The decision

Heard at: Field House

On: 18 June 2004

CN (Cameroon Bamileke reluctant chief) Cameroon [2004] UKIAT 00189


Date Determination notified:

12 July 2004


Miss K Eshun (Vice President)
His Honour Judge N Ainley
Mrs S Hussain JP







For the appellant: Mr A Rasul, Solicitors of Gray & Co. Solicitors
For the respondent: Ms A Holmes


1. This is an appeal by the claimant from the determination of Mr Morrison sitting as an Adjudicator on 28 July 2003. Although permission to appeal was refused by the Tribunal the Lord Ordinary recalled a decision of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and granted leave to appeal.

2. The facts of the case as found by the Adjudicator are that the claimant is from the Bamileke ethnic group and was appointed chief of his particular tribe on or shortly after 25 August 1999 when his father died.

3. His father had had a large number of wives and according to a Bamileke tradition he was supposed to marry all of them apart from his own mother. He is a Roman Catholic and on that ground alone he was unwilling to marry any person other than the wife he already had. He also took the view that there were health risks for himself if he were to have sexual relations with a large number of women.

4. He said that he made his refusal to accede to the chiefdom known to other members of the tribe and was immediately detained, mistreated and beaten. He was taken to a local infirmary because of his condition after this mistreatment and from there to another clinic from which he escaped after a couple of days.

5. He went to Douala where he lived and worked as a customs agent and stayed there until February 2002 when he left Cameroon and went to the United Kingdom.

6. It is his claim that if he were to return to Cameroon he would be hunted down by members of the tribe and either persecuted or killed. He says that to do as he has done in refusing the chiefdom would be treated as something akin to an act of treachery by other members of the tribe and wherever he came into contact with other Bamileke he would be in acute danger.

7. The Adjudicator accepted the account he gave but came to the conclusion that he would not be at real risk on return to Cameroon despite what he said.

8. The claimant has placed material before us in support of his appeal which includes a determination of the Tribunal in Fudjeu [2002] UKIAT 07096. In that case a person with a somewhat similar background in general terms was granted asylum. The general terms to which we have referred are that he is a Christian whom tribal custom required to accede to the chiefdom after his father's death. He refused and it was held that he would be at real risk of persecution.

9. There are distinct differences between that case and this. The most important of those differences as it seems to us is that that case did not concern Bamileke at all but concerned tribal practices in the north of Cameroon where apparently, according to the objective evidence available in that case, the chiefs hold particularly strong sway.

10. In the case before us we were assisted by a newspaper article submitted by the claimant from Societe, which appears to be a Cameroon newspaper. The article was helpfully translated into English. It was about the changes taking place in Bamileke society because of the influence of western lifestyles and also because of the disinclination of younger members of Bamileke chiefly families to stick to the customs that their ancestors practised.

11. It is not necessary to cite from the article at any length but it is plain from what the article says that there is a good deal of tension in Bamileke society between the followers of the old ways and the younger generation of chiefs. Nowadays chiefs are not prepared to marry their father's widows, albeit it seems undoubted that the tradition was that they should. This can be for a variety of reasons which include religious scruples as well as a fear of contracting AIDS. Examples are given in the article of chiefs who have declined to take up their chiefly responsibilities. It appears that when that happens there is a considerable amount of disapproval but a regency is installed and, no doubt, in the fullness of time, a new chief is elected.

12. The article is also noteworthy because it features the claimant's own circumstances. It states that he would not take up his duties and had fled. It is said also that his wife's whereabouts were unknown. The claimant's fear that on return to Cameroon he would be persecuted or killed is plainly set out in the article.

13. When one considers the article as a whole, however, what becomes plain is that whilst there is disapproval, ostracism and sometimes even the issuing of threats against those who do not take up what are perceived to be their responsibilities, there is no evidence whatever that any violence has been inflicted upon any of those who would be regarded as errant chiefs by those who would see themselves as guardians of the Bamileke traditions.

14. It is inconceivable in an article of this nature, written by people who are clearly well acquainted with the tensions modernisation is causing Bamileke society, that if such assaults were occurring they would not be written about.

15. We can only conclude from this article that in fact the Bamileke do not carry their disapproval as far as the infliction of physical violence. We asked whether there was any objective material to the knowledge of counsel for the claimant, to the effect that in fact the Bamileke do pursue their former chiefs and persecute or kill them but we were told that no such material was available.

16. In the absence of any evidence that harm actually comes to those who behave as the claimant has we consider it would be quite wrong to infer from his fear that this harm would come to him that it actually would.

17. We repeat, the tensions in Bamileke society are clearly matters which are debated in Cameroon; the article to which we have referred deals with nothing else, and yet there is no indication that any harm is visited upon those who go against what would be regarded as tribal traditions.

18. In those circumstances we consider that there is no evidential basis for the claimant's fears of what would happen to him on return to Cameroon. Accordingly this appeal must be dismissed.

His Honour Judge N Ainley
Vice President