AMONG the most widely reported international African news in the local print media last week, was the ‘self-inflicted’ conflict which is currently afflicting the Federal republic of Cameroon.
Just like the United Republic of Tanzania which was formed on 26th April, 1964 as a result of the voluntary unification of two neighbouring States, namely the former Republic of Tanganyika, and the former Peoples’ Republic of Zanzibar; the Federal Republic of Cameroon is also a Union between two neighbouring independent countries which are located in West Africa.
Before gaining their independence, the two separate countries were known as ‘French Cameroon’ (because it was ruled by the French), and British Cameroon (because it was ruled by the British). French Cameroon got its independence on 1st January, 1960; andexpressed its desire to unite with their neighbour, British Cameroon, upon the latter also becoming independent.
However, before British Cameroon was granted independence, the British colonial Government decided to hold a referendum in that country, in order to determine whether it was, in fact, willing to unite with the former French Cameroon.
The referendum exercise was conducted in February, 1961, with the result that the country became sharply divided, when its northern part, probably for linguistic considerations, chose to unite with neighbouring Nigeria; while its southern part decided to unite with the former French Cameroon.
Thus, on 1st October, 1961, the Federal Republic of Cameroon formally came into existence. This was a little over thirty months before the United Republic of Tanzania was established in April 1964.
These two Unions, that is to say, the Federal Republic of Cameroon in West Africa, and the United Republic of Tanzania in East Africa, are the only surviving ‘unions of two states’ on the African continent, all the others (which are described below) having failed, and consequently collapsed.
The survival of the United Republic of Tanzania. On 26th April, 2018, the United Republic of Tanzania joyfully celebrated its 54th anniversary, having been established on 26th April, 1964. In my article which was published in this column to celebrate that occasion, I made reference to comments which had been made by Hon.
January Makamba, Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office responsible for Union Affairs, who had said that “the Union Government has made positive headways in addressing the Union challenges” (which are commonly known in Kiswahili as “kero za Muungano”).
The Minister was touting the success in finding solutions to these problems asas one of the major reasons for the continued survival of our Union. He was, in fact, endeavouring to explain why “Tanzania has succeeded where others failed”. The unions that failed. It is indeed true that in Africa, apart from Tanzania, the Federal Republic of Cameroon is the only other such union which is still surviving.
There are indeed other countries in Africa which initially succeeded in establishing their unions, but failed to sustain them. These were the following: (a) Egypt and Syria. These two countries formed a Union which was called ‘the United Arab Republic’ (UAR), in February 1958; but this Union was dissolved after only four years, in September, 1961.
Egypt and Syria still exist today, but as separate countries. (b) In February 1982, the countries of Senegal and Gambia also established their Union, under the name of ‘Senegambia’; but this Union also collapsed in September 1989. The collapse of the said Unions left only two such Unions to continue to exist on the African continent, namely the United Republic of Tanzania; and the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
Furthermore, as the older generation of Tanzanians will probably remember, the attempt to form an East African Federation (consisting of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda), also failed; despite the supreme efforts which were invested in that project by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who went the ‘extra mile’ by offering to delay Tanganyika’s independence in order to wait for the independence of Kenya and Uganda.
So as to enable the three countries to achieve their independence simultaneously, and immediately thereafter, create the proposed East African Federation. At least that was Mwalimu Nyerere’s fervent hope and desire, which, however, failed to materialize; to his extreme disappointment.
However, despite its survival, Cameroon is currently in very deep trouble, caused by immense political problems which have seriously shaken its stability, and are actually threatening its survival as a union of two States.
The purpose of this article is to inform Tanzanians regarding those problems which are afflicting Cameroon, so as to draw their attention (and particularly that of our political leaders) to the relevant dangers which, if they not guarded against, can easily scuttle our own existence as a united nation.
The conflicts afflicting Cameroon. “Cameroon is currently bleeding to death as it faces very divisive and violent politics revolving around linguistic, regional, and toxic nationalism which were chaperoned by its former colonial monsters, the British and the French.”
These are the words of Nkwazi Mhango writing from Canada, as reproduced in THE CITIZEN of Wednesday, 20th June, 2018. Mhango continues as follows:- “On October 1st, 2017, tens of thousands of people began a peaceful march, holding branches symbolizing peace and chanting ‘no violence’, to proclaim the independence of ‘Ambazonia’ (which is the name given by the secessionists to their hypothetical state). Since then, the former peaceful Cameroon which the whole world knew, has cascaded to brutality and violence from both sides”.
Basically, the nature of the Cameroon problem is that for most of the time, the Francophone part of that Union, which is the much larger part of that Union both in terms of territory as well as population, has always treated the residents of the Anglophone part as ‘second-class citizens’ in their own country, through imposing the French language on them, and stifling the English language.
The Anglophone Cameroonian’s have been marginalized in many other respects, including denial of development aid and support to which they are entitled, plus deliberate exclusion from the business of running the affairs of the Union State.
It is further reported that since this conflict started, hundreds of people have been killed and many thousands have been displaced, large numbers of them have fled to Nigeria,and other parts of the world,as refugees. This kind of situation is absolutely pathetic. Hence the need for lessons to be learnt therefrom. Lessons to be learnt from the Cameroon conflicts.
There is basically only one major lesson which can be learnt from the conflicts in Cameroon, namely that which relates to their foolish policy of treating the residents of the smaller part of their Union as ‘second-class citizens’ in their own country.
In this respect, there is one basic similarity between our own Union and that of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, and that is, the vast difference in the sizes of the countries which agreed to unite.
Just as Tanganyika (at the time of the Union with Zanzibar) was the much larger country with a population of twelve million people, compared to Zanzibar with a population of only 300,000; so was Francophone Cameroon, which was equally much larger, occupying about four-fifths of the combined territory of former French Cameroon and its partner British Cameroon; with a corresponding difference in the sizes of their respective populations. But most of the remaining factors, especially the cultural, linguistic, and previous colonial administrative backgrounds, are all based on vast dissimilarities with Tanzania.
Indeed, it is authoritatively reported, in relation to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, that “the Federal structure was specifically designed to meet the challenges posed by Cameroon’s racial, tribal, religious and political diversity”. The words quoted above are in complete contrast to the situation which facilitated the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was based largely on certain unique uniting factors.
These factors were described by President Nyerere in his speech to the National Assembly on 25th April, 1964 in the following terms: “Tanganyika na Zanzibar ni nchi ndugu. Tunashirikiana kwa historia, lugha, mila, tabia na siasa. Udugu wa Afro-Shirazi na TANU wote tunaufahamu, na udugu wa viongozi wa vyama hivi viwili, haukuanza jana. Basi tunazo sababu zote hizo za kutufanya tuungane na kuwa kitu kimoja”. President Nyerere’s speech adequately describes the basic dissimilarities between the conditions existing in the United Republic of Tanzania, and in the Federal republic of Cameroon.
Those common positive cultural similarities between Tanganyika and Zanzibar which were described by President Nyerere, i.e. the factors of “historia, mila, tabia na siasa (udugu wa vyama, na udugu wa viongozi wa vyama hivyo); these did NOT exist in Cameroon, for, as we have seen above, their Federal structure “was designed to meet the challenges posed by Cameroon’s racial, tribal, religious, and political diversity, which is a clear acknowledgement of their existence therein.
The real danger is that these dissimilarities could easily tempt some of our people to relax, and even make the risky assumption that because of these dissimilarities, what is happening in Cameroon cannot happen to us.
But such assumption would be risky, because these dissimilarities are not the principal cause of the current conflict in Cameroon, which in fact is, as was explained above, ‘the foolish policy of their Union leaders, to treat the residents of the smaller (Anglophone) part of the Union as second class citizens in their own country’.
And the need to avoid that ‘foolishness’, was precisely the reason for crafting the two-government structure of our Union, in order to provide greater constitutional autonomy to Zanzibar (the smaller partner in the Union), in the management of their own (non- Union) internal affairs.
The structure of our Union In a document written by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere titled “Asili ya Muungano wa Serikali Mbili”, in which he explained at great length the reasons for adopting the twogovernment structure of our Union, Mwalimu Nyerere concluded his presentation with the following strong words: “Hatukutunga mfumo uliopo (wa Muungano wetu) kama wapumbavu. Tulitazama hali yetu halisi ilivyokuwa, na tukatengeneza mfumo uliotufaa zaidi katika hali hiyo”.
As everybody presumably knows, the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania makes specific provision in Chapter Four thereof, for the existence within Zanzibar, of: “Serikali ya Mapinduzi ya Zanzibar (articles 102 to 104); Baraza la Mapinduzi la Zanzibar (article 105); Baraza la Wawakilishi la Zanzibar (articles 106 and 107) and Mahakama Kuu ya Zanzibar (articles 114 and 115).
In other words, although Zanzibar is not a sovereign State, the Union Constitution provides Zanzibar with all the requisite three pillars of state governance, namely the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judicial Branches of any sovereign State. Additionally, article 102 (2) also provides for Zanzibar to have its own State Constitution.
There is therefore no chance for anyone even attempting to treat Zanzibar in the manner in which Francophone Cameroon is reported to have treated Anglophone Cameroon, the smaller partner in their Union. This is because if that happens, it will be a blatant breach of the Union Constitution, and will be dealt with accordingly.
Source: Daily News by Pius Msekwa ( former Speaker of Parliament and Vice Chair of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the Tanzania's ruling party).