Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Southern Cameroons Groups Take Case to Addis Ababa

In February 2009 a two-man delegation was dispatched to Addis Ababa, the Headquarters of the African Union (AU), with a two-fold mission, to wit: convince the Meeting of the Heads of State of African Union members from tabling an obnoxious agenda item that was seriously gong to compromise the independence bid of Southern Cameroons and to present the boundary problems between La République du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons to the African Union Border Programme Committee.

Mola Njoh Litumbe represented the British Southern Cameroons Restoration Government and Ba Nkom Augustine Feh Ndangam represented the Southern Cameroons Peoples Organization (SCAPO).

According to the official report on the mission, signed by Ba Nkom Augustine Feh Ndangam, the delegation spent Thursday 12 and Friday 13 February making presentations at the AU Headquarters and at various Embassies.

The Southern Cameroons Mission to Addis Ababa was given a two-fold assignment.
-To counter with the last ounce of vigour the Agenda item proposed by LRC to be put on the AU Summit program on the Bakassi dispute as a model for peaceful settlement of conflicts in Africa.
To place the Border Program on Notice concerning the fact that there is an international boundary separating the territory of the Southern Cameroons from that of La République du Cameroun.

Prior to their departure for Addis Ababa, the report continues, the RG already put out an official statement on the Agenda Item. The report therefore confined itself to the 2nd assignment namely, Southern Cameroon’s Notice to the AU Border Programme.

Despite visa difficulties, which made it impossible for the delegation to arrive Addis according to plan, measures were taken through DHL and other means of circulation to ensure that Resolution 014/2008 got to Addis and other AU organs on time. These Resolutions were already made public alongside RG statement.

The first victory was the striking off of the obnoxious item from the agenda: “La République du Cameroun’s (LRC’s) proposed Agenda item was struck off from the Agenda of the conference from the PRC to the Heads of States Summit, thank God,” says the report.

Without an Ethiopian diplomatic presence in Cameroon visa applications are cleared directly from Addis. LRC has a diplomatic mission in Addis. So do all African countries. These are the Permanent Representatives accredited to the AU.

Before the departure of the delegation from home, everything had been done to procure authenticated copies of the Eastern border Treaties and maps without success, says the report. SCAPO sources had all the required Treaties but needed authenticated copies if they could get. What was rushed in after the delegation was already in Addis for 4 days had been procured by patriotic compatriots (at as yet undisclosed personal expense) but these were Treaties separating British spheres in West Africa from those of the French and the other was Anglo-German Treaty, which is of interest to the Southern Cameroons only in so far as it demarcates Southern Cameroons’ boundary with Nigeria. Presently this Western border with Nigeria has no problem.

They made contacts at three different levels: at the levels of AU itself, the embassies accredited to the AU and at the level of experts, facilitators and participants.

On February 12, the documents they sent by DHL were at the AU Headquarters and registered at the Registry of the AU (Ref. No. 533 of 12 February 2009). They then moved to key departments of the AU notably, the Peace and Security Department and Conflict Management, where they also handed copies and held talks with key officials.

At the level of Embassies accredited to the AU, the report says, was the most difficult part of the work because the various Embassies are scattered in different parts of the city. The taxi they hired to take them round was driven by a well-trained driver with excellent professional skills but who did not himself know exact locations of Embassies in that vast city, and kept finding out this information from others by cell phone from time to time as he drove.

AU has 53 member-states and they needed 2-3 days to accomplish the work at that level. In all they did 18 Embassies either by physical contact (7) or via DHL (11).
At the level of experts, facilitators and participants soft copies of the documents were sent to individuals in this group (130 of them from various Member States of the AU)
Interactions and reactions

In their contacts and discussions with the different officials, reactions varied. There were diplomats who confessed that all along they had taken Cameroon to be entirely a francophone country and the background to this matter was helping to remove the scales from their eyes. There were those who, as expected, said that they will forward our matter to their government at the earliest departure of their diplomatic mail bag, and those who promptly understood in what direction our matter was heading and cut us short to assure us of their understanding and support by asking, “What new name have you selected for the new country?”

So far a follow-up proposal has been written to members of the PRC (i.e. the Embassies) that they contacted suggesting the role, which their respective governments could play in the Southern Cameroons Border dispute with LRC.

Recommendations

At the end of the report the Delegation made some recommendations for a better plan and follow-up. They included contributions towards the Border Program as there was a possibility of an invitation extended for Southern Cameroons to attend the next (or future) BP meetings and start preparing right away. They also complained that a debt of 1.081 million had to be cleared on this mission. The second recommendation was to prepare follow-up missions to Addis Ababa to further strengthen the relationships that have been increased.

By Nke Valentine

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