Last Tuesday September 12th, the newly elected President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), 54 year old Slovakian, Miroslav Lajcak, gaveled into action the 72nd session of the noble General assembly. The opening salvo of the Slovakian Diplomat contains seeds the aggrieved people of Southern Cameroons should pay attention to and seek to capitalize on for a fruitful harvest.
“The UN was created for people,” said Miroslav Lajcak in his inaugural address of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. “Its job is to help people who are striving for peace and a decent life, on a sustainable planet. The people who need the United Nations the most are not sitting in this hall today. They are not involved in the negotiation of resolutions. They do not take the floor at high-level events. It is one of the tasks of the general Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard.”
One can only pray and hope that such beautiful words will not take on the proverbial dust of history as mere words lacking in substance but will be borne out by history as “having taken flesh” in concrete and measurable terms. And if the taste of the pudding lies in the eating, then the aggrieved people of Southern Cameroons, hitherto a trust territory of this body, look out with hope to this President of UNGA72.
And yes, Southern Cameroonians are a people with inalienable rights to self-determination. These people exercised their rights without foreclosing the destiny of their country in 1961. Southern Cameroonians are today not sitting in the halls of the United Nations and have not been since 1960. In fact, over the last two decades, many Southern Cameroonians have camped outside the UN to protest and invite the noble assembly to address their national interests. Many will turn out next week on the same mission.
Will Miroslav become the “voice of the voiceless” Southern Cameroonians in the halls of the UN General Assembly and ensure that Southern Cameroons becomes the 194th member of the UNGA?
In that very prophetic and pragmatic speech, president Miroslav noted that during his tenure this year among other things will not just be a “Year of Firsts” but will also be a “Year of Follow Up,” and rightly so.
Of the myriad of issues to be followed up during this 72nd session, one urgently crying out for prime consideration is that of the UN’s bungled decolonization of its former Trust Territory, Southern Cameroons. There could be no better time for the General Assembly to revisit the state of its former trust territory than now. It is time for the UN to “follow up” and revisit UNGA Resolution 1608.
“I wish to pay attention to what we do better to prevent conflict. Because by avoiding conflict, we save human lives and we also save money,” said the career diplomat, during an interview he gave on the opening day of the General Assembly.
If preventive diplomacy is the hallmark of the UN’s multilateralism, then Miroslav has the opportunity of his life to use his good offices to translate this to concrete reality with the Southern Cameroons quagmire. The bloodbath that the annexationist regime of La Republique du Cameroun is planning and gradually visiting on the peaceful people of Southern Cameroons could be averted and prevented if the president of the UNGA 72nd session commits to making preventive diplomacy a reality.
The United Nations is known for being reactionary rather than proactive; many have asserted that conflict prevention is not the UN’s forte. Unless a feud draws blood, rarely has the UN intervened to prevent carnage, this coterie maintains.
The 72nd session of the UNGA has the opportunity to disprove this claim by addressing the independence question of Southern Cameroons. This assembly has the opportunity to correct the mistake of 1961 that has been an albatross around the neck of the people of Southern Cameroons.
The last nine months have proven the resiliency of the people of Southern Cameroons and their determination to reclaim their independence. The people of Southern Cameroons have crossed the threshold and reached the tipping point. It will be foolhardy for the United Nations to continue to play ostrich and simply wish the problem fizzle out.
His Excellency, President Miroslav understands this as a student of history. Up until 1989, Czechoslovakia held together thanks to the tyranny of communism. When the people could have it no more, the “Velvet Revolution” came to life and the union began crumbling. In 1990, a federal system came to life as Czechoslovakia now became known as Czech and Slovak Federative Republic.
In July 1992, Slovakia declared itself a sovereign state. Six months later, in January 1993, Czechoslovakia became history and two sovereign states namely Czech Republic and Slovakia replaced it. Historically, this turned out to be an entirely peaceful breakup.
For years, the people of Southern Cameroons have been rumbling and grumbling. They have sought legal and diplomatic redress with limited success. Then came the “Coffin revolution” that ignited the current tidal wave of resistance. Like the Velvet Revolution that led to the rebirth of Slovakia, the people of Southern Cameroons hinge their hope that the “Coffin revolution” will lead to the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons.
There are eerie similarities between the fate of Czechoslovakia and that of Cameroon. Cameroon is a ticking time bomb and the current escalation of the Southern Cameroons nationalistic ambitions will be the last death knell. If after 75 years, Czechoslovakia could break up to two states, why not Cameroon? The realization of the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons is just a matter of time.
It would be naïve for one to imagine that the President of the UNGA can will the resolution of the Southern Cameroons question with the stroke of a pen. Not without formidable pushback from the French vampires whose stranglehold over Cameroon is well known and also from the United Kingdom whose culpability in the bungled process precludes them from riding on the current waves of the restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons. The General Assembly is a club and members are sworn to protect each other.
Miroslav has himself delineated the evaluation sheet for his tenure a year from now when he said:
“I do hope to be able to say that it was a good session of the General Assembly – good because we delivered concrete results for people, and that we were able to overcome our narrow national views and positions in the interest of compromise, which is good for all of us.”
One of such concrete results would be the restoration of the independence of the people of Southern Cameroons. For this to happen, Miroslav would need to be a maverick aficionado. Southern Cameroonians must court him and lobby him. He is a crown jewel worth investing in.