when the demagogues in Yaounde tried to falsify the Southern Cameroons predicament as a more minority question to be equated with that of minority tribes like the pygmy and the Baka of the Equatorial rainforest and the cattle rearing Bororos of the grassfield who are clamouring for equal rights and opportunity.
True enough, Southern Cameroonians have been treated like second class citizens and relegated to the background in the management of public affairs. A recent and shameless manifestation of this attitude was the appointment last week of six assistant government delegates each in the urban councils of Yaounde and Douala.
I don't recall any of them being of Southern Cameroons origin, yet Southern Cameroonians form a significant part of the population of these cities.
True enough, Southern Cameroonians form at least one quarter of the Cameroon population, but that does not make them an ethnic minority.
The former British-administered Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons is basically English-speaking with regard to the two official languages (French and English) but that does not simplify its aspirations to those of a linguistic minority.
The restoration movement has succeeded in dispelling the false notion that the Southern Cameroons question is an ethnic or linguistic minority issue. Attempts to dissemble the issue by the Yaounde regime has resulted in exposing the regime as a bunch of congenital liars with an incurable penchant for dishonesty and corruption.
There is absolutely no doubt that the regime shall never relent in its reductionist agenda, yet no amount of political chicanery can halt the momentum for self-determination. Examples abound. Take the Ethiopian Province of Eritrea which began its struggle in the early 1970's.
Take the Soviet satellites of Latvia, Estonia and Byelorussia. Take East Timor and very recently Montenegro in former Yugoslavia. Sovereignty has nothing to do with numbers.
At the time of unification in 1961, the Southern Cameroons population was officially estimated at 800.000, much larger than Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Burma and dozens of other smaller entities that are today enjoying full independence.
The Southern Cameroons was already operating a parliamentary system in 1954, three years before French Cameroon had a French-teleguided territorial assembly. Multiparty politics was the order of the day in Southern Cameroons.
The political and socio-economic institutions in the autonomous Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons before unification were indicative of a greater political maturity. Economic prosperity was guaranteed by the Cameroon Development Corporation with its vast plantations of cash crops like oil palm, rubber and banana; the West Cameroon Marketing Board and the West Cameroon Development Agency; a well-grounded Cooperative system and a promising Public Works Department PWD.
The actual and potential wealth of the Southern Cameroons coupled with the discovery of petroleum along the West Coast in the late 1960's fuelled the piratical instincts of the francophone-led regime in Yaounde to embark on the annexation of Southern Cameroons.
The story of the marginalisation of the Southern Cameroons is a tragic tale of greed, dishonesty and plunder. The restoration movement under the auspices of the SCNC has succeeded to a large extent in exposing the predatory nature of the annexationists and while it is at present intensifying representations in international bodies, it must be reminded that the struggle is after all very much home-bound.
It must be reminded that Yaounde will not willingly withdraw its forces of occupation and its colonial appointees just for the asking. It would be naïve to think that as long as the regime continues to tap the resources of the territory while occasionally dropping one or two crumbs for a few Anglophone lackeys, the gold-digging marauders of Southern Cameroons will suddenly realise their thieving injustice and voluntarily pack out of the territory, with or without apologies. Sorry!
Thirteen years after Mount Mary, the Southern Cameroons' nationalist struggle has succeeded in establishing a machinery for the reaffirmation of its people's identity and a psychological tool for asserting self-pride. A Southern Cameroonian today, more than ever before, can now say with confidence that "I am not a second class citizen.
I know I have a homeland, a mentality and a world view." But what he cannot assert in truth is " I am in control of my homeland." Thirteen is the age of puberty and a critical age at that. The direction of the restoration movement henceforth would determine the kind of support it gets.
Failure to match aspirations will appropriate action could usher in a more radical and revolutionary force to the centre - stage that would not be bothered with intellectual niceties; a force that would not be too eager to caress western diplomatic circles with anti-terrorist lullabies and the virtues of non-violence.
Southern Cameroon's consciousness did not reawaken only 13 years ago. The late Dr. Bernard Fonlon made timid noises about Anglophone marginalisation in highly private memos to President Ahidjo as far back as 1964.
Twenty years later, the late S.T. Muna, former Vice President, and Prime Minister of West Cameroon, at the time, President of the National Assembly, also made a rather sheepish memo to Paul Biya about some problems facing Anglophones. None of these highly restricted memos touched the crux of the matter i.e. Southern Cameroons' truncated march towards total independence.
The non-negotiable position for sovereignty was sounded by the Free West Cameroon Movement at the All Anglophone Conference at Mount Mary Maternity in Buea (AAC I) and was only adopted at AAC II in Bamenda in April 1994.
It had dawned on participants that the accommodative federalist approach of AAC I had become irrelevant and that the path to self-determination called for a more drastic appraisal of the plight of the Southern Cameroons. Only drastic measures can move the struggle to its logical conclusion.
In as much as people pretend that secession is not the answer to the question, a dispassionate diagnosis of the malady dictates that there can be no relief unless the boil is excised. It is rather paradoxical that the advocates of accommodation with La Republique du Cameroun at the expense of Southern Cameroons God-given right to self-determination are the very surrogates licking the crumbs from the francophone table.
They are usually rewarded with cabinet and other lucrative position, forgetting that they owe their appointments to the nationalist struggle, bearing in mind that their appointment is intended to appease the justified anger of Southern Cameroonians and deceive international public opinion that national integration is a reality in Cameroon.
Integration is a voluntary process, not imposed by high-handed political manipulation. Integration is not synonymous to annexation and, unless the forces of occupation peacefully withdraw (which is not likely), they would have to be evicted - one way or another.