Jan 30, 2007

Continued Concern: Mass Arrests in Southern Cameroons

Following the raid of the press conference in Bamenda on 20 January 2007, Mr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, Vice-Chairman of SCNC and UNPO Member representative, other SCNC leaders and activists remain in detention, in what unfolds as a renewed threat to fundamental freedoms in Southern Cameroons.

The Hague, 30 January 2007 – UNPO continues to receive reports that fundamental freedoms in Southern Cameroons are under renewed threat from Cameroonian authorities.

On 20 January 2007 armed police and Gendarmes raided a SCNC press conference in Bamenda, Southern Cameroons. Hundreds of Southern Cameroonians were assembled to learn of international efforts to address the deteriorating human rights conditions in their region, but found themselves instead as its latest victims.

At least 15 SCNC members and activists were beaten and transported away by armed police, including Vice-Chairman of SCNC and UNPO Member representative, Mr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, who has recently raised the situation in Southern Cameroons with the Foreign Affairs Commission in the Netherlands and across Europe.

Since their arrest, Mr. Nfor Ngala Nfor and others detained have been transferred to the Bamenda central prison; where they are being held under what is reported as inhumane conditions without charge. Some are still suffering from injuries sustained during the press conference raid.

The intimidation of other SCNC activists continues unabated, as SCNC members and the SCNC national secretariat building in Bamenda reportedly remain under constant surveillance from Cameroonian police.

In a display of solidarity, SCNC activists demonstrated against the arbitrary arrest and detention of SCNC leaders and fellow activists outside the State Council in Bamenda.

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Also in response to these events, Members of UNPO together with Members of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) rallied outside the Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon in The Hague on 25 January 2007, protesting this most recent act of suppression, and singing their now familiar “Freedom Song”.

UNPO General Secretary Mr. Marino Busdachin attempted also to present to the Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon a visa request to conduct a mission to Bamenda in order to consider reports of arbitrary detention, the conditions under which SCNC and UNPO Members are being detained and report on the larger issue of the human rights situation in Southern Cameroons. The General Secretary was however refused entry to the Embassy at its very doorstep, and denied even the opportunity to present formally his visa application. This refusal of what UNPO considers a legitimate request could be recognised as an indication of the Republic of Cameroon’s rejection of any attempted scrutiny of its arrest and detention practices.

UNPO has issued extensive international appeals for the immediate and unconditional release of the SCNC activists detained at the recent assembly in Southern Cameroons. It will continue to request permission to conduct its own verification of these distressing reports of arbitrary arrest and curtailed freedoms of expression and association, and will remain dedicated to pursuing the fundamental rights of the people of Southern Cameroons as they face one of Africa’s most under-reported campaigns of oppression

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