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Pro-independence Anglophone group defies Cameroon government ban
The secessionist Southern Cameroons National Council on Wednesday rejected a ban put in place by the Cameroonian authorities with the head of the group saying the ban did not apply to them because they do not recognise the government’s authority. Cameroon’s Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation had said earlier the group was outlawed because it threatened national security.
“The issue of the ban is meaningless, we operate within our homeland, we are not operating in la République du Cameroun,” said Ngala Nfor, National Chairman, Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC).
Cameroon’s government on Tuesday said the SCNC and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium were declared “null and void” because they were “contrary” to the country’s constitution and “jeopardise the security of the state”, according to the English version of a statement by René Emmanuel Sadi, Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation.
“As far as we are concerned we are not giving up, because we know that we are doing what is right and in the supreme interests of our people,” Nfor told RFI in a telephone interview. “The SCNC is the will and the spiritual strength of the southern Cameroonian people who are entitled to freedom and mastery of their own homeland.”
The ban is the latest development in tensions between the Francophone administration and Anglophone minority. The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) originally called for protests in November over a perceived lack of educational provision for Anglophone children in schools. The protests in Bamenda were also supported by lawyers in the city who were unhappy with the government’s lack of recognition for the Anglophone legal system.
The protests have developed into a stay-at-home strike paralysing Bamenda as well as other English-speaking towns such as Buea. The CACSC is broadly calling for a federalist system, whereas the SCNC has mounted a long-standing campaign for the independence of Anglophone Cameroon.
Authorities made a number of arrests in recent days, according to reports. Violence has been instigated by the Cameroonian security forces, said Nfor. “The issue of violence that existed in our territory was provoked by the occupation forces,” he said.
The US State Department criticised Cameroon’s government following clashes between security forces and protesters during protests in Bamenda and Buea in November. It called on all parties to “exercise restraint, refrain from further violence and engage in dialogue,” the statement said.
The SCNC said it was intimidated by troops during recent dialogue with local authorities, according to Nfor. “One partner is sitting there well-armed and the other does not even have a broomstick, so who is provoking violence?” he said.
“That same night [Friday] they shot some of our people,” Nfor added. “There was no violence, there was no demonstration outside.”
Cameroon was divided up into French and British administrative zones according to the 1919 London Declaration. The British zone represented some 20 per cent of the country before Cameroon became a country, comprising both the British and French zones, gaining independence in 1961.
“We are appealing to the UN, to step into the matter and make sure it does not escalate into some kind of open war. We are not ready for that,” said Nfor.
Internet users reported connectivity problems on Tuesday evening, coinciding with the banning of the two Anglophone groups and subsequent arrests.
“As much as half of the routed networks of Cameroon experienced an outage,” according to Doug Madory, Dyn Research. “Users on Twitter reported that service was down in the English-speaking regions of the country,” said Madory, who analyses the internet’s connectivity across the world.
“Cameroon witnessed its first internet blackout by the state,” said anti-censorship group Internet Without Borders in a tweet. However, some users indicated that local network providers had said a problem with the country’s fibre optic cable led to the outage.
An internet user in Bamenda contacted by RFI said internet had been restored by Wednesday morning, but that connectivity was patchy.
“At this point it is circumstantial,” said network analyst Madory. “A large internet outage occurred affecting the English-speaking regions of the country immediately after the political group representing these regions was outlawed and its leaders were arrested.”