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.
La conférence générale anglophone peut constituer une étape décisive dans le règlement de la crise anglophone, en cours depuis plus d'un an. Les organisateurs, les différents acteurs anglophones, la société civile, et les partenaires internationaux du Cameroun doivent pousser le gouvernement et les chefs de file séparatistes à dépasser leurs réticences.
Ahead of Oct presidential elections, Boko Haram (BH) and Anglophone separatists kept up insurgencies. In Far North, three BH attacks in Mayo-Sava department 3 and 17 Aug left at least four people dead and army 3 Aug killed three BH militants in Mayo-Tsanaga department. Govt 11 Aug said it had arrested seven soldiers suspected of appearing in video circulated in June that shows uniformed men killing two women and their children on grounds that women are BH members; govt said investigations ongoing into second video showing soldiers killing a dozen unarmed civilians. In Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions, separatist militants continued to attack security forces (killing at least six), state representatives and traditional rulers and burn down property; security forces repelled attacks, killing militants. Notably militants killed paramount ruler of Balondo Bananga in Ekondo Titi, Southwest 12 Aug; attacked convoys of Northwest region governor on way to and from Kumbo (Northwest) and of parliamentarian in Northwest killing four soldiers, both incidents 14 Aug; and kidnapped first deputy mayor of Ndop (Northwest) 16 Aug. Militants abducted ethnic Bamileke (Francophone) chief in Bamumka Ndop (Northwest) 21 Aug. Separatists kidnapped traditional leader and another civilian in Bambalang (Northwest) 23 Aug. Tensions rose in Southwest between residents of Southwest and Northwest regions. Mayor of Buea, Southwest region capital 31 July organised demonstration urging separatists to release Southwestern chiefs and calling on separatists from Northwest to leave Southwest. Separatists released chiefs hours later. Killing of Balondo Bananga chief 12 Aug fuelled calls by Southwesterners for separatists, whom they perceive as mainly Northwesterners, to leave their region. Unidentified gunmen attacked home of secretary general of the presidency in capital Yaoundé night of 10-11 Aug, presidential guard killed two assailants.
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.
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.
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.
Ce dimanche 20 mai le Cameroun célèbre sa fête nationale qui marque l'unité entre le Cameroun francophone et le Cameroun anglophone. Quarante-six ans plus tard, le pays est plus que jamais divisé.
Originally published in Jeune Afrique
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.
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.