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.
Recently, while writing about the asylum system in the UK, I spoke to members of the SCNC living in exile. I met Roger (not his real name) at a coffee shop in London, where he told me that he was unlawfully imprisoned in Cameroon for being in the SCNC. “We want Southern Cameroon to be a state on its own, with its own laws,” he told me. “I’ve witnessed one killing of a fellow SCNC member in front of me. Another man was shot from behind. Many of us have died in the cause just like that. Many have died in prison. Many have died in police cells having being tortured.”
Roger had to get out of Cameroon, and after a number of appeals and over two years in various detention centers, he was granted asylum in the UK. He misses his country but, far more than that, he misses his wife, who he said was raped and then killed by men opposed to the Southern Cameroons independence movement.