The unrest in Hong Kong depicts a broader frustration of not only these islanders, but hordes of former British colonial possessions. It historically highlights Britain’s insensitivity to the pain citizens of some of its former possessions are witnessing. Apart from Hong Kong, a string of former British territories are undergoing agitations and strive against their new colonial masters imposed on them by the bequeathing British authorities. Eritrea had to regain its independence from Ethiopia thru a brutal war of independence that saw about 570,000 lives lost for it to achieve what the British willfully denied her, when they handed the territory over to Ethiopia.The British colony of the Southern Cameroons has been in a genocidal civil war since November 2016, with its British-imposed administering masters – France and French Cameroun or La Republique du Cameroun. Here more than 20,000 people have been killed. The Volta Region in Ghana is threatening to regain their own freedom from their British-imposed masters – Ghana. The history and origin of Boko Haram, points to the neglect of the portions of British Northern Cameroons, that was forced to join Nigeria in 1961. Former Boko Haram towns like Baga, Bama, Marte, Magdali, Chibok and Gwoza, are all areas in the former British Northern Cameroons.
how did we get here?
Post-WWI marked the second balkanization of Africa. Just like Berlin, almost 30 years earlier, the victorious powers with one defeated power – France, found themselves on the decision-making table in 1919. In addition to reparations from Germany, Britain and France shared the losers’ colonial possessions. In some of the possessions like German Kamerun and Togoland, the territories were split again between the UK and France, with no input from the Africans, just like in Berlin in 1884/85. In German Kamerun, the British took just a smaller portion (20%) and attached to its earlier possession – Nigeria. The same smaller section of Togoland (Volta Region) was attached to Gold Coast (Ghana). In the case of Eritrea, (after Italy was defeated in WWII), the British looted the territory and later enmeshed her with Ethiopia, with no input from the Africans.
During the struggle for independence in the 1960s, while the French were willing to make their own possessions independent countries, as mandated by the UN Trusteeship Council , the British unilaterally with the complicity of some UN member states denied their own possessions the right to self rule or full independence, thus laying the foundation for most of the conflicts we find in Africa today. These territories were forced as (minorities) into a so-called independence by becoming part of other countries; a gross violation of the UN Trusteeship Mandate, which was to prepare the UN Trust Territories for self-autonomy or independence. Worst of it was the absence of firm guarantees of these countries’ unique linguistic, cultural and colonial legacies inherited from the British as they joined (in the case of Southern Cameroons and Eritrea) completely different countries with different cultures and systems. In 1961 for example, the British colony of Cameroons (Northern and Southern Cameroons) were asked whether they wanted to gain independence by joining either Nigeria or La Republique du Cameroun (French Cameroun); both countries that had got their independence in 1960. Like Hong Kong, the British refused to seek the opinions of the citizens of these territories whether they wanted to gain independence as separate countries; a choice the French gave to their own portions.The French at no time ever asked their own portions whether they wanted to gain independence by joining the British portions.This notion of full independence by joining other independent countries, defeated the very purpose of independence, as no one gains independence by becoming part of another country. Talk less of dumping them into bigger and more powerful countries with no firm guarantee of their minority rights.
Atiku abubakar is not a nigerian
The results of these conditional independence for these former British territories have been catastrophic. The section of the Cameroons that was forced to join Nigeria in 1961 – today parts of Borno, Taraba and Adamawa states in Nigeria, have been marginalized leading to the birth of Boko Haram. (Read exhaustive details here). Till date, they remain neglected and treated as non-full citizens of Nigeria. The region has the second highest poverty rate in Nigeria. In April (2019), the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), of President Buhari, stated categorically that the opposition Presidential contender Mr. Atiku Abubakar, of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was not a Nigerian, and thus can’t be president of the country It was a direct reference to British Northern Cameroons that only became part of Nigeria, more than a year(1961) after Nigeria’s independence (in 1960). Mr. Atiku, no doubt was born in British Northern Cameroons village of Jade in 1946. The region will not be part of Nigeria until 1961, when the British in complicity with the UNO, violated terms of the Trusteeship Council. A violation still endorsed by the UN today, despite the bloodshed it is causing these former colonies that were denied full independence.
From Marginalization to genocide
The same marginalization became the modus operandi in the British Southern Cameroons – the section that joined French Cameroun. The British like with Hong Kong, principally handed over the territory to the Bigger French Cameroun and France, hoping for an equal treatment. It did not happen. La Republique du Cameroon (French Cameroun), abolished the Federation of the two countries, militarized the territory and introduced a robust assimilation process. French teachers and administrators were sent to the territory. The British judicial system of the territory was systematically abolished with French judges to administer the French Civil Judicial System to a territory that practices the British Common Law System.Their crucial infrastructure like seaports and airports were abandoned. The once self-governing people of British Southern Cameroons practically became a colony of France and French Cameroun with its people treated as second class citizens. Their well-established democratic culture was abolished. It is worth remembering that in 1959 British Southern Cameroons, then a self-autonomous territory, organized democratic elections for a third time and affected the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 20th Century Africa . Any agitations against their treatment were violently crushed by the majority French-speaking country.
Complains Ignored: These complaints and agitations over the years to the British authorities to correct the error and the UN to respect its Trusteeship Articles of granting full independence to the former UN Trust Territories have been met with silent rebuke, thanks to a robust French lobbying influence. Like Atiku Abubakar, the English people of British Southern Cameroons who joined French Cameroun were made clear by the French majority that none of them will ever rule Cameroun. They have been called several names like the Biafrans (meaning they are Nigerians), dogs, and cubes of sugar ready to dissolve into the bigger French pond, enemies in the house etc. The result is a genocidal civil war, that has been raging on since 2016. More than 20,000 people killed and more than 10,000 homes burnt (click here for detailes and images) by the French Cameroun military supported by France to complete the assimilation of the English-speaking people.
UK Missing in Action
While the French and Francophonie have robustly supported the French Cameroun to complete the colonization/assimilation of the British Cameroons, Britain and the Commonwealth have stayed on the sidelines, acting like colonies of France, even with demonstrable Atrocity Crimes. The U.S Government recently scaled back its military aid to French Cameroun citing questionable human rights abuses. The British reaction has been to pump in more money ($1.5m) to the French Cameroun government to defend their oil interest in the seas of British Cameroons, while their citizens are being killed and forced into exile by the French Cameroun military . About 75,000 are registered as refugees in Nigeria. Others are spread across English-speaking West African countries like Ghana. More than a million are also internally-displaced. Numerous organizations like the Norwegian Refugee Council describe the conflict as the most neglected in the world. Close to 10000 homes have been burnt and close to 20,000 civilians killed by the well-equipped and funded French Cameroun army (click here for more details)
Hong Kong: Lessons not Learnt by the British
The agitations in these regions forcefully joined to strange countries started long before the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to China. British authorities despised these concerns, despite warnings from the U.S State Department of an impending war in Cameroun due to the maltreatment of the English-speaking people by /France and /French Cameroun. Had the British Government paid any attention to these legitimate grievances in these other former dominoes, there is no doubt that it would have had an impact on Hong Kong, probably forestalling the unrest by helping the UK put in place robust guarantees that protect Hong Kong’s unique British colonial heritage of freedom and democracy, prior to the 1997 agreement with China. Like in Africa, the British shied away from directly asking the Hong Kong people about their future. The notion of one country, two systems was wishful thinking and gross naivety on the British. It did not happen in Eritrea, Nigeria, British Southern Cameroons, Volta Region, and will never happen in Hong Kong.
In all these cases, the majority has attempted to assimilate or erase the colonial identities of the smaller countries that joined them. The bogus claim of territorial integrity or domestic affair has been used to commit Atrocity Crimes on these minorities, even by countries that depend on foreign aid like La Republique du Cameroun (French Camerooun). Hong Kong is on the last leg of its complete annihilation of its English values. China will gradually wean the territory of any trace of western values. The writing is on the wall. Shanghai is increasingly being projected by the Chinese as the new financial capital of the area, instead of Hong Kong, acknowledged globally for that. The same scenario has been playing out in British Southern Cameroons for decades leading to the current civil war which is still being ignored by the British.
Britain’s Hypocritical Insensitivity
It is no coincidence that the unrest all involve British former colonies or spheres of influence like Kashmir, which became fodder for Pakistan and India. Britain had the power to constitute a holistic independent Kashmir before colonially-leaving the Indian-sub continent. Like British Cameroons, Eritrea, and recently the Volta Region in Ghana, the British have remained insensitive to the pain these former colonies are facing with their new colonial masters. They have also been busy pulling out of Europe (BREXIT), while shunning similar referendum for these aggrieved colonies. Nationalism is a stubborn feeling that once a people with legitimate and founded reasons rise to assert it, no amount of fire power or diplomatic hypocrisy can eliminate. At the heart of this is the colonial inheritance. African nationalism is centered on colonial lines, not religion or ethnic makeup. Central to this nationalism is language, which is a potent weapon of power and influence. The French know this and are bent on protecting and expanding their global influence through language. This explains their forced imposition of the French language in all facets in British Southern Cameroon. This is tantamount to nothing but re-colonization. The territory is administered by French Cameroun appointed administrators answerable to the French Cameroun authorities.(watch French Cameroun’s president admitting their assimilation plan of British Camroons). It is time the British stepped up and re-examine their colonial disasters and correct now to forestall the unrest and genocidal killings especially in British Southern Cameroons.
What about the treaties?
Some have argued about treaties signed in the case of Hong Kong, with China. No African country was colonized without treaties with the local chiefs or Kings. The Germans had those treaties. None was ever respected by the British and French, who seized the territories. Also, a treaty (in the case of Hong Kong) signed with a few fishermen a century earlier cannot really be binding to 6.5 million people more than a century later. The British had no interest in consulting with the citizens of these colonies, even though they were to live with the British decision about their future. Hong Kong residents, British Cameroonians, Eritreans or the Volta regions were NEVER asked about their right to full independence. This as has proven, was a fetal error that the British government still doesn’t bother to correct. These errors have largely been done under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. With her still alive, it’s time for Buckingham Palace to end the genocide in British Southern Cameroon. Her Majesty’s government must correct the error by asking the UN and Its Trusteeship Council to conduct another referendum for the people to include the right to full independence as was mandated by the Trusteeship Council. Anything short of this is a continuation of the genocide that her majesty’s office and the Commonwealth have ignored, despite the abuses that smack of the values of the Commonwealth of Nations, which she leads.
NB: This article was initially written for the British Press in 2019, but never published.