The southwest of Cameroon is an English-speaking corner of a Francophone country. Its population is one of many across the world that wouldn’t mind drawing its national football team from a smaller pool of talent, if it meant that they were no longer associated with a government that continues to marginalize and persecute them. The Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) campaigns for the independence of this region from the rest of Cameroon. They feel pretty strongly about it, too, as evidenced by the fact that they haven’t given up despite being outlawed, tortured, and even killed for their membership of the group.

The desire for an independent nation state goes back, predictably, to the end of empire. Having scrambled into Africa, the European powers scrambled back out, leaving a set of artificially carved up states behind them. French Cameroon got its independence in 1960 and then, on October 1, 1961, the time came for British Cameroons to be divided. The northern part joined Nigeria and the southern part joined French Cameroon.

The formerly British area of the country had its own autonomy as part of a federal Cameroon at first, but in 1972, much of this autonomy was removed by the government of Ahmadou Ahidjo, which pushed through the replacement of the federal constitution with a unitary one. In 1982, Paul Biya became president of Cameroon and over time he created a one-party state, centralizing powers. In the early 90s, he accepted the introduction of multi-party politics but managed to hang on to undisputed power. He is still president today, winning elections against a divided opposition, amid deep voter apathy and accusations of vote rigging.

“Biya probably does rig the vote but he would probably win if he didn’t because the population has so little faith in the political system,” a Cameroonian journalist told me.
It was in the early to mid-90s that Biya’s government really inspired the movement for an independent, Anglophone Southern Cameroon. In 1995, SCNC was founded and in 1996, Anglophone Cameroonian groups had their requests for greater autonomy written into the constitution. That sounds like progress, but none of these requests have been implemented and Biya has since declared that the SCNC is an illegal organization. In return, the SCNC refers to Biya’s government as an “annexationist regime.” Last year, over 100 suspected activists were arrested in a sweep of the town of Buea, including the SCNC’s vice-president, Nfor Ngalla Nfor. Members of the SCNC told me that these arrests often lead to the torture and sometimes killing of their members, something that is largely ignored by the UN, the US, and the former colonial powers, France and the UK.

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Oludare J. Olusan
Oludare J. Olusan 249 posts

Publisher, Entrepreneur, Author and founder of The African portal / Presenter at The African Portal Radio / TV

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