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.
In Southwest and Northwest regions, security forces continued to clash with Anglophone separatists and attack civilians; separatists could intensify attacks around senatorial elections planned for 25 March. Security forces killed civilians and burnt houses in Bole Bakundu, Southwest 1 Feb. In clashes and attacks in Northwest 1-8 Feb three security personnel and nine others killed. Separatists killed three gendarmes in Kembong, Southwest and abducted local official in Batibo, Northwest 11 Feb. Incidents involving security forces left three people dead: one in Banga Bakundu, Southwest 14 Feb, one in Angie, Northwest 14 Feb and one in Ndongo, Southwest 17 Feb. Separatist armed group Tigers of Ambazonia 16 Feb killed one gendarme in Kumba and another in Bebensi 18 Feb, both Southwest. Marines killed four armed men in Mundemba, Southwest 20 Feb. One gendarme killed in Munyengue, Southwest 24 Feb. Security forces killed armed separatist and several civilians in Ebonji, Southwest 25 Feb. Separatist armed group Ambazonia Defence Forces abducted local official in Batibo, Northwest 25 Feb. Soldiers in pursuit of separatists crossed into Cross River state, Nigeria 26 Feb, reportedly killing at least one civilian there. New separatist armed groups formed: Banso Resistance Army and Donga Mantung Liberation Force. Separatist Interim Govt of Ambazonia Governing Council 19 Feb warned against holding senatorial elections, planned for 25 March, in Northwest and Southwest. EU, U.S., France and Equatorial Guinea called for dialogue to end violence and UK minister visited 13-14 Feb urging de-escalation. In Far North, Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks: militants killed military officer in Limani 1 Feb and 25 other people in multiple places 3-24 Feb. Security forces killed BH suicide bomber, while another detonated explosives killing only himself in Kordo, near Kolofata 11 Feb. President Biya 7 Feb scheduled senatorial elections for 25 March; opposition Mouvement pour la Renaissance du Cameroun (MRC) 19 Feb decided to boycott on grounds that most councillors and mayors who will vote belong to ruling party. Main opposition party Social Democratic Front 24 Feb elected MP Joshua Osih as candidate for presidential elections later in 2018.
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.
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
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.