Focusing on refugees, foreigners rights and African brotherhood
For decades now, relations between Nigeria and Cameroon have been a ding dong-affair. Now that rupture is becoming even more problematic.
Going down memory lane, the reader would recall the machinations of the 1884 Berlin Conference that handed over a large chunk of the territory of Cameroon to Germany. This was to be followed by the post World War divisions that split the territory between Britain and France. And then came the UN-administered 1961 plebiscite where the erstwhile Endeley-led Southern Cameroon peoples voted to return to their kith and kin in Mainland Cameroon. Added to this would be the issue of the ‘clandestine’ agreement which the Gowon administration reportedly entered into to enable it secure support from Cameroon in the course of prosecuting the Nigeria Civil War.
More recently, the issues had been the subject of litigation, with the International Court of Justice, finally awarding the territories in dispute at the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.
In the last few weeks, the tense state of relations has grown to a point of near-hostility with Cameroon expelling scores of Nigerian refugees that had fled there for safety from the ravaging bands of Boko Haram insurgents. And now, the Bakassi problem has recurred with hundreds of Nigerian ‘settlers’ now being deported.
This newspaper sees this unfortunate turn of events as most regrettable. Brothers should be brothers and should resolve their disputes in the most amicable way possible. In our own view therefore, the immediate way to go is to call attention to the imperative of refugee’s rights as well as those of all foreigners, resident in and doing business within Cameroon. Cameroon must undertake to respect them and this would be a first step in addressing the issue.
Going beyond this however, there must also be the conscious and deliberate development of an even more inclusive pan-African consciousness within the ruling elite and indeed the mass of the peoples in both nations. At a time when the tendency is towards greater pan-African integration and cooperation as represented by laudable schemes as the Common All-African Passport and the Continental Free Trade Area, it is a definite anachronism to have the two nations exhibiting strains of belligerence towards each other. To kick-start this, both President Paul Biya and Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo should immediately schedule a session to jaw-jaw. The Chairman of the African Union as well as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission should also get on their feet now.
Let Cameroon and Nigeria ‘war’ on the football fields if they must, but definitely not on the streets. That would be too costly. And unproductive for all.
Presidents Paul Biya and Muhammadu Buhari