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The 1961 Cameroon Plebiscite. Choice or Betrayal

Choice or Betrayal

John Percival

Publication Year: 2008

The United Nations-organised plebiscite on 11 February 1961 was one of the most significant events in the history of the southern and northern parts of the British-administered trust territory in Cameroon. John Percival was sent by the then Colonial Office as part of the team to oversee the process. This book captures the story of the plebiscite in all its dimensions and intricacies and celebrates the author's admiration for things African through a series of reminiscences of what life was like in the 1960s, both for the Africans themselves and for John Percival as a very young man. The complex story is also a series of reflections about the effect of the modern world on Africa. It is a thorough, insightful, rich and enlightening first-hand source on a political landmark that has never been told before in this way. In a vivid style with a great sense of humour, Percival's witty, cogent, eyewitness and active-participant account deconstructs the rumours and misrepresentations about the February 1961 Plebiscite which was a prelude to reunification and to the present day politics of 'belonging' in Cameroon. "One of the major merits of this book is to provide us with a deeper insight into the role of those actors who have never been the subject of plebiscite studies, namely the Plebiscite Supervisory Officers." - Piet Konings, African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands John Percival-Anthropologist, Writer, Television Broadcaster of many innovative BBC series on the environment, history and anthropology. As a young graduate he was recruited and sent to serve in the Southern Cameroons as a Plesbiscite Supervisory Officer in 1961. He died in 2005 after a recent return visit to Cameroon with Nigel Wenban-Smith who writes an epilogue. This posthumous memoir has been edited by his wife, Lalage Neal.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Shirley Ardener, Dr. Judith Edwards, Dr. Ian Fowler and Marie-Pierre Moine, for invaluable help with editing, and . . .

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pp. ix-xii

My husband, John Percival, was a passionate man, caring deeply about issues big and small. Whether it was his family, his allotment garden or the big socio-political . . .

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pp. xiii-xix

In 1960, at the age of 23, I was hired by the Colonial Office and seconded to the United Nations, to preside over the demise of a small part of the British Empire, in the remote . . .

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pp. 1-14

A book like this is ultimately about belonging, its indicators, the various forms it takes in different contexts, its priorities, and how it is renegotiated over . . .

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1. Plebiscite

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pp. 15-27

It all began around the end of the first week in June 1960, shortly after I graduated from Cambridge. I had changed course for my third year and finished up by . . .

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2. Enlightenment

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pp. 28-43

For the first Public Enlightenment Campaign we PSOs had to go ‘on trek’. This phrase simply meant that we would have to walk instead of driving around in . . .

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3. Aghem

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pp. 44-62

On returning to Wum I made my report to the Plebiscite Administrator. Tal was not surprised that politics had come up at my meetings, and took a relaxed view . . .

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4. Registration

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pp. 63-73

All over the territory, 25 other Plebiscite Officers were completing the same tasks at approximately the same time. It must have been around the middle of . . .

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5. More enlightenment

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pp. 74-86

When registration was complete and we Plebiscite Officers had gone through all the hand-written lists and corrected any obvious errors, we all had to take . . .

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6. Revision

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pp. 87-98

Nigel was determined to join me on the hunting expedition, so, early one morning a few days before Christmas, we assembled a large retinue of carriers and . . .

7. Polling day

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pp. 99-103

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pp. 104-112

Reflecting on his Cameroon experience in retirement, John sought to place it in the context of his later African wanderings, most importantly those entailed in . . .

Appendix 1: The Two Alternatives

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pp. 113-125


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pp. 126-136

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956716807
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956558490

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: B/W Illustrations
Publication Year: 2008