Cameroon secessionist group to issue ID cards

The idyllic countryside of Cameroon's Northwest Region. A group calling itself the Southern Cameroons National Council is agitating for the secession of the region together with the Southwest. 

One of the secessionist movements operating in Cameroon’s two formerly British-administered regions has introduced a radical new twist to its struggle by launching a “national identity card.”

A senior official with the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) told Africa Review that more than 10,000 people across the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions - “Southern Cameroons” - now possess the ID cards.

Late last month over 50 activists were rounded for possessing the identity cards after security forces interrupted a meeting they held in the Northwest regional capital, Bamenda.

“Everything is unfolding in our favour and we have taken initiatives that will transform the face of the struggle into a whole new one,” SCNC coordinator for the Centre Region, Maxwell Oben, said.

Oben waved aside fears that English-speaking Cameroonians who support the Yaoundé regime could infiltrate the movement saying acceptable references must be used by every applicant.

He claims the leadership of sister secessionist movements are dragging their feet in throwing their weight behind the distribution of the identification papers but said the rank and file is solidly behind the drive.

The movement is also seeking 50,000 signatures to back a petition it plans to lodge at the United Nations against the “illegal occupation and colonisation” of the formerly British-administered Southern Cameroons by the French-speaking Cameroon.

More than 6.000 signatories have already backed the appeal and more are still doing so, Oben says.

The SCNC is also said to be planning to introduce a currency– Ramson or Rams – for the territory. Treasury bonds that will be exchanged for the currency "once sovereignty is attained" are already in circulation, the activist says.

There are also plans to set up broadcast media to whip up popular support according to the activist.

Empty propaganda

Some observers, mainly supporters of a continued union with the rest of the country, say the plans are too good to be true and are just ploys by a desperate and forgotten movement to gain media exposure.

They say it is impossible for an outlawed movement to introduce a currency and the other envisaged measures in a territory that is not under its control.

But Oben says “we must all have dreams in life and this is not just a dream, but one that is real.”

“We have a plan of action with which we can realise our dreams in the next four to five years at most.”

The “liberation struggle” took a new twist after an ethnic group in southeast Nigeria reportedly announced in early October that it would join forces with Southern Cameroons to form an independent nation.

The Efik are one of the groups that inhabit Bakassi, an oil rich peninsula Nigeria and Cameroon contested for over 20 years but was finally ceded to Cameroon in a 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling.

The group had been resettled inland in Nigeria’s Cross River State after the ruling but complained that they could not get an alternative livelihood to fishing.

Their resolve followed Nigeria’s decision to shelve calls to review the ICJ ruling before an October 10, 2012 deadline.

Every year on October 1, a day which the SCNC says the formerly British-administered southern Cameroon was denied the option of seceding in a referendum that united the English-speaking region with the former French territory in 1961, activists hold demonstrations to call for independence.

On October 1 this year, more than 100 activists were rounded up across English-speaking Cameroon after security forces clamped down on their demonstrations.

The SCNC in 2003 filed a complaint to the African Union (AU) against the State of Cameroon.

In 2009, the AU ruled that the SCNC should drop its self-determination bid, become a political party and enter into talks with the state of Cameroon.

On its part, Cameroon was required to enter into talks and fulfill a series of demands to revise its treatment of the English-speaking community.

Such negotiations – which have never taken place – would have been an indirect acknowledgement that Yaoundé has relegated the Southwest and Northwest regions to the fringes of the over 50 year union.

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