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.
Security forces early Sept confronted Anglophone separatists in North West region’s capital and jihadist attacks persisted in Far North. After Anglophone separatists 1 Sept killed policeman in North West’s capital Bamenda, security forces in following days banned circulation of motorbikes and raided city, killing prominent separatist leader known as General Mad Dog 6 Sept; as part of “Bamenda Clean” operation launched 8 sept, military carried out house searches, indiscriminate arrests and shootings, killing three civilians 12 Sept and four people including two suspected separatists 22 Sept. Soldiers 15 and 20 Sept killed four civilians in Bafut town, Mezam division. In South West region, Anglophone separatists 14 Sept killed two soldiers and one civilian in Bekora village, Ndian division. Soldiers 22-23 Sept killed six civilians in Tiko town and Lysoka locality, both Fako division. In alleged attempt to counter Anglophone aspirations to autonomy, President Biya 7 Sept scheduled country’s first-ever regional elections for 6 Dec; regional councils to be indirectly elected by local councils currently dominated by ruling party. Opposition leader Maurice Kamto 8 Sept said elections cannot take place “before the resolution of the crisis in the Anglophone region and the consensual reform of the electoral code”. Opposition supporters 22 Sept took to streets across country to demand Biya’s resignation, police used tear gas to disperse protesters in economic capital Douala and arrested at least 31 people in capital Yaoundé. In Far North, Boko Haram (BH) continued to target civilians and security forces. Notably, BH suicide bombing 1 Sept left seven civilians dead in Kouyapé village, Mayo-Sava division; BH overnight 5-6 Sept killed two soldiers at Toufou army post, Mayo-Tsanaga division; 11 Sept killed six civilians including village chief in suicide bombing in Zeleved village, Mayo-Tsanaga; 9-28 Sept killed at least eight civilians in several villages in Mayo-Sava; overnight 28-29 Sept killed two soldiers in Zeleved village. Military court 21 Sept sentenced four soldiers to ten years in prison and another to two years for killing women and children in Far North in 2015; video of killings had sparked international condemnation in 2018.
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.
In the last 20 months, the conflict in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon has left 1,850 dead, 530,000 internally displaced and tens of thousands of refugees. Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Central Africa Hans De Marie Heungoup talks about how Cameroonian and international actors can play to break the deadlock and encourage the two sides to make concessions.
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.