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.
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.
Originally published in African Arguments
Security deteriorated in two Anglophone regions, North West and South West, and could worsen in Oct when separatists plan to declare independence of Anglophone territory. To protest govt marginalisation of Anglophones, protestors set fire to seven schools and several shops and, for first time, homemade bombs detonated; one explosion at police station in Bamenda, North West region capital 21 Sept injured three policemen. North West and South West governors imposed curfew, blocked internet for 24 hours, banned movement between Anglophone divisions, banned public meetings and demonstrations in two regions until 3 Oct, closed two regions’ maritime and land borders and increased house searches and arrests of young people in Bamenda, Buea, South West region capital and nearby Ekona. Protestors maintained general strikes three days a week and held largest and most widespread protests in months 22 Sept; some called for President Biya to resign, some for federalism, some for secession; three to eight protestors reportedly killed in clashes with security forces. Boko Haram continued to attack civilians and security forces in Far North. Militants killed one person in Doulou, Mayo Sava department 4 Sept. About 100 militants raided Dzaba, Mayo Tsanaga department 5 Sept killing three, abducting several. Soldier and two vigilantes killed 15 Sept when vehicle hit landmine on Abdouri-Woulba road, Mayo Sava. Some 100 militants raided and torched Hidoua and Bavagola, Mayo Tsanaga 17 Sept, no casualties reported. Suicide bombings at Sanda-Wadjiri and Kossa, both Mayo Sava 17 Sept killed seven. Militants killed two civilians and kidnapped others in Mainakoua, Mayo Sava 21 Sept; two injured same day during incursion in Sagme, Logone and Chari department. Suicide bombing at Kolofata 22 Sept killed only bomber. Suspected militants killed soldier on Zamga-Djibrili road, Mayo Tsanaga 23 Sept and two others died when their vehicle hit landmine on Bonderi-Kangarwa road, Mayo Sava 28 Sept.
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.
Religious intolerance is a growing but seriously underestimated risk in Cameroon, both between and inside the major faiths. To halt the spread of violent extremism in the country, Cameroon needs to bring all sects into a new social compact and within the bounds of a charter for religious tolerance.
Cameroon’s apparent stability belies the variety of internal and external pressures threatening the country’s future. Without social and political change, a weakened Cameroon could become another flashpoint in the region.
Cameroon, until now a point of stability in the region, faces potential instability in the run-up to the presidential elections scheduled for late 2011.
We have seen a government that is not responsive to the demands of [Cameroon's] Anglophone [region]. The international community [should] avoid irreversible deterioration of the situation.
[President of Cameroon Paul Biya] cannot allow people to gain the impression that [demonstrators in English-speaking regions] have any power whatsoever. It’s a very absolutist system.
[Cameroon's] victory in the Africa Cup of Nations will have little impact in the long run. It neither addresses the structural grievances nor on the Anglophone resentment of marginalisation and appeal for federalism.
You cannot say yet that the [Multinational Joint Task Force tackling Boko Haram] is integrated like a NATO force. It’s just to coordinate; it is not yet a unified force. Each of the forces is based in their own territories.
In Cameroonian politics there is practically no culture of accountability.
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
The Boko Haram insurgency is weakening in the Lake Chad basin, but its underlying socio-economic drivers remain to be addressed. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017, we urge the EU and its member states to support regional governments with winding down vigilante groups, funding youth employment projects, rebuilding agriculture and trade, and restoring public services.
The plight of refugees and the internally displaced from the Boko Haram conflict in Cameroon’s Far North is adding to the many burdens of an already impoverished population.
Originally published in Africa Research Institute
Jihadist groups have regrouped in the neglected hinterlands of Sahel countries and are launching attacks from them. To regain control of outlying districts, regional states must do far more to extend services and representation beyond recently recaptured provincial centres.