Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC)
At least 500 civilians in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon are detained in overcrowded facilities while scores wounded have fled hospitals for fear of arrest. Other protestors have reportedly been forced to pay US$60 bribes (R800) to be released from detention.
Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International's regional executive, said the mass arrest of protestors, most who protested peacefully, was not only a violation of human rights but was also likely to be counter-productive. "The Cameroonian authorities should release anyone detained only for exercising their right to peaceful protest." The fear of arrest and large-scale deployment of security forces has led to wounded protestors fleeing hospitals fearing arrest. It is reported in at least one hospital, security forces have arrested patients.
Prime Minister Head of Government, Philemon Yang led a delegation of North West elite to the region with a message of peace and hope from the Head of State, President Paul Biya. The delegation of elite was on the field since October 15, 2017 to commune, consult and share President Biya's message which stresses peace, reason and the need for things to quickly return to normalcy.
The long-simmering crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions took a dangerous turn with small explosions targeting local security officials, as ongoing protests became increasingly vociferous. Renewed mass protests broke out on 22 September 20172 in major towns and villages across the north west and south west. The aggrieved population took to the streets with placards, whistles and flags of Ambazonia.
On 01 October 2017, the anniversary of the official reunification of the anglophone and francophone parts of Cameroon, the anglophone separatists made a symbolic proclamation of independence for Ambazonia, the name of the state they want to create. "We are no longer slaves of Cameroon," said Sisiku Ayuk, who describes himself as the "president" of Ambazonia. "Today we affirm the autonomy of our heritage and our territory," he said.
Police patrolled empty streets in Cameroon's restive anglophone belt as a separatist group made a symbolic proclamation of independence on 01 October 2017, a day after a young man was shot dead by security forces. In Buea, the main city in the English-speaking southwest, the streets were mostly deserted as security forces patrolled the streets including the area where the separatists were expected to gather. The anglophone minority has long complained about disparities in the distribution of Cameroon's oil wealth.
Cameroonian authorities on 05 October 2017 rejected a report by a human rights group which said at least 100 people were killed by government forces during the past weekend's protests. Initial reports stated 17 people had been killed.
On 09 October 2017 Cameroon’s military said that it had stopped hundreds of Nigerian fighters attempting to enter its territory to join separatist groups in English speaking regions that are demanding for independence. The military intensified arrests of activists despite calls from the United Nations and the international community. Most recently Catholic bishops denounced "barbarism" and "irresponsible use" of force against demonstrators in Cameroon's English-speaking regions.
Ambazonia - Background
The Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) is illegal in Cameroon as it is a secessionist organisation. Long-time President Paul Biya completely ruled out independence, and also strongly opposed the return to a federal structure, which existed in Cameroon from the time it gained independence in 1961 until 1984, when Biya abolished the federal system for a unified Republic of Cameroon.
The 4 million English speaking Cameroonians make up 20 percent of Cameroon's population of 23 million. They have long complained that they are treated like second-class citizens by the predominantly French speaking government in Yaounde. The root of the grievances date back to the end of World War One when the League of Nations decided to split Kamerun, a former German colony, between the allied French and British powers.
In 1999, the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) declared, mostly symbolically, an independent Republic of Ambazonia, citing a 1995 non-binding referendum on independence in which separatists won out with 99%, and in 2006, after the Bakassi cession, the Southern Cameroons Peoples Organization (SCAPO) declared a Republic of Ambazania (note slight difference in spelling), which included Bakassi as well.
Most anglophone campaigners want the country to resume a federalist system -- an approach that followed the 1961 unification but was later scrapped in favour of a centralised government run from the capital Yaounde. A hardline minority is calling for secession.
Ambazonia regards itself as a sovereign and the proposal for an Ambazonian-Cameroon confederacy is not an issue for its consideration. Ambazonia is a state with internationally recognized boundaries (fixed by the League of Nations, inherited by the United Nations and which remains so today). In 1958 Ambazonia achieved self-government, then in 1959 the UN passed a resolution severing it from
Nigeria, and in October 1960, an independent Constitution was promulgated for the territory.
French Cameroon became independent, as the Republic of Cameroon, on 1 January 1960, under the presidency of Ahmadou Ahidjo. Later that year Nigeria gained its independence from Britain and became a Federal Republic. The British-controlled southern Cameroons was then separated from Nigeria and was due to achieve full independence on 01 October 1961. In the British Cameroons, a UN-sponsored plebiscite was held in February 1961. Cameroun was forced to drop the politics of claiming that Ambazonia is part of a single Cameroonian nation. According to Cameroon's statement of claim, the Ambazonian people gave it that mandate through the United Nations plebiscite of 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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