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The Question of Insecurity in the Southern Cameroons Reunification Debate


By Joseph Nfi

[Published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 73 (December 2011), pp. 53-66]


The most significant outcome of the First World War in Cameroon was the defeat of Germany and the partition of Cameroon. When hostilities ended in February 1916, Britain and France partitioned German Cameroon. Britain obtained two disconnected territories which totalled 88,000km² with a population of 500,000 people. France obtained 432,000km² with two million people. Britain therefore surrendered four-fifths of the land to France in order to boost French morale in the war and enable France to use the port of Douala as a waterway into the interior of French Equatorial Africa. Britain was in need of only a slender portion of Cameroon in order to adjust the eastern borders of Nigeria. The Anglo-French boundary dislocated a people who had been united for close to thirty years by the German plantations, schools, mission-stations, trade centers, railways, ports and firms. It also divided ethnic groups, families, polities, linguistic communities, and trade partners. Despite these shortcomings the international community approved the boundary in 1922 and Britain and France were commissioned to administer their respective portions as mandate ‘B’ territories of the League of Nations.

The narrow, elongated and separated strips of territory that constituted British Cameroons had a very poor transportation and communication network. There were no ethnic, political or even cultural links between the inhabitants in the north and those in the south of the territory. The south, with its German owned plantations, mission stations, schools, roads, etc, was socio-economically more advanced than the north. In fact the north of the territory appeared to the British as a natural part of the Fulani-dominated Northern Nigeria. For these reasons, the British further partitioned British Cameroons in 1922 into British Northern Cameroons and British Southern Cameroons. The British Southern Cameroons was administered as part of Southern Nigeria between 1922 and 1946. In 1946 the territory became a UN trust territory and was administered as one of the provinces of the Eastern Region of Nigeria following the Richards Constitution of that year[1]. The Second Word War, the introduction of the trusteeship system and other post-war developments outside and within Nigeria and the Southern Cameroons in particular, gave birth to militant nationalism and the struggle for independence.

By 1955, the nationalists in the territory can be seen as having been divided into three major camps. Besides the most popular camp, which sought an independent Southern Cameroons state but was constantly suppressed by the British, there were two others: J.N. Foncha and the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) stood for secession from Nigeria and ultimate reunification with French Cameroon. The political refugees from French Cameroon who arrived in the Southern Cameroons in 1955 also advocated reunification with French Cameroon. The final camp was dominated by Dr. E.M.L Endeley and N.N. Mbile, leaders of the Kamerun National Congress (KNC) and Kamerun Peoples’ Party (KPP) respectively. They argued that the best option for the Southern Cameroons was to gain independence as an autonomous state within Nigeria. With this division, and after the failure of several attempts to reconcile the protagonists, the British, who favoured independence with Nigeria, manoeuvred the UN to organise a plebiscite in the Southern Cameroons in 1961. The plebiscite had two alternatives. The people were to choose between independence with Nigeria and independence with French Cameroon (reunification). The two camps had five fundamental realities to deal with in the plebiscite campaign. These were:

  • A deep-seated antipathy towards Nigerians, especially the Igbo people, felt by much of the Southern Cameroon population[2].
  • A general attachment to ‘British ways’ due to close to forty years of British administration.
  • A feeling of community with certain French Cameroon peoples especially those at the borders who were ethnically related to some Southern Cameroons groups.
  • A general antipathy toward ‘French ways’ due to the corvée, indigenat, high taxes, political persecutions, land expropriation, appointment of warrant chiefs, etc.
  • A fear of terrorists from the Cameroon Republic (French Cameroon) and general political instability.[3]

It was the fear of terrorism that the anti-reunificationists emphasised most during the plebiscite campaigns, with the hope that British ‘attachment’ would neutralise the antipathy towards Nigerians, and, likewise, antipathy toward ‘French ways’ would neutralise the community spirit among French Cameroon people. What, therefore, were the indicators or evidence that the Southern Cameroons was threatened by terrorism and how did the anti-reunificationists exploit these fears?

Evidence of terrorist threats in the Southern Cameroons

Between July 1955 and October 1, 1961 there existed apparent and genuine threats of terrorist attacks on the Southern Cameroons. In July 1955, the Union des population du Cameroun (UPC) was banned in French Cameroon following a series of riots from 22-30 May reportedly instigated by the party. As a result, close to 5000 UPC freedom fighters led by Roland Moumie, Abel Kingue and Ernest Oaundie arrived the Southern Cameroons between May and December 1995[4]. The UPC refugees settled in Kumba, Muyuka, Ebonji, Bamenda, Santa, Tiko, Victoria, Misselele, Awing, Guzang and other towns. A good number of these freedom fighters came with their firearms and it was feared they could use them to achieve their much cherished goals of immediate independence and reunification. The British and French colonial administrators constantly reminded the indigenes of the Southern Cameroons that these immigrants were dangerous and unwanted people.

While in the Southern Cameroon, they remained in contact with the Maquis in the Bamileke and Mungo Districts in French Cameroon. Maquis or Maquisards were the UPC freedom fighters who went underground or in to hiding in order to continue the struggle for the ‘liberation of Kamerun’ following the 1955 ban on the UPC. Kumba, the UPC headquarters from May 1955, also served as an important transit point for the smuggling of weapons from Fernando Po to the Maquis[5].  The arrival of armed UPC freedom fighters in 1955 and the continuous escape of elements of the Maquis into the border zones of the Southern Cameroons were sufficient to provoke fears of possible ‘terrorism’ or even a war of liberation in the territory.

Fears of possible UPC initiated instability increased in July 1956 when R. J. K. Dibongue, a French Cameroonian and one of the foremost reunificationists and advocates for French Cameroonian rights in the territory, became a staunch opponent of the UPC. In an article in the Daily Times, he labeled the UPC a communist party and warned that its activities might ‘lead to bloodshed in the near future’ if it was not banned[6]. This prediction of possible bloodshed coming from a man who defended the interest of French Cameroonians and who initiated the reunification struggle in the Southern Cameroons was taken seriously by the British and the political and traditional elite in the Southern Cameroons[7].

On August 4, 1956, the UPC offices in Bamenda were destroyed by fire. On December 12, 1956 the office in Santa was also destroyed by fire. The Bamenda fire incident occurred in the night following a very successful political rally organised by Roland Moumie. The fire disasters seem to have confirmed the fears expressed by Dibongue in his newspaper report a month earlier. In order to provoke fears of imminent terrorism and discredit the reunificationists, the British blamed the incidents on freedom fighters coming from French Cameroon[8]. Although those involved in the fire disasters were not actually known, it appeared that the culprits were Southern Cameroonians who wanted to discredit the UPC. The British certainly achieved their objective in the handling of the fire disasters because many Southern Cameroonians and even some earlier immigrants from French Cameroon started distancing themselves from the UPC on grounds that it promoted violence. In a letter to the commissioner of the Cameroons in 1956, the DO for Victoria Division, A.K. Wright indicated that the UPC leaders had no support even among their ‘country men’ in the division.

With these accusations from Dibongue and the British, many Southern Cameroonians wanted the UPC banned. In March 1957, UPC was defeated in legislative elections. On May 30, 1957 the party was outlawed due to fear that it could use violence to challenge what it called ‘election rigging’ in 1957. It was also feared that UPC activities in the territory, especially the building of a secretariat in Santa quite close to the borders with French Cameroon, might encourage raids by French authorities[9]. British official reports therefore indicated that the UPC was banned and its leaders deported because the party was ‘a threat to law and order’ in the Southern Cameroons as it could resort to violence to achieve its objectives[10]. This was not the real issue. The British like the French, wanted to weaken the struggle of the African people to achieve their independence. The ban on the UPC was therefore intended to suppress the desires of the people for freedom; especially freedom through the UPC conceived reunification.

When the UPC leaders were deported, Joseph Innocent Nkamsi, Benedict Yalla Eballa and George Mbaraga (UPCists from French Cameroon) rallied behind Ndeh Ntumazah, a British protected person, to form the One Kamerun (OK). They needed someone of immense political clout in the Southern Cameroons in order to be shielded from the British colonial authorities. Ntumazah was therefore an agent of the new reunification wagon (OK) driven by immigrants from French Cameroon. In order to continue to give the impression that terrorism was imminent, the British systematically arrested OK militants, most of them French Cameroonians, on the grounds that they possessed firearms and drugs. This was why six OK militants were arrested in Santa and repatriated to French Cameroon in March 1958[11].

Apart from British–fabricated evidence of terrorists threats, the border between the two Cameroons was heavily militarised, especially the camps set up by the UPC freedom fighters. This was a genuine source of insecurity. In August 1958, a camp of terrorists was discovered in Penja close to the border. Forty-three people were arrested equipped with bullet-proof jacket liners, bullets, machetes, clubs, iron rods and an open letter to all their combating colleagues and sympathisers[12].  On November 21, 1958 an armed group attacked the Gardes Camerounais at Forkana, Loum about 500 meters from the frontier with the Southern Cameroons[13]. On May 17, 1960, the Southern Cameroon police, assisted by Nigerian military units, arrested twenty-seven people and secured a large amount of arms, military clothing and money in the freedom fighter’s camp situated just on the Southern Cameroon side of the frontier in a remote part of the country[14]. In September 1960 a Nigerian army patrol also seized a large sum of money (£11,000) and ammunition worth about £5,000 from UPCists in Kumba who were preparing to send it to the Republic of Cameroon[15]. These and other reports of freedom fighter raids in Santa, Tombel and other border towns caused panic in the Southern Cameroons.

On February 13, 1961, Deputy Commissioner Milne wrote to the Premier Foncha informing him of 54 people (17 Igbo, and 27 French Cameroonians) convicted of offences involving the unlawful possession of dangerous weapons (revolvers, rifles or revolver ammunition). According to the secret dispatch, the figures did not ‘take any account of the large number of arms and rounds of ammunition recovered from freedom fighter’s camps in the vicinity of the eastern frontier’[16]. These events on the eve of the plebiscite sent a chill down the spines of even the most ardent proponents of reunification. Endeley, Mbile and the British/Nigerian authorities had to exploit these genuine and apparent evidences of imminent terrorism to discredit UPC and the reunificationists. Unfortunately they emphasised this issue of insecurity during the plebiscite campaigns too much, consequently neglecting other realities such as the feeling of community with certain French Cameroon people and the deep-seated antipathy towards the Igbo felt by a majority of the Southern Cameroonians.

Insecurity as a campaign weapon against reunification

In October 1959, the UN finally settled on two plebiscite questions for the Southern Cameroons. The questions were: Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent federation of Nigeria? Or: Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the Independent Republic of Cameroon?[17]

The anti-reunificationists (KNC-KPP alliance, British and Nigerian authorities) saw the UN decision to ignore the call for a third option (a separate Southern Cameroon State) as a victory because ‘no one would choose the unsecured, and even dangerous second alternative’[18]. Indeed Endeley and Mbile had hoped that the Southern Cameroonians would prefer to remain an integral part of the Federation of Nigeria rather than vote for immediate reunification. According to Mbile ‘reunification, especially at the time of the UPC unrest was so unpalatable … that Southern Cameroonians would only choose its alternative’[19]. In 1960, the chiefs and their spokesman Achirimbi II of Bafut further increased the optimism of the integrationists when he rejected reunification by describing French Cameroon as ‘Fire’.  The majority of people in the Southern Cameroons, including most of the chiefs, strongly condemned the two plebiscite alternatives and manifested widespread opposition to the questions proposed throughout 1960. They were demanding secession.

The much dramatised imminent terrorism therefore pushed the KNC-KPP alliance, which became the Cameroon People’s National Congress (CPNC) following a merger of the two parties in 1960, to take very little and join the plebiscite campaigns late on. The CPNC limited its efforts to the towns, thereby leaving the rural areas to the KNDP, OK and other reunificationists[20]. While the KNDP was engaging with bread-and-butter issues and playing on ethnic sentiments, the anti-reunificationists contented themselves by painting an image of the dangers of life with the Republic of Cameroon.

During the campaigns, the anti-reunificationists such as Endeley and Mbile constantly reminded the electorate that ‘Twenty-five thousand Cameroonians have fled that territory, but none has fled British Cameroons for French Cameroon’ and that ‘people are killed daily on the streets of Douala and Yaounde’[21]. In a printed plebiscite message to the Southern Cameroon voters, the CPNC asked the following questions:

Who amongst you would like to live in a country where your life and property are constantly in danger?
Who amongst you, peaceful citizens of the Southern Cameroons will like to live in a country where you  may be shot at as you move along the street, or you wife killed as she toils on the farm?
Who amongst you, good citizens…will like to live in a land  where people’s houses and shops are burnt every day and looted; where you can be arrested without a fair trial?
Who amongst you would like to live in French Cameroon, a country red with the blood of thousands of innocent victims killed by terrorist and the Ahidjo regime?
Surely none of you.
That is what will be our lot if we join French Cameroon.
In French Cameroon, there is no place for Chiefs. There is no House of Chiefs…
In the Southern Cameroons and Nigeria, political differences are settled by argument and by the ballot box.
In French Cameroon political differences are settled by guns and poison.[22]

The content of this plebiscite message pamphlet was widely distributed in the urban areas, indicating the importance the CPNC attached to the question of insecurity and the party’s belief that terrorist threats on the Southern Cameroons were sufficient to woo the electorate to choose union with Nigeria.

Nigerian officials who attempted to work against reunification also focused on the issue of insecurity, down–playing the important reality of Southern Cameroonians’ deep-seated antipathy to Nigerians in general and Igbo in particular. For example, in a broadcast on the Southern Cameroons Plebiscite, January 22, 1961, the Nigeria Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa said:

With Nigeria … you can be assured of the security of the rule of law, the protection of your lives and houses and farms … And now ask yourselves what is the alternative. You would throw your lot in with a country which unfortunately has been torn in recent years by civil wars.[23]

This statement indicated that Nigerian authorities and the anti-reunificationists counted very much on the electorate’s fear of political instability to tilt the balance in their favour. Nigeria therefore failed to provide the KNC-KPP alliance and later the CPNC with adequate resources for the plebiscite campaigns despite an appeal letter from Dibongue in 1960.  Dibongue[24] asked the Nigerian Minister of Finance Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh to provide the CPNC with 12 Land Rovers or trucks, £10,000 as a starter and a team of propaganda experts. These resources could have enabled the CPNC to counter the anti-Nigerian declarations of the reunificationists. There is no evidence that anything was given. No statement was issued to counter claims by the reunificationists that independence with Nigeria could lead to Igbo colonisation of the Southern Cameroons.

Although the British authorities were not directly involved in the plebiscite campaigns, they fabricated and exploited the fear of insecurity to promote the cause of integration with Nigeria. Firstly, in September 1960, Britain sent troops to the territory to replace two battalions of the Nigerian army that had to leave by October 1, 1960. The first unit to be sent was the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Border Regiment plus supporting troops. Its role was to assist the civil authorities in the maintenance of law and order and public morale, and to ‘act as a deterrent against terrorism and other subversive activities’[25]. In fact with 500 troops, this army was essentially to alert the people about terrorism and intimidate them during the plebiscite to reject reunification. The King’s Own Border Regiment was followed by the Grenadier Guards which was essentially out to police the polls during the plebiscite.

When the electorate opted for reunification on February 11, 1960, the British decided that all troops in the territory should leave by October 1961. During the Bamenda All Party Preliminary Constitutional Conference of June 1961, J.O. Field said categorically that; ‘the British troops now in the Southern Cameroon would be withdrawn when the U.K. trusteeship over the territory comes to an end on October 1, 1961’[26]. However, this was not the first time the British announced the imminent departure of their troops. On February 7 and May 4, 1960, it was announced in the British House of Commons that all troops in the trust territory would return home at the end of the trusteeship. Field’s statement at the Bamenda Conference caused panic not because it was not expected but because of the situation in French Cameroon and the violence in Belgian Congo.

The announcement of the imminent departure of British troops, just like the arrival, reminded the people of terrorism in the Republic of Cameroon and the fear that it could spread to the territory. The Southern Cameroons had no police or security forces. About 150 Cameroonians were serving in the Nigerian police and armed services and the repatriation of this number could not guarantee security. Foncha therefore had to react. He protested against the withdrawal of British forces without any arrangement for other security measures. He pleaded with the British to undertake speedily the training and equipping of a military force which would provide security for the Southern Cameroons after October 1, 1961[27].

The British anti-reunification campaign on the grounds of a possible break down of security found an echo in the editorials of many British magazines and newspapers. In the West Africa issues of August and September 1961, the magazine predicted that the reunification of October 1 would be followed by terrorist invasion of the Southern Cameroons. This newspaper opinion followed the incident of August 8, 1961 during which approximately thirty armed and uniformed Africans entered the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) camp of Ebudu near Tombel and murdered twelve CDC workers.[28]

The incident pushed the British to send home all expatriate female staff and the wives and families of expatriate personnel. The embassy staff of at least one foreign country drew up plans to evacuate its nationals. The official homes of all senior CDC personnel were fenced and made ‘terrorist proof’ by all sorts of devices and improvisations. In addition, a huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition was built up in Bota in order that any terrorist attack could easily be beaten off[29]. It should be stated that the CDC harboured a very powerful anti-reunification lobby and the battle cry of a possible terrorist attack on the territory was loudest in the corporation. As such, the corporation spent 35 million Francs on ‘security expenses’ in 1961. This was in fact an expensive attempt by the British to scare the citizens away from the path to reunification.

In September, 1961, Samuel Fosso, Martin Njimi and François Tadje, members of the Armée de la libération Nationale du Kamerun (ALNK) were arrested in the Southern Cameroons after training in China[30]. That same month, one American and two Swiss protestant missionaries reported the presence of two Czechs and one Chinese at a small border village, Nyasoso, working with the terrorists from French Cameroon. It was reported that these terrorist agents had been there since June, 1961 and it was believed that they were training the UPC freedom fighters. These were evidence of threats to the security of the Southern Cameroons and both Ahidjo and Foncha had to work together to ensure peace.

The reunificationist reactions to the question of insecurity

The anti-reunificationists were taken aback when on February 11, 1961 about 233,571 Cameroonians voted for Union with the Republic of Cameroon as against 97,741 for integration with Nigeria despite their warnings about terrorism. They were also surprised when the transfer of sovereignty from Malcom Milne to Ahmadou Ahidjo went smoothly on October 1, 1961. The much publicised problem of insecurity did not produce the desired effects on the reunification process because of the astute handling of the insecurity question by Foncha.

To begin with, the menace of terrorism was more apparent than real. It was largely fabricated and exaggerated by the British, probably because of their experience with terrorism in Cyprus and Malaya or because of the horrific example of neighbouring Belgian Congo or Zaire[31]. The CPNC also drummed up the issue because it was apparently a reliable campaign weapon against reunification. The exaggeration of the problem of insecurity was based on the events of 1955 in French Cameroon and information from travellers who painted a picture of terror in French Cameroon. But such was not the case in the Southern Cameroons as the British authorities did not take severe measures similar to those taken by the French authorities to dislocate the UPC or its successor, the OK. Active terrorism could only thrive on a true grievance and there was no grievance as such on the British side. Secondly the British were held in high regard by the public on both sides of the Southern Cameroon – Republic of Cameroon borders and although the maquis had camps on the British side, there were firm instruction given against terrorist acts on the British side[32]. Lastly, the UPC never actually established a strong and sustained base of support in the territory because of its radical nationalism that seemed to have alienated even some of its most ardent supporters among the French Cameroonian immigrants.

Also what appeared to be terrorist raids and atrocities were most often not conducted by the freedom fighters. For example on April 25, 1958 twenty soldiers raped pregnant women and a ten year old girl at Fokoue village close to the boundary and this incident was erroneously blamed on the terrorists[33]. The massacre of August 8, 1961 at Ebudu was also committed by French Cameroon security forces. British authorities who investigated the incident had evidence that the culprits were members of the security forces of the Republic of Cameroon. Milne, the acting Commissioner, asked them to accept blame, apologise and pay compensation and they refused. What many considered as terrorist or UPC freedom fighters’ atrocities were therefore acts of vandalism carried out by Ahidjo’s soldiers who took advantage of the situation at the borders.

Besides, Foncha and the reunificationists did much to neutralise the problem of insecurity whenever it was real. Firstly, Foncha was tolerant towards the UPC refugees and potential terrorists in the Southern Cameroon. For example, on March 2, 1960 Foncha granted audience to the freedom fighters in Kumba led by Mr. Njinta. The refugees requested him to use his good offices to contact Ahidjo and plead for a total and unconditional amnesty for the terrorists[34]. In reply, Foncha promised to serve as an arbitrator between the refugees and Ahidjo. He told the refugees that terrorism in the Republic of Cameroon would not deter his government from pushing ahead with plans for reunification to which it was dedicated[35]. With these reassuring promises, Njinta and his gang could no longer contemplate terrorist activities.

The rapprochement between Foncha and the potential terrorists did not prevent Foncha from using force against those found guilty. In this connection, many UPCists in possession of firearms or suspected of dangerous activities were either repatriated to the Republic of Cameroon where they were executed or were jailed in the Southern Cameroons. For example, in February 1961, Zami Daniel, Joseph Wambo, Njuteneze Andreas, Kamga Sylvestre, Jekhu Jacob and Kwangam Pierre were imprisoned for possessing arms, ammunition and UPC documents[36]. These political and judicial anti-terrorist measures were frequent between 1959 and 1961 and they certainly scared potential terrorists.

Foncha also attempted to neutralise increasing fears of insecurity by appeasing victims of terrorism or organised raids. This was the strategy adopted by Foncha and Ahidjo after the August 8, 1961 raid on Ebudu that killed 12 CDC workers[37]. After the incident, Dr. E.M.L. Endeley, the opposition leader, called on the two governments to act fast and punish the culprits as the massacre was a threat to reunification. In response, Ahidjo dispatched a delegation of two to Buea on August 15, on a fact finding mission. After a meeting with Foncha, he issued a press statement stating that the two governments were to conduct full investigations and that whoever was guilty of this ‘cruel murder’ was to be severely punished[38]. Foncha and Ahidjo’s envoys, Mr. Mvie Restaud and Colonel Blanc, accompanied by the representative of the Cameroon Republic in Buea, Mr. Epo Manfred visited the scene of the crime and donated 50 to the relatives of the victims[39]. Speaking at the scene, Mvie Restaud promised that the Ahidjo government was going to guarantee their security and do all they could to apprehend and punish the criminals. Although the culprits were never captured or punished, the £50 and the promises were consoling enough to deter the relations of the victims from obstructing the reunification process and from seeing insecurity as a real threat to reunification.

The reunificationists also used the media, especially the magazine West Africa, to contradict British claims on the possible break down of law and order after reunification. A communiqué issued by the Yaounde government in August 1961 denounced ‘with the greatest energy’, the ‘manoeuvres of London’s sensational papers’, concerning possible disturbances in the Southern Cameroons. The objective of such intoxicating information, the communiqué continued, was the creation of ‘fear psychosis’ in order to frighten away foreign capital investment[40]. The Buea government also condemned newspaper publications in London on alleged insecurity in the Southern Cameroons. Foncha’s press statement was as follows:

Of recent, an unwarranted alarm has been raised in the British press about terrorist activities in the Southern Cameroons and very incorrect accounts have been made by irresponsible agents of certain British newspapers relating particularly to the personal safety of white families in the Southern Cameroons.

I wish to deny emphatically that terrorism is sweeping through the Southern Cameroon and to say that the reports originate from disgruntled persona-non-grata who, unaccepted and unable to continue to stay in the Southern Cameroon after unification on October 1, wish to discourage every other persons from staying, and to instill doubts in the minds of foreign investors who might be interested in investing in the territory.

I call on the British press to adopt a much more responsible approach than their agents, in reporting developments and activities in the Southern Cameroon.[41]

Foncha made it clear to his people and the international community that the terrorist menace in the Southern Cameroons was blown out of proportion by the British and those who wanted integration with Nigeria. These reactions from the governments of the two Cameroons consoled many on the eve of the transfer of sovereignty. At this time there was widespread recognition in the Southern Cameroons of the need to acquire well-equipped and trained police and armed forces. Foncha therefore called home Southern Cameroonians serving with the Nigerian police and forces who were willing to serve the fatherland. Additional forces were also received from the sister state of East Cameroon. About 400 gendarmes[42] were stationed in West Cameroon following reunification.  Terrorism was therefore avoided before, during and after the plebiscite.


The question of insecurity was top on the list of issues that influenced the reunification debate in the Southern Cameroons. It originated from the 1955 UPC rebellion in French Cameroon that led to civil war and the mass exodus of UPC freedom fighters into the Southern Cameroons. The anti-reunificationists concluded that with the presence of UPCists and terrorist camps in the territory there was considerable danger. Sporadic raids from terrorist camps in French Cameroon pushed the British, who had bad memories of terrorism elsewhere and who were ready to discredit reunification, to exaggerate the reality of terrorist threats. This became their main weapon against reunification. Unfortunately for them, Foncha was able to bargain with the UPCists and collaborate with Ahidjo between 1959 and 1961 to neutralise all potential threats of terrorism, paving the way for the victory of the reunificationists in the 1961 plebiscite and a smooth transfer of sovereignty in the Southern Cameroon on October 1, 1961.

Joseph Nfi
is a Lecturer of African Civilisations and Politics in the Department of History, University of Buea, Cameroon and has a special interest in ethnicity and ethnic politics in Africa, and Cameroon in particular.


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Underdevelopment, Platteville: Nkemnji Global Tech, 2002.

Amaazee, V., The Igbo Factor in the Politics of the Southern Cameroons

1916-1961, PhD Thesis in History, University of Calabar, 1995.

Ardener, E.O., ‘Crisis of Confidence in the Cameroons’, in West Africa,

August 12, 1961.

CPNC, Plebiscite Message to all Voters of the Cameroons, Buea, n.p., 1960.

Daily Times, September 14, 1960

Daily Times, July 16, 1956

Ebune, J., The Growth of Political Parties in the Southern Cameroons 1916-

1960, Yaounde, CEPER, 1992.

Epale, S.J., Plantation and Development in Western Cameroon 1885-1975: A

Study in Agrarian Capitalism, Los Angeles, Vantage Press, 1985.

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Milne, M., No Telephone to Heaven, London, MEON Hill Press, 1998.

NAB file vb/b1951/1, UPC

filevb/b1957/3, The Union of the Populations of Cameroon

file Aa/1958/59, Intelligence Report on Political Activities

file vb/b1960/5, Repatriations

Ngoh, V.J., Southern Cameroons 1922-1961: A Constitutional History,

Ashgate, Athenaeum Press, 2001.

Nzume, A., British and French Administration of Peoples on the Southern Borderlands of Cameroon. The Case of the Anglo-French Inter-Cameroon Boundary, 1916-1961, PhD Thesis in History, University of London, 2004.

Takougang, J., The ‘Union des Populations du Cameroun and its Southern

Cameroons connection’, in Revue Française d’Histoire d’Autre-mer, no. 83, 1996, pp7-24.

West Cameroon Press Release no. 689, March 1960

no. 1209, February 6, 1961

no. 1416, June 27, 1961

no. 1428, July 1, 1961

no. 1505, August, 1961

no. 1509, August, 1961

no. 1522, August, 1961

[1] For details on this and other constitutional developments in the Southern Cameroons, see V.J. Ngoh, Southern Cameroons, 1922 – 1961: A constitutional History, Ashgate, Athenaeum Press, 2001.

[2] For a better understanding of the reasons for this antiparty towards the Igbo, see, V. Amaazee, “ The Igbo Factor in the Politics of the Southern Cameroons, 1916 – 1961”, PhD Thesis in History, University of Calabar, 1995

[3] E.O. Ardener, ‘Crisis of Confidence in the Cameroons’, West Africa, August 12, 1961

[4] NAB, file vb/b 1951/1, UPC

[5] NAB, file Aa /1958/59, Intelligence Report on political Activities

[6] Daily Times, July 16, 1956

[7] Dibongue and J. H. Ngu founded the French Cameroon Welfare Union (FCWU) in 1948 and immediately petitioned for reunification.

[8] NAB, file vb/b 1957/3, The Union of the populations of Cameroon

[9] J.Takougang, ‘The Union des Populations du Cameroon and its Southern Cameroons connections’ in Revue Française d’Histoire d’Autre-mer, no 83, 1996, pp7-24

[10] NAB, file vb/b 1975/3

[11] Takougang, Union des populations du Cameroun , p11

[12] Nzume, ‘British and French Administration of Peoples on the Southern Borderlands of Cameroon. The Case of the Anglo-French Inter-Cameroon Boundary, 1916-1961’, PhD Thesis in History, University of London, 2004, p198

[13] Ibid

[14] M. Milne, No Telephone to Heaven, London, MEON Hill Press, 1999 p412

[15] Daily Times, September 14, 1960

[16] NAB, file vb/b1960/5, Repatriations, p27

[17] The territory French Cameroon became independent on January 1, 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon.

[18] Ardener, ‘Crisis of confidence in the Cameroons’

[19] Cited in E.A. Aka, The British Southern Cameroons 1922-1960: A study in Colonialism and Underdevelopment, Platteville, Nkemnji Global Tech, 2002, p231

[20] J. Ebune, The Growth of Political Parties in Southern Cameroons 1916 – 1960, Yaounde, CEPER, 1992, p190

[21] Cameroons Champion, February 8, 1961

[22] CPNC, Plebiscite Message to all Voters of the Cameroons, Buea, n.p., 1960, pp7-8

[23] Cited in W.Johnson, the Cameroon Federation: Political Integration in a Fragmentary Society, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1970, p149

[24] Dibongue who was one of the promoters of the idea of reunification, abandoned reunification in the late 1950’s in favour of integration with Nigeria. Many scholars believe that he was wooed into integration by Endeley who made him Chairman of the Southern Cameroons Developmemt Agency and arranged his marriage with Julie Dibongue, a young Bakweri girl. Others claim that he abandoned reunification when the Douala authorities prevented him from building in Douala. He claimed that UPC radicalism and violence discredited reunification.

[25] Milne, No Telephone to Heaven, p142

[26] West Cameroon Press-Release No 1416, 27 June 1961

[27] West Cameroon Press Release, No 1428, 1 July 1961

[28] West Cameroon Press Release, No 1505, August 1961

[29] S.J. Epale, plantation and development in West Cameroon 1885-1975 : A study in Agrarian Capitalism, Los Angeles, Vantage Press, 1985, p177

[30] Nzume, British and French Administration of Peoples, p204

[31] Milne, No Telephone to Heaven, p.441.  The precipitated independence in the Belgian Congo resulted in a civil war that was quite costly in terms of human and material damage.

[32] Ibid

[33] Nzume, “British and French Administration of Peoples”, p198

[34] West Cameroon Press Release, No 689, March 1960

[35] Ibid.

[36] West Cameroon Press Release No, 1209, February 6, 1961

[37] Investigations revealed that this massacre was carried out by the Gardes civiques and not by UPC terrorists.

[38]Milne, No Telephone to Heaven, p440

[39] West Cameroon Press Release, No 1509, August 1961

[40] West Africa, 19 August 1961

[41] West Cameroon Press Release No 1522, August 1961

[42] Many people considered the Republic’s Gendarmes to be as brutal as the terrorists because travelers returning from the Republic told of having seen the heads of alleged terrorists impaled on stakes in front of gendarme’s camps and along the roads of troubled areas.

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