Foncha’s ‘Truth Shall Prevail’ On Federalism Justified

J. N Foncha received upon return from UN Summit, Tiko Airport 1961

Decades ago, Dr. John Ngu Foncha, then Prime Minister of Southern Cameroons, was rebuffed by Britain and the United Nations when he asked for full independence for Southern Cameroons. He later advocated for a federation of two equal States into which Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun entered in 1961. Events of May 20, 1972 and 1984 would emasculate the federation. Thereafter, Foncha made several “declarations to the effect that only federalism as an option…” Today, as the Anglophone crisis rages on, federalism has become taboo, and ‘secession’ in the minds of some compatriots. Was Foncha right then to campaign for federalism to ensure peace, honesty, unity, justice, freedom and democracy, as he strongly believed?

Find the answers in an article penned by late Dr. John Ngu Foncha’s family highlighting his vision for a unified Cameroon.


Late Dr. John Ngu Foncha’s Vision of “The Anglophone Problem”

by the FONCHA Family

Dr. John Ngu Foncha’s


The persistent impasse over the strike action called by the Teachers’ Trade Unions and lawyers in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon even after four “accredited” members of these unions signed an agreement to call off the strike, is indicative of a serious, deep-rooted problem that needs to be urgently addressed to get our children back to school, the lawyers back to the courts and the economy in both Regions back on its feet. It is an ill wind, and the continuous delay in resolving it is running down the image of the entire country, not just the Anglophones.

Bone of Contention

The stated bone of contention is the “Demand for a Return to the Federal System of Government,” on the basis of which Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun agreed to come together in 1961. This is the crucial point at which the Foncha Family feels compelled to reiterate the principles which guided the vision of late Dr. John Ngu Foncha.

As the Architect of Reunification, Dr. Ngu Foncha undertook that momentous decision on behalf of the people of Southern Cameroons who, by the 1961 Plebiscite, crushingly gave him their unwavering mandate. Even though he was the elected leader of the Southern Cameroons nation, Dr. John Ngu Foncha was a patriarch who, both within and outside the family, stood unflinchingly for peace, honesty, unity, justice, freedom and democracy; qualities which guided his entire life. Finally, these virtues were encapsulated both in his personal and political life, in theory and in practice, by the motto: “That Truth Shall Prevail”.

The Crucial Question On Many Minds

The crucial question on many minds and ours is what late Dr. John Ngu Foncha would have done in the present circumstance with the ongoing strikes and the civil action of Ghost Townswhich are causing such enormous economic and social hardship on the populations of the two Regions. Even more noteworthy, is the imponderable support by the masses for these measures initially called by educators and lawyers who represent the very “soul” of Southern Cameroonians. This is ample proof of the people’s readiness to endure these hardships even to the point of sacrificing limb, life and property as the prize for the peaceful change which they ardently yearn for. What would have been the reaction of our father?

The Government response, particularly in the use of deadly force, the arbitrary detention of elected union leaders of civil groups and the punitive severance of internet connections with the outside world, specifically targeting the Anglophone territories, is causing untold havoc on the economy, banking and financial sectors. Furthermore, this selective severance of internet connections by the Government is tantamount to the collective punishment of a peaceful population, an act which is inadmissible in today’s civilized world. These are certainly actions the late Dr. John Ngu Foncha would have condemned with the uttermost vehemence.

Historical Perspective

As newly elected Prime Minister of Southern Cameroons, then still under British administration, Dr. John Ngu Foncha went to the United Nations to formally request the independence of the territory. That was intended to be the first step in the process of reunification, a process he and his followers were aware would be long. However, the Administering Authority, Britain, and the United Nations refused to consider the option of independence before reunification, which he asked for, instead imposing the options which are commonly referred to as “The Two Alternatives”:

  1. Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent federation of Nigeria?
  2. Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of the Cameroons?

Faced with the imposed options, Dr. John Ngu Foncha (and his party) insisted that only a federation of two equal States, backed by a constitution that will permanently protect the interests of the smaller population of Southern Cameroons, would bring about the peaceful and harmonious reunification they aspired for.

Federalism Misunderstood

Dr. Foncha’s stand on the crucial issue of federalism as the most acceptable and workable system of administration for the reunified Cameroon in 1961, never wavered and was unshakeable in his mind till he drew his last breath in April 1999. The ambushes of 20th May 1972 and 1984 were unconstitutional, and, as he characterised them in a letter to the United Nations in 1994, those events were “…. the total abrogation of all the terms of unification, agreed by the parties concerned, including the UN General Assembly …”

While the continuous vilification by government officials of proponents of federalism is unfortunate, it is outright alarming when high-level government officials equate “federalism” with“secession”, a linkage which Dr. Foncha, as shown in his various memoranda and letters, never made. He and the masses he led were democrats and federalists to the core.

Unfinished Business

The growing resort to Secession by compatriots is an imposition arising from the intransigence and swaggering superiority complex of many government officials. In a country that arrogates that it is a STATE of LAW, in all fairness, responsibility for the present situation cannot belong with the anonymous public. A good part of the responsibility also lies with those high-ranking Anglophones who know the truth and choose to suppress it.

Dr. Foncha consistently made declarations to the effect that only “federalism as an option” reflects the genuine hopes, aspirations and desires of Southern Cameroonians; the most notable being his “Statement of Withdrawal from the Constitutional Consultative Committee,” which refreshes memories and puts the concept in its proper perspective. In the statement, he cited the blatant omission of any mention of “federalism as an option” in the proposed constitution submitted by the President of the Republic to the Consultative Committee, despite the serious efforts and submissions on federalism made by thousands of Cameroonians in conferences which include the Tripartite Conference in Yaoundé, the “Larges Débats”, and most significantly, the All Anglophone Conference, spanning the years 1991 to 1994.

The undaunted resistance of the people, who have repeatedly been ditched in the past, can be understood within this context. It is actions such as this that are hurting the masses and hardening their resolve, conscious that they are not being hearkened to. The Federal Republic of Cameroon was never intended to be a transient hoodwink to be used and discarded as it pleased those at the helm of power and authority.

Dr. Foncha, in his later years, foresaw the now growing call for secession, and wrote numerous letters to the United Nations and to President Paul Biya, in attempts to contribute and guide the return to the form of federalism that would result in the harmonious reunification of the Cameroon territories which had so far eluded the country. It is a fact that the entrenched intransigence on the part of the President and the administration on this important issue of federalism contributed to the evolution of his views and the desire for the renegotiation of the terms of reunification.

Our Belief

Federalism, crafted with the support of a strong constitution was Dr. Foncha’s chosen path to achieving the goal of a peaceful, prosperous and unified Cameroon. The present stalemate does not bode well for that vision. Denial of the problem at hand, pretence that the country is in a state of normalcy, making and implying incorrect assertions, intransigence by government officials, only serve to strengthen the resolve of the population of Southern Cameroons to seek their self-determination.

We believe, like our Father, that dialogue is the way to lasting peace and reconciliation. Dialogue cannot fruitfully proceed without freedom, and freedom is only assured when there is true forgiveness and justice.

The unconditional release of the civil leaders, students and the others detained during this crisis, the demilitarization of Northwest and Southwest Regions, holding accountable those responsible for the abuse of the civil rights of citizens and the restoration of internet services in Anglophone Regions are gestures within the power of government. These are the first steps in the process of restoring true dialogue, bearing in mind that forgiveness is not weakness, but a demonstration of fortitude, an attribute we all seek in our government. This, Dr. John Ngu Foncha fought for, never compromising his values of integrity, honesty, justice and maintenance of peace. “That Truth Shall Prevail” was, and remains a powerful motto which we, his family, will always embrace.

The Foncha Family, February 2017