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Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC)

The Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) is illegal in Cameroon as it is a secessionist organisation. French Cameroon became independent, as the Republic of Cameroon, on 1 January 1960, under the presidency of Ahmadou Ahidjo. In the British Cameroons, a UN-sponsored plebiscite was held in February 1961. The northern region voted to merge with Nigeria (becoming the province of Sadauna), while the south voted for a union with the Republic of Cameroon (which took place on 1 October 1961). Ahmadou Ahidjo assumed the presidency of the new Federal Republic of Cameroon. In recent years the English-speaking inhabitants of the former British provinces have sought autonomy or a return to federal government. In the 1990s, tensions increased between Cameroon and Nigeria over competing claims to the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) is a group supporting independence for anglophone provinces. The Southern Cameroons National Council was established in 1992 as a result of disagreements within the SDF. There are two factions of the SCNC, the genuine one and one that is being managed by the state to discredit the genuine one. The Southern Cameroonians had independence from 1954 until 1961. However, since 1961, there had been no dialogue between the government and the SCNC. It was also stated that in March 1999 President Biya proposed a referendum to solve the plight of Southern Cameroonians. However this has yet to be conducted.

The Government considers the SCNC an illegal organisation because it advocates secession, which the law prohibits. The security forces continue to arrest and detain leaders, members, and supporters of the SCNC. In 2008, for example, the security forces reportedly arrested approximately forty leaders, members, and supporters of the SCNC to prevent them from participating in unauthorised political meetings. However, in accordance with the newly instituted penal code, officials released, pending trial, individuals who were detained for participating in illegal SCNC gatherings. The police have also reportedly put the houses of SCNC officials and activists under surveillance, searched the houses of some SCNC leaders, and disrupted SCNC meetings in private residences. In addition, the authorities have refused to grant the SCNC permission to hold rallies and meetings.

Reports indicate that SCNC members found to be participating in group meetings have been arrested and detained. In May 2007 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advised that an indiviudal could be served with a court summons, known in Cameroon as a convocation, if found to be carrying a SCNC membership card. The DFAT report also states that it is likely, though not confirmed, that the Cameroon authorities maintain a list of individuals wanted for arrest due to their SCNC membership as opposed to their position within the SCNC.

There has been no difference in treatment of Anglophones by the government since President Ahidjo was in power. Anglophones are leaving the country because of the harsh treatment that they receive. Anglophones suffer marginalisation, economic blockage (75 percent of resources come from the Anglophone province) and discrimination. The source stated that intellectual Anglophones have been “bought over” by the Francophones.

According to the SCNC, freedom of movement is a problem for SCNC members because they fear for their lives and are constantly being watched by government authorities. Every day there is a fear of being arrested. Government forces have been known to approach the wives of the members of the SCNC and offer them money in exchange for details about their husband’s activities. The SCNC is “the leading vehicle for expression of secessionist sentiment in the former British Cameroons region. A 2009 UK Home Office operational guidance note stated that “the SCNC advocates complete secession or full independence of the two southern Anglophone provinces from the Francophone majority”.

The USDOS Reports on Human Rights Practices 2008 – Cameroon reports that SCNC is illegal and that individuals found to be participating in SCNC meetings have been arrested. The report states that “during the year security forces preemptively arrested approximately 40 leaders, members, and supporters of the SCNC to prevent them from participating in unauthorized political meetings”.

Jacques Franquin, a representative of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cameroon stated in 2004 that although in the past particular groups have suffered persecution by state authorities within the country, this is no longer the case. In the past members of the SCNC had faced harassment and inhumane treatment by the police. For example, between 1999-2001 there were some clashes between SCNC members and the police and some SCNC activists were jailed for their behavior.

According to a representative of the SCNC, the Ambazonian Restoration Movement (ARM) has been set up by the Cameroon authorities as a fake Anglophone movement with the intention of discrediting the genuine objective for independence. The ARM has offices under the guise of the SCNC in Bamenda and has had demonstrations in Washington, USA. They claim persecution from the authorities and they produce letters to support asylum claims.

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