Why France Should Support Referendum on Anglophone Question

 

This reflection is inspired by the fact that when pro-independence activists in the French overseas territory of Caledonia started their revolt, France did not turn a deaf ear on them nor wasted useful time on cosmetic changes, but equickly went ahead to promise a referendum on the issue, which referendum took place early November.

It is the more informed by the fact that rather than standing by helplessly and watching the escalation of a genocide in Anglophone Cameroon, France would do a better job of engaging with Great Britain to sponsor a referendum on the Anglophone Question so that people in the North West and South West decide whether they would want a federation, complete independence or remain in a unitary state as obtains today.

It is also inspired by the fact that if something as simple as the decision to create six new Regions to add to the already existing 10 in Ghana would warrant that the President calls for a referendum this December where only the regions to be affected would be consulted, what more of an existential issue like the Anglophone Question that has led to an armed conflict and that is consuming the whole nation

The law setting up the national elections management body, ELECAM, is unequivocally clear: The body shall organise all elections and referenda in Cameroon. It is therefore not a taboo for anyone to open debate on the need for a referendum in Cameroon not only on the form of state but also on the flag that has also come into dispute. For this reason, my reflections going forward, would be on the urgency of a referendum as the surest way to put an end to the Anglophone conflict.

After all, Cameroon has had two referenda or plebiscites before: the first when the ex Southern Cameroons in 1961 were offered the choice of joining LA Republique du Cameroun in a federation or of becoming part of Nigeria, then a second vote 10 years later, that is in 1972, when they were asked if they would like to become part of a unitary state ( thus losing the federated status and their star on the flag).

If two plebiscites could be organised for Southern Cameroons in less than ten years after independence, why not just go ahead and organize a third one now that the issues the referenda sort to resolve are back on our table as steady diet? If France continued procrastinating rather than just going ahead to organising a referendum for Caledonia, tensions would have still been high there now. After the majority of Kalaks voted to stay in the larger France family (although rumour still holds that voters were chartered from France to Caledonia), Caledonia now is animated by a reinvigorated sense of national purpose and cohesiveness. If France were to claim to insist that France was one and indivisible and that order must reign by all means , there would have been more escalation of violence in Caledonia.

Supporting a referendum on the Anglophone Question would not only make France the leader of an inclusive and peaceful world as Emmanuel Macron sort to do last week by organizing a Peace Conference in France but ii allows for less risk of renewed violence in Anglophone areas.

‘France, Britain and the UN must bear responsibility for this unfortunate marriage which has failed so disastrously. Instead of standing helplessly by and watching the escalation of genocide, France and Great Britain could initiate a resolution for a referendum to be conducted through the good offices of the UN with questions to ascertain how many Anglophones from the North West and South West would like a true federation (of respected equals) and how many would like complete independence’, a British Member of Parliament told the House recently.

Given that international instruments are clear to the fact that a people cannot be ruled against their wish, it is only a referendum that could indicate clearly whether Anglophone really want independence or just a true federation. It would also be a unique opportunity for those who did not vote during last October 7 Presidential elections to do so. After all, President Paul Biya during his swearing in ceremony last November 6, 2018, took note of this fact. While regretting that many youths in the North West and South West did not have an opportunity to vote at the last Presidential election, he promised them that other opportunities were coming up. A referendum on the Anglophone Question could as well be that opportunity. And it is in the interest of France that has just organised one in Caledonia to see to it that one is organised in Cameroon sooner than later.

Beyond just addressing the issue of the form of state, the referendum could also go a long way to address the issues of the national flag which for quite some time now has been under dispute. Cameroon would not be the first country to hold a referendum on issue of the flag. Sweden and other countries have done so in the past. Cameroon itself did so in 1972 when it decided through a referendum to drop one of the stars on our flag, as well as the Southern Cameroons currency (the pounds) and measurement of weights.

We may continue to pretend that we are winning the war fatly judging by recent military victories in the North West and South West, and more importantly, the killing of the most dreaded and enigmatic Amigo. But we could do well to be reminded of the Ashanti informed saying that ‘when you kill 1000 Ashantis, 10000 emerge’.

Assume all those who have taken up arms against our beloved country are all eliminated, can that be the solution to the problem. Does history not remind us that if you conquer by force you have just conquered by half.

As the voice of the voiceless, I make bold to declare that a dream bottled is a dream deferred

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