By George Achu*
Many confuse the political terms "secession" and "separation".There is a great difference between the two.
In international law, such as that governing members states of the African Union, secession is the detachment of a territory (B) that was part of another (A) at the date of A's independence. On the contrary, separation is the detachment of a territory (B) that was not part of Country (A) at the date of A's independence.
In this respect, because Southern Cameroons was not part of French Cameroun when it was granted independence by the United Nations in 1960, it's detachment is not "secession" but separation. While generally secession is not legal under the African Union Constitutive Act (Charter), separation is permissible.
As a partnership, subject to partnership law, a federal association is partnership terminable at the will of each of the parties. The parties have the legal right to separate, subject to compliance with restrictions in the formal partnership agreement. A case in point is that of the Senegambia Federation from which Gambia separated in the sixties when the latter believed it was not in its best interest to be in the association. This was legal in spite of the fact that they had followed the legal process in forming the federation. Where there is no formal agreement, such as the case of the de facto Federal Republic of Cameroon of 1961, any of the parties can separate for any reason.
As in 1961 there was no enforceable agreement of association under international law, the Republic of Cameroun can not force the Southern Cameroons to stay in the association. It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt - a very high criminal law standard - that the "Unification of 1961 was an annexation or colonialism by false pretenses. The main evidence is the federal constitution itself. It was a unilateral act of the Republic of Cameroun - similar to a marriage certificate signed by only one of the parties. The Southern Cameroons stateman, Mola Njoh Litumbe, characterizes it as Njumba Marriage!. This is why the African Union in 2009 ruled that the inhabitants of the Southern Cameroons "are a people" and, as such, they have an unalienable right to govern themselves.
Cameroun has treated with sovereign contempt, the African Union decision that the two parties return to the drawing board to see if they can work out new constitutional arrangements of association. Supreme Court Justice Ayah, Advocate General of Cameroun, has stated that the Supreme Court of Cameroun has no legal authoritiy (jurisdiction) to try the case between the two states - which is within the authority of an international court. Pursuant to the ruling of the African Union ruling of 2009, each of the two parties therefore has an unalienable right to external self-determination - construed as the right to sovereign independence. Republic of Cameroun had its own independence in 1960; in 1961, it deprived Southern Cameroons of its own. Is the continuing use, with impunity, of false pretenses, ruse and force by Cameroun - to consolidate the subjugation and assimilate of the colonized state and its inhabitants - not a challenge to the international community, particularly, those charged with its governance?
If the latter does not support the force of argument - motto of the restoration struggle - what is it they want? Resort to the argument of force - the modus operandum of the colonialist Republic of Cameroun.
*Gov. George Achu is a Human and Peoples' Rights Advocate.
He holds an LLM (Int'l legal studies) from American University, Washington College of Law.
He served as Governor in The Cameroons during the early nineties, and made history by being the first Governor to ever resign from his post, in protest of the election rigging tactics perpetrated by the Yaounde regime and its ruling CPDM party during the 1992 Presidential election.