The Boko Haram insurgency is on the wane in the Lake Chad basin but continues to carry out attacks against civilian and military targets in Cameroon’s Far North. The war has killed 2,000 Cameroonians, displaced 170,000 and triggered the rise of vigilante self-defence groups. Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Anglophone region has experienced violent flare-ups as the central government represses dissent over the perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority. Crisis Group aims to reduce conflict risks in the Far North and to promote confidence-building measures and better governance to defuse the Anglophone crisis. Through field research led by our analyst and advocacy with the government as well as with national and international stakeholders, we work to increase the likelihood of peaceful presidential elections in October 2018.
Crisis Group’s early-warning Watch List identifies up to ten countries and regions at risk of conflict or escalation of violence. In these situations, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. It includes a global overview, regional summaries, and detailed analysis on select countries and conflicts.
The Watch List 2018 includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Cameroon, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Sahel, Tunisia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
Boko Haram (BH) slightly increased operations in Far North against military and civilians, and Anglophone separatists kept up insurgent attacks against security forces and officials, especially in Southwest region. BH attacks in Logone-et-Chari department bordering Lake Chad picked up after ten-month lull there: fighters injured soldier in Amatalia 2 April; over 50 BH fighters thought to belong to al-Barnawi’s faction 3 April launched large attack on military base in Sagme, killing six soldiers, fifteen assailants also killed; fighters kidnapped driver between Sale and Zigague 9 April; killed two fishermen in Ngame 17 April. Soldiers and local vigilantes of Zigague 18 April attacked BH cell in Dougouma across border in Nigeria, killing four fighters. In neighbouring Mayo Sava department to south, BH fighters killed one civilian in Limani 2 April, killed two more in Allargno 9 April and armed forces killed two BH fighters in Cherif-Moussari 25 April. Anglophone separatists conducted attack in Belo village, Northwest region 5-6 April killing one gendarme; killed one soldier in Ediki, Southwest 13 April and same day injured three more in Meme, Southwest; clashed with security forces in Dadi, Southwest 16 April; separatists killed three security forces and bomb killed two others in Lebialem department, Southwest 21-22 April. Separatists 20 April attacked convoy of Southwest governor in Lebialem. Separatists 28 April killed two gendarmes in Bali-Nyongha, Northwest. Priest kidnapped in Belo 30 April. Several new separatist militias formed in April and separatists killed at least three civilians accused of being informants for security forces. Security forces reportedly continued to set ablaze civilian houses in areas thought to be sympathetic to separatists such as Lebialem. Constitutional Council 5 April announced results of 25 March senatorial elections: ruling party CPDM won 63 of 70 seats; as per constitution President Biya appointed senators to remaining 30 seats, giving CPDM 87 of 100 seats in senate.
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.
Since October 2016, protests and strikes related to sectoral demands have escalated into a crisis over the economic and political marginalisation of Cameroon’s Anglophone minority. Although the government has made some concessions, it must rebuild mutual trust with Anglophone actors in order to avoid instability ahead of the 2018 general elections.
Regional armies in the Lake Chad basin deploy vigilantes to sharpen campaigns against Boko Haram insurgents. But using these militias creates risks as combatants turn to communal violence and organised crime. Over the long term they must be disbanded or regulated.
Cameroon’s military campaign against the Boko Haram insurgency started late but has met with partial success. To consolidate gains and bring lasting peace to the Far North, the government must now shift to long-term socio-economic development, countering religious radicalism and reinforcing public services.
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.
[Home-made bombs and attacks directly targeting Cameroon's security forces] can be explained by the radicalisation of the population in these regions due to the police repression and arbitrary killings.
Cameroon is facing violence in three regions, local communities are struggling to resist Boko Haram recruitment and the humanitarian crisis is worsening. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to support regional governments to provide humanitarian assistance and encourage the state to develop projects to boost local economies.
Improving decentralisation countrywide would appeal to Anglophone protesters, but without seeming to give them special treatment.
Originally published in African Arguments
La crise ouverte voici presque un an dans les régions dites anglophones (Nord-Ouest et Sud-Ouest) du Cameroun persiste.
Originally published in Jeune Afrique