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.
A recent spike of violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions points to an emerging insurgency. To prevent more violence as the country enters a delicate election year, the government needs to kick start the political track to head off growing support for the insurgents. It should, with international support, start a dialogue with peaceful Anglophone leaders to discuss the country’s decentralisation and governance.
Political standoff between govt and minority Anglophones worsened as secessionist insurgency gained momentum. In Manyu division, South West region secessionists clashed with security forces nine times in several places 4-25 Dec killing six gendarmes and one soldier, raising to seventeen the number of security forces personnel killed in English-speaking regions since start of Nov 2017. Commander of armed forces in South West region said several soldiers deserted and joined separatist militias. Elite army unit 14 Dec launched operation to recapture villages reportedly under separatist control. Separately armed forces reportedly killed or arrested and beat several civilians and torched dozens of houses in Kembong and Babong in Manyu division 20-23 Dec in retaliation for killing of security forces; allegedly pro-secession inhabitants of these two villages fled to Nigeria. 10,000 Cameroonian refugees reportedly arrived in Benue state in Nigeria during Dec, adding to 28,000 already in Cross River state. Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in Far North, but at low ebb: insurgents killed two people and kidnapped one in Tchebe-Tchebe, Mayo Moskota area 1 Dec; kidnapped lorry driver on Maroua-Kousseri road between Dabanga and Tilde 11 Dec; double suicide bombing killed five in Amchide and Waballa 12 Dec; and fighters kidnapped farmer in Tolkomari, Kolofata area 14 Dec; killed one person in Goldavi 16 Dec, two in Zeneme 22 Dec and one in Goulkidaye 28 Dec all in Mayo Moskota area. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in Kordo, Kolofata area 29 Dec and suicide bombing in Bia, Kolofata area 31 Dec killed two people. Over 80 BH members surrendered in Dec, put in reinsertion programs in villages or military camps.
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.
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.
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.
[Attacks in Cameroon] can be explained by the radicalisation of the population due to the police repression and arbitrary killings, but also by the rivalry among the separatist movement.
Le déni, le mépris des autorités camerounaises et la brutalité des forces de sécurité et de l’armée contre les avocats et les enseignants ont créé une onde de choc dans toute la communauté anglophone.
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.
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
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.