Cameroon politics: Difference between 1961 Reunification and 1972 Unification – Historian explain

Published by Georges Munang on

Cameroon politics

Cameroon politics has evolved over the years and recent developments through leadership blunders has led to political upheavals that is bringing the economy down. The evolution of Cameroon politics is so complicated containing historical dates of which events surrounding the dates are responsible for the country’s political turmoil.

In this blog post we are going to look into the difference between 19961 Reunification and 1972 Unification in Cameroon. To better understand the disparities between these two problematic dates Munang.net caught up with a level headed Cameroonian seasoned historian Ndifor Richard Majong.

Munang.net: In summary sir, could you tell our readers what happened in Cameroon in 1961 and 1972 and what difference do the two dates have.

Ndifor Richard: Thanks for that pertinent question Mr Blogger. To discuss what transpired in the Cameroon History in 1961 and 1972 we can talk till day break but to put it short, In I961 Southern Cameroonians through a UN-organized plebiscite were asked to make a choice on whether they wanted to achieve independence by joining the Federal Republic of Nigeria or by Joining La Republique du Cameroon. It turned out that they greatly voted for the later.

After the plebiscite delegates from Southern Cameroons (SCs) and those from La Republique du Cameroun (LRC) met in a conference in Foumban where they established the basis for which the union between the two territories will be established.

In the document (The Foumban Accord) that came out from that conference, both parties agreed that the union will be on the basis of a two state federation. The two states East Cameroon (former LRC) and West Cameroon (former SCs) were supposed to be equal in status under a power sharing agreement.

The federation lasted for 10 years. By 1972, the then president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo, claimed that the federation was too costly. According to him, it was extremely costly running three government and four houses of Assembly.

 He equally argued that, because the state of West Cameroon was unable to balance its budget, it was necessary to revert to a unitary system so that the state of West Cameroon could benefit from the resources of East Cameroon.

With this argument, he announced to the Federal Assembly, that he intends to organize a referendum to let Cameroonians decide if they want to continue under the Federal system.

Against this backdrop, a referendum was organized in Cameroon on 20th May 1972, in which Cameroonians had to choose between a federal system and a unitary system. Going by the result. The overwhelming majority of Cameroonians chose the latter. 

Therefore what happened in 1961 was a plebiscite intending to have SCs decide if they wanted independence by joining Nigeria or LRC. While what happened in 1972 was a referendum for Cameroonians as a whole to decide between a federal system of government and a unitary system of government. 

It may interest your readers to note that a referendum and a plebiscite may mean the same thing but there is a slight difference. A plebiscite is done to get people’s opinions before the introduction of a new law. While a referendum is done to get people’s opinion to amend an existing law.

About the Guest

Ndifor Richard Manjong, is a Cameroonian Historian with over 15 years of experience teaching Cameroon history to secondary and high school students in Cameroon. Ndifor holds a Master’s degree in History from the University of Yaounde and a Postgraduate History Teaching Diploma from ENS Yaounde.

Ndifor is also a Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement Fellow from George Mason University, Virginia, USA. The soft spoken academician is also an advocate for education and he is the current Director of Education for Health and Education for all, an NGO working to promote access to healthcare and quality education.

Ndifor Richard is one of the leading crusaders for back to school in the North West South west regions of Cameroon of which students and pupils have lost two getting to three years without going to school due to insecurity caused by the ongoing Anglophone crisis.


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