IBTimes UK spoke with human rights activist and former political prisoner Ebenezer Akwanga on the struggle for independence in Southern Cameroons. Akwanga alleged that human right abuses against pro-independence activists in Southern Cameroons are common.

In 1997, Akwanga was imprisoned and tortured in Cameroon for six years due to his political activism. He is now the president of the Southern Cameroons Youth League.

Akwanga believes his people might ally with pro-Biafrans in south-eastern Nigeria, who are also fighting to gain independence. "Political sequences took place which affected our culture, language, traditions, everything that makes us a people," he said.

Southern Cameroons
Southern Cameroons joined the Republic of Cameroon in 1961Wikimedia Commons

Southern Cameroons

Southern Cameroons was the southern part of the British Mandate territory of Cameroons during the colonisation.

In 1961, people of Cameroon voted whether to join Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroun, which had already obtained independence from Britain and France one year earlier.

The vote resulted in Southern Cameroons became part of Cameroon.

"Around 1984 the Cameroon Anglophone Movement started. It was first looking for a return to a federal system of governance and later on became the Southern Cameroon Restoration Movement.

"The Southern Cameroons Youth League was born and our goal was simple: We wanted the total and unconditional independence of the Southern Cameroons."

A coordinator of Ipob in Nigeria's Anambra state, who spoke to IBtimes UK on condition of anonymity, confirmed pro-Biafrans and people in Southern Cameroons might come together. He said: "IPOB is ready to work or join forces with any group seeking for independence from slavery and persecution. And our people in Southern Cameroon are not any different."

Biafra map
The Biafran territories were forcibly annexed to Nigeria during the British colonisationIBTimes UK

Biafra

Pro-Biafrans call for the independence of the Biafran territories forcibly annexed to Nigeria during the British colonisation, which ended in 1960.

The declaration of the independent Republic of Biafra in 1967 sparked a civil war that resulted in the death of millions and the re-annexation of the republic to Nigeria in 1970.

Pro-Biafrans hold regular marches across south-eastern Nigeria calling for independence and the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu, who is the head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob).

Union 'highly likely'

David Otto, CEO of UK-based global security provider TGS Intelligence Consultants, told IBTimes UK that a union between the two groups is very likely and could further destabilise the region.

"Although the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNS) is purely a peaceful movement, they could be tempted to join forces with the Biafra movement, which has been vocal in their willingness to use arms against the Nigerian government," said Otto.

"The Biafran movement will prefer to use their affiliation with members of the SCNC to secure a safe haven in Cameroon or perhaps use Cameroon as a point to launch attacks against the Nigerian government.

"The entire region will be in chaos from both ends and it will be easier for Boko Haram terrorists to hijack the opportunity and extend southwards in Cameroon and Nigeria."

Otto also said that a holistic approach is required to resolve issues of self-determination and independence and called on both government to organise a referendum on independence.

"There is no need for government to wait until arms and violence becomes the only option. Self determination referendums have been successfully done in many countries including Ethiopia, UK, Canada, Spain, etc. In a democratic setting, let the people decide their destiny."

Government position

The government of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has always maintained that Nigeria's unity is a priority for the country and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests are welcome, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories is against the constitution.

The Nigerian government told IBTimes UK that it does not consider the separatist movement a threat to the current leadership, and defined pro-Biafrans as an "insignificant number of frustrated people who are not a threat to the existence of Nigeria."

In several interviews with IBTimes UK, the army and the police denied allegations of violence during pro-Biafran protests, arguing that security forces had to intervene as pro-Biafrans "were armed and disrupted peace in the state."

The Cameroonian embassy in London has not replied to a request for comment.

When contacted by IBTimes UK, the UK government said: "The position of the UK government during the Biafran War is a matter of historical record. The UK government's position, which reflected the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity, was to recognise the borders laid down at Independence.

"The Biafran War caused great suffering and the UK supported the reconciliation work that followed the conflict. The UK supports the territorial integrity of Nigeria and President Buhari's commitment to work for a secure and prosperous Nigeria for all Nigerians."

IBTimes UK also understands that the UK recognises the 1961 annexion of southern Cameroons to Cameroon as legitimate. The UK government also encourages all political groups in Cameroon to engage constructively and respect the democratic process for bringing their political ideology before the people of Cameroon.