Mobility, National Sovereignty and Changing Relations: The Nigerian Migrants in Anglophone Cameroon

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Mobility, National Sovereignty and Changing Relations: The Nigerian Migrants in Anglophone Cameroon
Tangie Nsoh Fonchingong,

University of Buea

This paper seeks to answer the question as to whether or not transnational migrants can influence the national sovereignty of the host society and, ipso facto, the social relations between them and the nationals. Using the Nigerian migrants in Anglophone Cameroon as a case study it is found that during the period (1922-1961) when Britain administered the territory as part of its colony of Nigeria, the Nigerian migrants were socio-economically dominant and discriminated against the locals. The dominance of the Nigerian migrants coupled with their discriminatory and condescending attitude was resented by the local population and greatly impacted on the results of two crucial elections which determined the political destiny of the territory. The outcome was the separation of the territory from Nigeria and its unification with the neighbouring French-speaking Cameroon in 1961 resulting in the establishment of discriminating measures against the erstwhile privileged Nigerian migrants. The presence of the migrants has also been the cause of a conflict- the Bakassi crisis (a contested claim of ownership of the Bakassi peninsula by the host country and their home country). In escaping Nigerian domination by joining French Cameroon the Anglophone Cameroonians only got themselves into another form of domination- that by the majority francophones. This has given rise to what has become known as the Anglophone problem and the formation of movements to liberate the Anglophones and their territory from French Cameroon annexation. Thus, just by being in the host society without necessarily belonging to it as citizens, transnational migrants can be major players in determining the political destiny of the host society and the socio-political relations within it.


The movement of people across space (migration) in search of better opportunities is as old as mankind. Long before the growth of the nation states, indigenous groups migrated as dictated by seasonal changes in search of subsistence. Although migrating groups may have encountered others with whom they fought over territory, there were no instituted barriers to migration. Even long after the nation states came into existence migration was still largely unrestricted as evidenced by the fact that ‘the 19th century was marked by the absence of the plethora of mechanisms to control international flows of people that subsequently emerged’ (UNDP 2009: 29). But the population explosion and developments in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which respectively greatly increased human population and facilitated spatial mobility, have intensified migration making the concept to become the current catch-word in the social sciences and a thorny political issue in the hands of politicians. Consequently while politicians are seeking to control transnational migration, social scientists are analyzing the dynamics of all forms of migration.

With regard to the forms , transnational migration has received considerable scholarly attention with much established research on issues as: Transnational Migration and remittances which emphasizes the role of remittances in homeland development (Ca rling 2002, Ratha 2003 Adepoju 2004, De Haas 2008 ); Transnational migration and the brain drain focusing on the negative effects of migration on the sending society ( Cheng and Yang 1998, Abdellatif 2010, Fadayomi 2010); The politics of integration and assimilation into the receiving societies either in terms of concerns about dual loyalty and multiple political allegiances (Lucassen 2005), or contestation of hegemonic host cultures (Baumann 1996); The conceptualization of multicultural or post-national models of citizenship that regard the presence of immigrants as an invitation to re-imagine the meaning of citizenship through various models of differentiated or flexible rights-holding (Soysal 1994; Kymlicka 1996; Parekh 2006); Political advocacy of immigrants lobbying the host state to adopt particular polices or positions towards political situations in the homeland, the ‘ethnic lobby’approach (Anwar 2001, Sheffer 2006; Shain 2007, Lyons and Mandaville 2008 and ); Transnational networks and practices understood as forms of cross border participation in politics of countries of origin (Ostergaard-Nielsen 2003, Al-Ali and Koser 2002); Socio-cultural aspects of migration (de Bruijn et al 2001); Status of migrants and coping strategies (Nyamnjoh 2002, 2006).
What is less studied, almost to the point of total neglect, is the role of immigrants in influencing issues of the sovereignty of the host society. The principle of national sovereignty entails the right of a people who consider themselves as distinct to choose for themselves the state in which they wish to live and the type government it should have. To what extent can immigrants influence this choice and ipso facto, social relations within the host society? This paper is intended to bring this neglected aspect of transnational migration to the lime light. Using the Nigerian migrants in Anglophone Cameroon I seek to demonstrate that immigrants can play a major role in determining political destiny of the host society as well as the social relations within it.

Conceptually, this research is informed by the transnational social fields which distinguishes between ways of being and ways of belonging. Glick Schiller (2003:25) defines ways of being as the ‘actual relations and practices that individuals engage in rather than the identities associated with their actions’. In contrast, ways of belonging refers to ‘practices that signal or enact identities which demonstrate a conscious connection to a particular group’. Therefore individuals can influence issues by virtue of their being (actions and/practices) without necessarily belonging (identifying with the group/ society). To what extent did the ‘being’ of the Nigerians in the Southern Cameroons (Anglophone Cameroon) influence its political destiny, that is, the choice by the Southern Cameroonians of the state to which they wish to belong- as well as socio-political relations within it?

Methodologically, the research concentrates on the migrants in their host society and examines their actions both empirically and from an historical point of view. Thus interpersonal or face-to-face formal and informal interviews constitute only one source of data which is highly supplemented with secondary sources.

The thrust of the argument is that without necessarily belonging to the Anglophone Cameroon territory as citizens, the Nigerian migrants greatly influenced the political destiny of the host society, the social relations within it and the relations between their host-country and home-country governments. The paper is divided into four sections. This introductory section ends with a brief description of the study area- Anglophone Cameroon. This is intended to show its historical and geographical links with the sending state of the migrants. In section two, I analyse the political and economic actions and practices of the Nigerian migrants in the territory during the colonial period and show how they determined the outcome of two political consultations, the 1957 legislative elections and the 1961 UN-organised plebiscite. The third section consists of an analysis of the situation of the migrants in the post-colonial/contemporary period. It is argued here that unification led to the establishment of many discriminatory measures against the migrants that eliminated their dominance in the administration thereby marginalising them socio-politically but not economically since they still dominate the local trade and commerce in the territory. The fourth and final section examines the situation of the locals (Anglophone Cameroonians) in the post colonial/contemporary period. It is found that unification with French Cameroon only replaced the Nigerian domination of the Anglophone Cameroonians with that of Francophones.

Anglophone Cameroon

The appellation ‘Anglophone Cameroon’ is to make a distinction between the territory and Francophone Cameroon both of which constitute the Country currently referred to as Cameroon which was until 1916, part of the German colony ‘Kamerun’. Following the end of the First World War when Germany was forced by the allied powers to renounce claims on all its colonies, Kamerun was divided in 1922 unequally between France and Britain. France got four-fifth of the territory inhabited by three-quarters of the population and Britain took the remaining one-fifth of the land containing one-quarter of the population, but made up of two disconnected strips of land, one in the north and the other in the south.

France incorporated its own portion of Kamerun, which became known as French Cameroon, into its colonial empire as a distinct administrative unit separate from neighbouring French Equatorial Africa, but Britain decided to administer its own share ( the two separate units) as part of its colony of Nigeria. The northern portion of the British share which became known as British Northern Cameroons was attached to the northern region of Nigeria while the southern strip ( British Southern Cameroons) was administered as part of the eastern region of Nigeria. The two allied powers administered their shares of Kamerun first as ‘mandates’ of the League of Nations and later as ‘trusts’of the United Nations until 1960 for France and 1961 for Britain.(Osuntokun 1975; Ngoh 1996). Following a UN-organised plebiscite in 1961, the British Northern Cameroons opted to integrate with Nigeria while the Southern Cameroons chose to unify with French Cameroon which had become known as La Republique du Cameroun. In fact, the political history of Anglophone Cameroon has been characterized by changing misfortunes Between 1884 and 1916, the territory was part of the German colony Kamerun; from 1922 to 1961 it was known as The British Southern Cameroons and administered by Britain as part of its colony of Nigeria. In the interim, it was in 1949 divided into two provinces-Bamenda (Bamenda as capital) and Southern (Buea as capital), but the Resident Representative was based in Buea. In 1954, the Southern Cameroons became an autonomous region with E.M.L.Endeley as first Premier and with the capital still in Buea. Between 1961 and 1972, the territory had the appellation ‘West Cameroon’ as opposed to La Republique du Cameroun which became ‘East Cameroon’ with which it constituted the two federated states of the now defunct Federal Republic of Cameroon. It was in 1972 that the territory became part of what is referred to as Cameroon and split into two administrative regions- Northwest and Southwest. Anglophone Cameroon is bordered on the west and north by Nigeria, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean and by the rest of Cameroon (French-speaking) on the east.

The Nigerian Migrants in Anglophone Cameroon: The Colonial Period.

It is not unlikely that there were cross border movements between Nigeria and what came to be known as the Southern Cameroons before 1922 given the existence of ethnic groups that straddle the border and especially since Africans are known to have always been on the move (Amin 1995; Akokpari 1999) But the steady flow of Nigerians into the territory began with the coming of the British administration. The British administration facilitated and encouraged the steady flow of Nigerians into the territory by abolishing the international boundary that had existed between the erstwhile German protectorate Kamerun and Nigeria and by transferring Nigerians to work in government service in the territory. Many other Nigerians migrated into the territory for several reasons. Some were workers on the Nigeria-Cameroons road who followed the road into the territory and settled. Others came to work in the agro-industrial plantations inherited from the Germans by the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) and Pamol as well as in expatriate firms such as the United Africa Company (UAC) and John Holt. And still others came as farmers, fishermen or traders and finally settled in the territory. Of the Nigerians in the territory, members of the Igbo ethnic group are in the majority. This is in part because of their individualistic and competitive spirit which induces them to seek self improvement wherever it is possible. But it is more because they saw emigration to the Southern Cameroons as a solution to the widespread land scarcity in their densely populated areas (Ardener et al 1960; Konings 2005)

The Nigerians and the administration

By administering the Southern Cameroons as part of Nigeria, Britain made the territory an appendage of Nigeria, ‘a colony of a colony’, so to say, and starved it of development funds in all areas. In transferring Nigerians, mainly Igbo, to administer in the territory the impression was given that it was Nigeria rather than Britain that was the colonial power ruling the territory. The effect of the Nigerian connection was evident especially in education and administration. The only thing the British did in the area of education when they replaced the Germans was to restore the five primary schools that had existed. There was no secondary school in the territory before 1939 when the Roman Catholic Mill Hill fathers opened the Saint Joseph College- Sasse.(Chem-Langhee 2004). With the economy of their territory centred only on the plantations that the Germans had established, and without institutions in which to pursue higher learning, the Southern Cameroonians were in a disadvantaged position vis-à-vis the Nigerians who dominated the most lucrative and respectable positions in both the government service and the private sector leaving them with only the meanest jobs. Consequently, the Nigerians in the territory had an air of superiority over the local population and therefore regarded themselves as masters rather than servants. This attitude towards the local population was not limited to those Nigerians in government service or those who held respectable positions. It was quickly adopted by all Nigerians in the territory irrespective of profession. But of greater significance is how the Nigerians , used their privileged position to discriminate against members of the local population with regard to recruitment into public service positions when they eventually became qualified for such positions.

After the second World War when the southern Cameroonians began to graduate from the lone secondary school in Sasse, their difficulties in obtaining employment in public service were attributed to obstructions by senior clerks (Nigerians) in government offices (Amazee 1990). As evidence, the principal of Sasse college compiled in 1948, a list of those who graduated in the college in 1946-7 and were finding it difficult to get a government job in the territory. S. Ndely with a grade II school certificate and despite many applications supported by references from the principal, could not get a job in the territory and after ten months of waiting was employed in Enugu. S. Nyenti with a grade III school certificate waited for nine months before being employed in Lagos. D. Tiku with grade II school certificate had his application to the forestry office turned down by the Igbo chief clerk in charge even though there was an opening for which Tiku met the requirements. After eleven months, Tiku went to Ibadan for training in forestry. In addition, the United Africa Company (UAC) openly declared that all its employees were recruited from Nigeria despite advice to the contrary from headquarters (Amazee 1990). Thus, due to Igbo obstruction, it was easier for Cameroonians to get jobs in Nigeria than in their own territory. In apparent sympathy with the local population the British administrator (Resident) in Buea wrote, ‘the Cameroons people have been discriminated against in that they have only to go to Nigeria to get an education, or enter the jobs, but apart from any other considerations, how were they to get there? Communications between this province and Nigeria have been ludicrously inadequate for years, and still are’ (Amazee 1990:285).

The Nigerians and the economy

As noted above, not all the Nigerians came to the territory as civil servants. Many came to work in the agro-industrial plantations of the CDC and Pamol. Here as in the administration, they held all the most lucrative positions and by the 1950s the Igbo alone comprised 25-30 per cent of the CDC labour and 80 per cent of the Pamol workforce (Konings 2009:223). The marked difference between the Nigerians and the local population in terms of education also translated into commercial acumen and experience. The Igbo took advantaged and made the best use of this. Using tribal or clan networks such as the Igbo Union, they dominated trade and commerce as well as artisan activities such as photography, baking, tailoring, shoemaking, bicycle repairs, radio repairs, blacksmithing, among others (Konings 1993). In addition to dominating the local economy and administration, the Igbo in whom academic and business advantage bred pride and indifference to the feelings of others made matters worse with their ‘showiness, noisy exhibitionism, and disrespect for humility and quietness’ ( Amazee 1990: 281). One of the Cameroonians who lived the experience recalled that, ‘in those days the Igbo were all and all. They seemed to have more power than the white men since everything –administration, business and artisan activities- was in their hands. This made them to be very arrogant and disrespectful of even traditional customs and authority’ (Interviewed in Bamenda August 20, 2011).

The Nigerian migrants and the local population

The local population was highly against the domination of the administration and the economy by the Nigerians and resented their arrogant behavior and lack of respect for local authority. As such, isolated cases of Igbo misbehavior such as that of a man who was missing in Bambuko area and whose hand was later found with a group of Nigerian/ Igbo traders, and that of Nigerian/ Igbo nurse who in 1948 administered carbolic acid in the eye of a Southern Cameroonian, S.A. Atabong , were regarded as typifying the Igbo/ Nigerians in general (Amazee 1990). This gave rise to verbal attacks which took the form of stereotypes in which allNigerians/ Igbo were accused of all possible vices: Bribery, corruption, narcotics, adulterating palm wine and medicines, counterfeiting, seducing local women, cannibalism, sorcery, mistreating local patients, selling poisoned food and fake/expired medicines, disrespect of local customs and authorities (Ardiner 1962; Konings 2005). Besides verbal attacks, the local authorities tried to isolate the Nigerians whom the saw to be mainly the Igbo in the hope that this would hurt and force them to reduce their excesses. For this purpose the Bakweri Native Authority issued a regulating notice in 1948 stipulating that:

  • Nobody is allowed to sell his or her house to an Igbo, neither should anybody give his

Or her house for rentage to an Igbo.

  • No farm land must be sold to an Igbo or rented to an Igbo.

  • Nobody must allow an Igbo to enter any native farm or forest for purpose of finding

sticks for building or for any other purposes.

  • Houses or farms already sold to any Igbo man shall be purchased by the Native Authority

who will afterwards resell same to some suitable person.

  • Nobody shall trade with Igbo for anything of value or not.

  • All landlords must ask their Igbo tenants to quit before 15 March 1948.

  • No Cameroonian woman is allowed to communicate with the Igbo in any form.

  • Anybody disobeying these rules shall be liable to a fine of five pounds or five

months I.H.L. (Amazee 1990: 289).

These measures yielded no fruits because economically and administratively/politically, the Nigerians were in a stronger position. Moreover, although apparently in sympathy with the situation of the local population, the British administrators sided with the Nigerians. For instance, while acknowledging that the Nigerians in the territory were ‘persons who recognized no local native authority and behave as if they were a law unto themselves’ (Amazee 1990:285), the British administrator did not only dissociate the colonial administration from the above regulation, but equally threatened members of the Native Authority with dismissal for issuing it. He thus, issued a counter notice stating that the administration ‘had not, and would not issue any order discriminating against the Igbo’ and insisted that it was ‘the duty of the members of the Native Authority and the Native Courts to uphold the law’, and warn that if ‘they did not do so, they might be deprived of their offices, (Amazee 1990 :287)

In this way, the local population was frustrated in the attempt to reduce the Nigeria/Igbo dominance in the territory. Consequently, Southern Cameroonian members of the Eastern House of Assembly in Enugu from where the territory was administered, concluded that the only way out was in political separation from Nigeria.

In May 1953, they addressed a petition to the Colonial Secretary demanding a separate autonomous legislature for the territory. The petition was taken to London by a delegation led by Dr. E.M.L.Endeley. There were no existing political parties in the territory, but within the cause of the following month two parties were formed, the Kamerun National Congress ( K.N.C) led by Dr. E.M.L. Endeley and the Kamerun Peoples’s Party (K.P.P.) of N.N. Mbile. The Nigerian domination became the main topic in party politics and social circles in the territory. During the elections that were held in 1957 to decide whether or not there should be an autonomous legislature for the territory, Endeley’s K.N.C. stood for separation while the K.P.P. of Mbile wanted continued connection with Nigeria.

Using the Nigerian domination during the campaign, Endeley and the K.N.C. turned an unfortunate situation into additional political assert. A section of the crow that was opposed to the purpose of their mission, had stoned him and his delegation at Kano (Nigeria) airport on their way to London. During the campaign he and his team filled a Land Rover with stones and displayed them all over the territory as the stones with which they were attacked in Nigeria. Since to the local population Nigeria was synonymous with Igboland, the conlusion was that the Igbo had attacked Dr Endeley and his team. (Amazee 1990). Furthermore, in trying to use their office in the service of their political views, the Nigerian / Igbo government /civil servants made matters worse. The Mamfe population had intended to welcome the London delegation with demonstrations, but these could not be organized because the Nigerian/ Igbo Postmaster intentionally delayed telegraphs sent by the delegation from London announcing day of their return (Amazee 1990). Such behavior only aggravated the anti-Nigerian/ Igbo sentiment which was very appealing to people who were daily experiencing administrative, social and economic domination. This was to determine the direction of vote in the up-coming election since voting the K.P.P. candidate meant prolonging continued Nigerian/ Igbo domination and voting the K.N.C. candidate was tantamount to liberating the people and the territory from the domination. And so, everywhere the cry was ‘we want Cameroons’ House’( Amazee 1990:290). Hence, when the election was held, the anti-Nigerian K.N.C. won twelve of the available thirteen seats, while the pro-Nigerian K.P.P. got the only remaining one seat (Chiabi 1997:97.)

The same anti- Nigeria/Igbo sentiment was to determine the outcome the 1961 UN-organized plebiscite which was intended determine what was to be the final political destiny of the territory. For the plebiscite there were equally two political parties. The two protagonists in the 1957 election the K.N.C. and the K.P.P. merged to form the Cameroon People’s National Convention (C.P.N.C.) under the leadership of E.M.L. Endeley, while the newly form Kamerun National Democratic Party (K.N.D.P) was led by J.N. Foncha (Mbile 1999).In the plebiscite, Southern Cameroonians were unconventionally asked to choose between achieving independence by joining either the Federation of Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroon! In saying that ‘French Cameroon is fire and Nigeria is water’ (Chem-Langhee 1980:51), the Fon of Bafut, a traditional ruler in the territory, was stating the obvious, namely that it was a choice between the devil and the deep sea. As imposed by the UN, the two options were final and so the population had to vote.

The C.P.N.C. of E.M.L. Endeley stood for integration with Nigeria while Foncha’s K.N.D.P. advocated for unification with French Cameroon. At the time of the plebiscite French Cameroon was in a civil war, a situation that would have under normal circumstances favoured the Nigerian option. During the campaigns, Foncha and his team exploited the Nigerian/ Igbo domination to its fullest. They pointed out that ‘a vote for Nigeria meant the continued domination of the Cameroonians and the occupation of the Southern Cameroons by the Nigerians, while a vote to join the Republic of Cameroon meant unification of all Cameroons as a national state’(Chem-Langhee 1980:171-172). Even the Fon of Kom who saw nothing good in any of the choices was made to understand that a vote for Nigeria would enable the Ibo to occupy the Kom land and seize his wives (Chem-Langhee 1980: 175). And so although the C.P.N.C. members did all they could to drive home the realities of the terrorist atrocities which were being unleashed in the Republic of Cameroon while magnifying the glory of the British ways , ‘the deep-rooted animosity against the Nigerians especially the Igbo---gave an overwhelming tilt in favour of the K.N.D.P.’ for unification with French Cameroon.(Ngoh 2001:151). The unification took place on October 1, 1961. The implication here is that the Southern Cameroonians feared the Nigerian domination more than war. As one of the Southern Cameroonians who lived the experience put it ‘what mattered to us at that time was not what was happening in French Cameroon, our main concern was to escape from the Nigerian- Ibo domination. So, Foncha and the K.N.D.P. did not have much campaigning to do because the Ibo had by their attitude, done it for them.’ (Interviewed in Bamenda November 20, 2012.)

Evidently, the outcome of the 1957 election as well as that of the 1961 plebiscite in the Anglophone territory were determined by the actions and practices of the Nigerian migrants, by their being in the territory. Not belonging to the territory, the Nigerian migrants did and could vote, yet their actions and attitude determined the direction of the vote in the two crucial political consultations. This shows that by ‘being’ without Necessarily ‘belonging’, migrants can determine the political destiny the host society. The choice to unify with French Cameroon rather than integrate with Nigeria had serious socio-political consequences on both the Nigerian migrants and the Southern Cameroonians.

The Nigerian migrants: The post-unification/contemporary period

The unification of the Southern Cameroons with French Cameroon in 1961 resulted in a dramatic change in the socio-political situation of the Nigerians in the territory. They were automatically turned into de jure foreigners as the international boundary between the territory and Nigerian was reintroduced. The change in the status of the Nigerians led to the establishment of several discriminatory measures against them. Firstly, each of them was required to obtain a Nigerian passport and visa to stay in the territory.

Secondly each adult (18 years and above) was to pay for a residence permit. The cost of the permit has been increasing over the years: from CFA 10,000 in the 1960s to CFA 83,000 in the 1990s to CFA 120,000 currently. The feelings of those Nigerians who witnessed the change are expressed by one of them thus: have lived in the territory since.

I came here (Kumba) in 1960. I came with my friend to stay and do business. We did not

show any document before coming here, nothing like passport existed for us. But in

in 1962 we were told that we had become foreigners and that if we wanted to continue

to live here we must go and get Nigerian passport. As soon as we obtained the passport

we were again told that we had to pay for permit to stay here. Those people who could

not pay for the permit went back to Nigerian (Interviewed in Kumba ,December 6, 2012)

Thirdly, as foreigners the Nigerians were barred from government jobs of all types and private enterprises were required to Cameroonize their work force. Fourthly, the migrants were prohibited from engaging in some lucrative commercial activities such as the role of middlemen in the cocoa trade, whole sale of palm oil and inter-urban transportation (Konings 2009.) Fithly, a law was passed banning the Ibo Union which in the colonial days functioned as an exceptionally effective instrument in regulating activities of its members, undertaking self-help projects and lobbying for Ibo interests within the territory. The authorities accused the Ibo Union of being tribalistic, authoritarian, and subversive and therefore constituted a threat to social cohesion in Anglophone Cameroon (Weiss 1998.) Lastly, the Nigerians were deposes of the right to own real estate property (houses and land.)

In addition to the officially established discriminatory measures, the migrants also face problems created by immigration and law enforcement officials ( police and gendarmes) mainly for the purpose of illegally extorting money. The problems include: inflating the cost of the residence permit; intentionally delaying issuing the permit after payment; not respecting the duration of the permit; raiding the homes of the migrants and harassing them on the high ways to extort money. It was the ruthless harassment of the Nigerian traders by the gendarmes in the Bakassi peninsula that was the immediate cause of what became known as the Bakassi crisis, that is, the contested claim of ownership of the peninsula by Nigeria and Cameroon.

The Bakassi Crisis

The Bakassi peninsula is the south-eastern part of the territory of Anglophone Cameroon which shares a maritime border with Nigeria. The area is rich in marine species especially fish varieties. This attracted many Nigerian fishermen and later traders to settle in the area to the extent of out numbering the indigenes and accounting for about 90 per cent of the population (Idumange 2010). In an attempt by the Cameroon government to exercise its sovereignty and protect its territorial integrity by taxing and compelling the Nigerian migrants to comply, Nigeria intervened claiming to have not only the right to protect its citizens from what was seen as Cameroonian aggression, but also sovereignty over the peninsula populated mainly by its nationals. The dispute over the peninsula intensified with the discovery of huge reserves of petroleum in the area, and brought the two countries to the brim of war in 1981 when an exchange of gun-fire left five Nigerian soldiers dead (The Herald February 4, 1981:1) Using diplomatic means, the incident that led to the death of Nigerian soldiers was let to rest, but the question of sovereignty over the peninsula remained. The dispute, presented by Nigeria as predicated on its obligation to protect its citizens, escalated into more incidents of shooting between the forces of the two countries in 1994 and in 1996. Described as ‘La querre secete’, (Jeune Afrique November 13, 1996: 13), the two incidents nevertheless, resulted in the death of many soldiers on both sides (Southern Cameroons Information Bulletin March 8, 1996) Although Africa Confidential, referred to the actions of the two countries as ‘blundering into battle’ it corroborated Nigeria’s claim of acting in defense of its citizens by stating that the decision by Nigeria ‘to deploy a thousand troops on the peninsula was in turn a reaction to the harassment of Nigerian fishing vessels and traders by Cameroonian Gendarmes’ (Africa Confidential April 16, 1994: 6). In order words, the harassment of Nigerian migrants on the peninsula by Cameroonian Gendarmes constituted the immediate cause of the crisis.

The dispute was resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2002 in favour of Cameroon. After initial rejection of the ICJ verdict, Nigeria finally relinquish its claim and pulled its forces out of the peninsula in 2008 within the background of protest by the Nigeria media and the migrants on the peninsula. Following the Nigerian withdrawal from the peninsula some of the migrants returned to Nigeria but many decided to stay on. Those who have decided to remain on the peninsula are a potential source of future conflict since Nigeria may always intervene to protect them. Thus, the Nigerian migrants have not only determined the political destiny of the Southern Cameroons but have also been a source of conflict between their host and home countries.

Survival Strategies of the Nigerian Migrants

Following the change in their status and the resulting problems after unification, the Nigerians adopted several group-level and individual strategies to survive. They group together unofficially on a village or clan basis in order to control the entire trading circuit: the provision, transportation, declaration and distribution of goods in those areas of commerce not forbidden to them. Collective enterprise enables them to take advantage of economies of scale to incur lower costs than their Cameroonian counterparts and to set competitive prices for their goods. This has enabled them maintain their dominance and monopoly in the trading of goods as cloth, shoes, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, automobile spare parts, household utensils, books and stationary, and electronic equipment. In addition, there is the Nigerian Union which was formed to replace the banned Ibo Union. The objective of the Union is to protect or defend and promote the interests of its members. Its local branches serve as financial institutions of mutual assistance to the members.

At the individual level the migrants adopt both orthodox and unorthodox survival strategies. To enable new arrivals settle and integrate in the system two mechanisms are used. These are ‘settlement’ and ‘two- party’. ‘Settlement’ is compensation paid to the ‘boy’ (employee) by the ‘master’ (employer) after a number of years of service. In this system the new arrival is attached to an established migrant who employs, houses, feeds and takes care of all his needs but without paying him a salary. It is only after the number of years agreed upon by both parties that the ‘master’ settles the ‘boy’ with the stipulated amount of money and then, the ‘boy’ leaves the ‘master’ and starts his own business. In some cases instead of giving money, the ‘master’ starts a small business and hands it over to the ‘boy’. In this way, the new arrivals have a smooth transition and their ‘newness’ does not frustrate them.

The ‘two-party’ mechanism is a form of agricultural partnership between a land owner and a person who wishes to be a farmer but does not have and, is unable for whatever reason, to acquire land. The land-seeking person goes into agreement with the land owner such that the former becomes a land-tenant and exploits the land on condition that a certain proportion of each season’s produce goes to the land owner. This enables the tenant to accumulate enough money to eventually either buy or hire farmland for himself. It should be noted that both the ‘settlement’ and the ‘two-party’ systems are based on gentlemanly agreements and so, honesty is a crucial element in the functioning of the systems.

Other individual survival strategies include: passing through middlemen to legalise ownership of real estate property; producing fake documents; purchasing Cameroonian national identity cards from the relevant authorities; sending grown up children and, in some cases, wives back home to avoid the burden of the residence permit; marrying Cameroonian women to benefit from a reduced cost of permit; taking a low profile and ordering and paying for goods through the internet and/or the use of the cell phones so as to avoid travelling to encounter police harassment on the highways; and smuggling especially of the highly subsidised Nigerian petrol known variously as federal, funge or zoa-zoa which is a common practice and it is openly sold on the streets of all the towns in the Anglophone territory. Ironically, only federal is available in Ndian Division which is the source of Cameroon’s own petrol, and in Manyu Division.
The Anglophones in the Post-colonial/contemporary Period

In opting to unify with French Cameroon rather than integrate with Nigeria, the Southern Cameroonians hoped to form with French Cameroon a credible federation of two states on an equal footing devoid the Nigerian-type domination. But contrary to declarations and expectations, the federation was not one of equality between the Anglophones and Francophones. It neither provided for equal partnership nor for the equitable preservation of the cultural heritage of each territory. It was instead a veiled preparatory stage for the total assimilation of the Anglophone territory into a highly centralized Francophone unitary state. The assimilation process accompanied by measures to marginalize Anglophones has been in four stages.

The first stage of the assimilation process was the replacement of the currency, pound sterling with the French CFA franc and the change from left to right-hand drive in 1962. The second stage was the extension in 1966 Anglophone Cameroon of the one-party system that was existing in French Cameroon. (Bayart 1970).The 1972 controversial referendum by which President Ahidjo transformed the federation into a unitary state was the third stage in the assimilation process. The country became known as the United Republic of Cameroon.The fourth and final stage was effected by president Ahidjo’s successor Paul Biya who in 1984 issued decree N° 84-001 of 4/2/84 changing the name of the country from the United Republic of Cameroon to the pre- unification appellation of East Cameroon namely, La Republique du Cameroun.
This phased overt assimilation process has been underlain and firmly buttressed by a subtle and systematic policy of Francophonising the Anglophones and obliterating anything Anglophone. This is evidenced firstly by the imposition of the French language on Anglophones through (a) the use of the public broadcast media where seven-eighths of broadcast time is reserved for French language Programmes (Nyamnjoh 1998); (b) issuing official texts and documents including inscriptions on the national currency only in French; (c) ensuring that where both languages are used on the same document the words in French are bold and those in English too fine to be legible and (d) compelling all cinema theatres in the Anglophone region to screen only French language films (AACI 1993:19).

Secondly,by destroying Anglophone financial and other institutions and making several attempts to destroy the Anglophone education system (Konings and Ngamnjoh 2000). The assimilation process which, according to former President Ahidjo, ‘starting from independence and passing through unification, must lead to the apotheosis of national unity’ (Bayart 1973:130) has resulted in the disappearance of the autonomy of the Anglophone region.

The successive Francophone dominated regimes have adopted a systematic policy not only of assimilating but also of marginalising Anglophones. This has given rise to a variety of Anglophone grievances known as the Anglophone Problem (Konings and Nyamnjoh 1997).The grievances concern among others, (1) discriminated against Anglophones in recruitment into professional schools and the public service jobs as well as in appointments to high-level posts, hence none of them has ever been appointed to head any of the important ministries such as the Armed Forces, Territorial Administrative, Finance and Foreign Affairs; (2) of the 58 administrative divisions in the country only two are headed by Anglophones even though 13 of the divisions are in the Anglophone region; (3) out of fifteen military generals only two are Anglophones and none of the eight military regions in the country is headed by an Anglophone (The Post May 25, 2000:4); (4) Anglophones are appointed mainly into subordinate positions to assist Francophones even where the latter are less qualified or less competent (AACI 1993/18); (5) only two Anglophones besides the Prime Minister are members of the current Cabinet of 35 members and have moreover, been assigned the unenviable portfolios of Culture, and Forest and Wildlife (Eden July 22, 2009:2); and None of the four referral hospitals in the country is located in the Anglophone territory. In terms development the Anglophone territory has been neglected and the roads are impassable almost all year round such that to go from one Anglophone region to the other is only possible through two Francophone regions.
The assimilation and marginalisation of Anglophones by the successive francophone dominated regimes since unification led to the formation of several Anglophone movements seeking to redress the situation. The movements which currently include, among others, Cameroon Anglophone Movement (CAM), Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), and Southern Cameroons People Organization (SCAPO), initially demanded a return to the federal state. Faced with the regime’s persistent refusal to discuss the Anglophone constitutional proposals, CAM declared the ‘zero option’, that is the total independence of the Southern Cameroons. This position has been adopted by all the movements because according to them:

We have been disenfranchised, marginalised and treated with suspicion. Our interests have been disregarded. Our participation in national life has been limited to non-essential functions. Our natural resources have been ruthlessly exploited without any benefit accruing to our territory or to its people. The development of our territory has been negligible and confined to areas that directly or indirectly benefit Francophones. Through manoeuvres and manipulations, we have been reduced from partners of equal status in the Union to the status of a subjugated people (AACI 1993:9-10.)

Many Anglophones see themselves as colonized by and their territory a colony of French Cameroon. The gravity of the Anglophone marginalization has been such as to induce the resignation of J.N. Foncha, (the architect of the unification) from the regime. In 1990 he resigned from the position of national vice president of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) party because as he stated:

The Anglophone Cameroonians whom I brought to the union

Have been ridiculed and referred to as ‘les Biafrais, les enemies

Dans la maison, les traitres’, etc,etc., and the constitutional

Provisions which protected this Anglophone minority have

Been suppressed, their voices drowned while the rule of the

Gun has replaced the dialogue which the Anglophones cherish

Very much.( Mukong 1990:155).
.Furthermore, in 1995 the Anglophone activists co-opted J.N. Foncha and S.T. Muna ( regarded respectively as the architects of unification and the unitary state) in a delegation to the United Nations to protest against the annexation of the Southern Cameroons by French Cameroon (Konings and Nyamnjoh 1997).
In fact the Anglophones see themselves as having been colonized by French Cameroon. As Professor Carlson Anyangwe one of the Anglophone activists points out, ‘there is no other colonial people who have suffered the kind of indignity we have suffered who have not taken up arms’ (The Post April 9, 2000:3). The subjugated status of Anglophones in Cameroon is evident not only to Anglophones. For instance, President Jacques Chirac of France recognised the Anglophone problem and proposed dialogue and constitutional approach as solutions (Konings and Nyamnjoh 1997: 223). Moreover, objective Francophone elites such as Dr Adamu Ndam Njoya who is member of parliament and leader of the Union Democratique Camerounais (UDC) political party criticise the regime for ‘treating Anglophones as a conquered people’ (The Post June 15, 2000:5).

Given the reality of the Anglophone marginalization the conclusion is that induced though unknowingly, by the Nigerian migrants the Southern Cameroonians made a wrong choice at self-determination, a choice which changed the status of their territory from a trust-territory to that of a colony of another former trust-territory.


This paper has examined the relationship between transnational migrants, national self-determination and socio-political relations. Using the Nigerian migrants in Anglophone Cameroon (Southern Cameroons), it is found that during the colonial days the migrants were in a privileged position which they used to dominate and discriminate against the Southern Cameroonians. Resenting the domination and seeking to run away from it, the Southern Cameroonians voted against the relation with Nigerian in two crucial electoral devices (1957 and 1961 plebiscite).

The plebiscite resulted the change of the sovereignty of the territory as it unified with French Cameroon thereby turning the Nigerian migrants into de jure foreigners. This led to the establishment discriminating measures against the erstwhile privileged migrants. The changed status of the migrants and the relations between them and the locals warranted the adoption by them of various orthodox and unorthodox survival strategies. The presence of the migrants has also been the cause of the conflict (over the ownership of the Bakassi peninsula) between Cameroon (their host country) and Nigerian (their home country.)
In opting to unify with French Cameroon rather than integrate with Nigeria, the Southern Cameroonians (Anglophones) hoped to avoid domination and to have greater freedom and equality within a credible federal system of government. Unfortunately this turned out to be the reverse because what was thought to be a federation was not real. It was mainly a preparatory stage for the assimilation and marginalization of the Anglophones which has resulted the Southern Cameroons losing its autonomy to French Cameroon and its people highly marginalized by the francophone majority. The Southern Cameroons has, in other words, moved from the status of a trust-territory to become a colony of another former trust-territory. Seeing themselves as colonized people, the Anglophones have formed several movements for the purpose of liberating their territory and themselves.
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