This is the unsaid thing: that legalized political party requested by the African Commission to champion the Southern Cameroons cause and engage in negotiations with Yaounde is already there. It is the Liberal Democratic Alliance (LDA). Understand that to be the reason the LDA organised the banned Buea rally for SCNC and SCAPO leaders to explain the Banjul Verdict.
The Buea-based party, led by Mola Njoh Litumbe, was founded in the mid-1990s on the foundation of the cause, with objective to place the cause on the national political agenda and represent it in eventual negotiations.
The All Anglophone Conference (AAC) that met in Buea in April 1993 expected the leading opposition party, SDF, unquestionably led by Anglophones, to champion the Anglophone cause. Looking at the “bigger picture”, that is capturing power in Yaounde, Ni John Fru Ndi not only stayed away from Mount Mary where the conference took place, the SDF refused to officially endorse the AAC’s milder call for a return to the pre-1972 East/West Cameroon federation.
The AAC actually wanted an innovative federation within a federation, with ten autonomous provinces within the East/West federation.
Finding itself thus orphaned, AAC pioneers thought up an alternative platform. They turned to another Anglophone-based party or group of parties. In the beginning Njoh Litumbe’s party was called the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Then there was Ambassador Henry Fossung’s National Democratic Party (NDP) and Dr Agbor Besong’s Conservative Republican Party (CRP).
From an initiative by Dr Simon Munzu, Barrister Ekontang Elad and Dr Francis Ekiko, all three parties merged to form the Liberal Democratic Alliance and Munzu took the influential position of Secretary General, obviously to infuse the AAC spirit into the new party.
But there was a problem. All three Anglophone-based parties that melted into that new formation were even more, all South West-based. And only the two South Westerners of the three AAC pioneers, that is, Elad and Munzu joined the LDA. Carlson Anyangwe, an SDF founding father, unsurprisingly did not come along. So, however good and strategic the LDA initiative was, it was from the outset only a half measure, for it unwittingly left out one part of the population for a cause that involved the whole.
But do not get the point wrong. Even if for that reason the LDA never became the political force in the dreams of Munzu and co, it nevertheless stands as that political party platform for the Anglophone/Southern Cameroons cause. Its “mandate” might have evolved with the mutation from AAC to SCNC/SCAPO – from the Anglophone cause (rights of North Westerners and South Westerners within Cameroon), to the Southern Cameroons restoration cause (self determination).
Meaning that, the call by the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights for political transformation of the Southern Cameroons movements was already anticipated and taken care of in the LDA initiative.
SCNC and SCAPO may thus never become legalized political parties. They will surely remain radical pressure groups. They have LDA as their mouth piece on the national political stage in expected dealings with Yaounde, just like the illegal radical Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland had the legalized Sinn Finn for political engagement with London.
Sinn Finn’s engagement with London did not cause the IRA to disband, just like talks between Mandela’s ANC in South Africa did not cause Umkutu We Sizwe, ANC’s armed wing to immediately disband. Difference is – and this is lucky for Yaounde – SCNC and SCAPO are not armed groups. They even do not call for violence. They have always stood by “the force of argument, not the argument of force”. They originally stood for a milder question of the rights of Anglophones and only resorted to the zero option (call for independence) when Yaounde failed to dialogue.
The Buea DO surely missed the point when he found SCNC’s Chief Otun Ayamba and SCAPO’s Augustine Ndangam out of place at the LDA rally. Being leaders of those pressure groups does not exclude them from belonging to legalized political parties.
Remember how much moral support Ndangam gave Boniface Forbin’s JDP at its birth, seeing it was upholding the Anglophone agenda. He could legitimately belong to the JDP and would not be prohibited to attend a JDP meeting. Or would he?