Cameroon is beset with two violent conflicts. The first, between the government and separatists from the English-speaking minority, has killed over 3,000 people and displaced 600,000. In the Anglophone regions, 800,000 children are out of school and one in three of the four million people are in need of aid. The country also faces a renewed Boko Haram insurgency: after waning briefly, it has come back to carry out deadly attacks in the Lake Chad basin. The war with Boko Haram -- centred in the Far North -- has killed 2,000 Cameroonians, displaced 250,000 and triggered the rise of vigilante self-defence groups. Elsewhere, and particularly following the October 2018 presidential election, ethnic discourse is heightening political tensions. Crisis Group aims to de-escalate conflict and promote a peaceful resolution in both the Anglophone regions and the Far North. Through field research and advocacy with the government as well as with national and international stakeholders, we also work to reduce friction exacerbated by the 2018 election dispute.
Après vingt mois d’affrontements, Yaoundé et les séparatistes campent sur leurs positions. Entre la sécession voulue par les séparatistes et la décentralisation en trompe-l’œil que propose le gouvernement, des solutions médianes doivent être explorées pour conférer plus d’autonomie aux régions.
In Anglophone South West and North West regions, hostilities continued between military and Anglophone separatists with both sides reportedly also attacking civilians, while Boko Haram (BH) continued to target civilians in Far North. In early March, several clashes in Anglophone regions between govt forces and separatists reportedly left at least seventeen separatists, four soldiers and several civilians dead. Army stepped up operations in week leading up to 22 March re-run of legislative elections in eleven constituencies, claiming to have killed 24 separatists across both regions. Polling marred by low turnout and violence in North West region capital Bamenda, that reportedly left two dead. Local witnesses continued to accuse troops of killing civilians, which govt denied. Ambush by suspected separatists in Bui area, North West, 28 March killed twelve including soldier and local officials. Separatists also made incursion into predominantly francophone West region 7 March, killing eight including four security personnel in Galim town. To allow testing for COVID-19, one separatist group Southern Cameroon Defence Forces 26 March announced two-week ceasefire starting 29 March. Supporters of main opposition party Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC) captured armed gendarmerie officer in plain clothes during MRC rally in Garoua city, North region 13 March; party 16 March accused him of trying to assassinate party leader Maurice Kamto. In Far North region, BH continued to target civilians. Notably, insurgents 2 March killed two civilians in Kouyape area, 3 March kidnapped and beheaded local leader in Yamgazawa village, and 22 March killed four in Tourou village.
Le risque de violences autour du scrutin du 7 octobre est élevé dans les régions anglophones mais existe aussi ailleurs. Le gouvernement devrait lutter contre la montée des antagonismes communautaires dans tout le pays et parvenir à un cessez-le-feu, au moins temporaire, avec les groupes armés anglophones.
Le gouvernement camerounais devrait chercher à encourager les redditions de membres camerounais de Boko Haram. Des travaux communautaires, des confessions publiques, des cérémonies symboliques et des formations professionnelles peuvent permettre la réinsertion de ceux qui ne constituent pas un danger. Le gouvernement doit aussi préparer la démobilisation de certains comités de vigilance.
The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is growing deadlier. The Catholic Church could mediate between Anglophone militants and the state, but clergy have espoused clashing views on key issues. The Church should heal its divides so as to be a neutral arbiter that can broker peace.
La lutte contre Boko Haram dans l’Extrême-Nord du Cameroun, la région la plus pauvre du pays, a exacerbé la situation économique déjà précaire et bousculé les rôles socioéconomiques. Le gouvernement et les partenaires internationaux devront mettre en œuvre des politiques de développement qui tiennent compte des stratégies d’adaptation et de résilience des populations aux nouvelles réalités économiques.
Against a backdrop of bomb blasts, sporadic violence and repressive state measures, Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis has entered a new and intensified phase. In order to prevent the outbreak of an armed uprising, Cameroon’s president must go beyond superficial measures by urgently implementing key reforms and pursuing inclusive, high-level dialogue mediated by the UN or African Union.
We are not yet in a civil war [in Cameroon], but all the ingredients for a potential civil war are already assembled.
The main issue for Ambazonian groups [in Cameroon] is that they really lack finance. If they had money to buy weapons, train and feed their people, they could raise an army.
With the troubles in [Cameroon's] Anglophone regions and the persistent threat from Boko Haram, the 2018 elections will be a greater challenge than previous votes.
[Cameroon's President Biya] should quickly initiate a political dialogue on federalism or decentralisation or it’s possible that the Anglophone side will be radicalised even further.
Cameroon is heading into elections against a volatile political and security backdrop. Palpable political tension, instability in the English-speaking regions and attacks by Boko Haram [persist].
There’s a real risk of rebellion [in Cameroon] that could make the Anglophone regions ungovernable. [...] The Anglophone crisis calls the foundations of the Cameroonian state into question.
President Paul Biya has proposed a national dialogue aimed at resolving the Cameroonian government’s conflict with Anglophone separatists. Arrey E. Ntui, Crisis Group Senior Analyst for Cameroon, explains the reality on the ground in Anglophone areas and offers recommendations on how the government can make efforts to resolve the crisis.
President Paul Biya has proposed a national dialogue aimed at resolving the Cameroonian government’s conflict with Anglophone separatists. But the mooted dialogue will include neither separatists nor, it appears, other important English-speaking constituencies. Biya should allow greater Anglophone participation and neutral facilitation for the dialogue.
Cameroon went to the polls on 7 October amid several crises, notably the conflict between the government and Anglophone separatists. Crisis Group’s expert Hans De Marie Heungoup, in Cameroon during the vote, says it has compounded the country’s problems but also offered reason for hope.
Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director, says the crisis over Cameroon's 7 October election is the worst for 25 years, adding new risks in a country already on the brink of civil war due to the Anglophone crisis. Tensions may rise further once the election results are officially announced.