Cameroon is beset with two violent conflicts but also faces rising ethno-political tensions on and offline. Its main conflict, between the government and separatists from the English-speaking minority, has killed over 4,000 people and displaced 765,000 of whom 60,000 are refugees in Nigeria. According to the UN, three of the Anglophone regions’ four million people are affected by the humanitarian crisis while about 800,000 children are out of school. The country also faces a reinvigorated Boko Haram insurgency with renewed deadly attacks in the Lake Chad basin after a brief respite. The war with Boko Haram, centred in the Far North, has killed over 3,000 Cameroonians, displaced about 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 on and offline. Through field research and advocacy with the government as well as with national and international stakeholders, Crisis Group works to de-escalate conflict and promote a peaceful resolution in the Anglophone regions and the Far North as well as to stop ethno-political tensions from sliding into violence.
Two years after Cameroon’s contested presidential election, political rivalry has taken a worrying direction as the incumbent’s supporters trade ethnic slurs with backers of his main challenger. The government should undertake electoral reforms, bar discrimination and work with social media platforms to curtail hate speech.
Separatists disrupted regional elections in Anglophone regions, while jihadists continued to target civilians in Far North. President Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) won nine of ten regional councils in 6 Dec elections; CPDM’s ally National Union for Democracy won remaining council; main opposition parties, Maurice Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement and John Fru Ndi’s Social Democratic Front, boycotted vote. Security forces 8 Dec lifted months-long blockade of Kamto’s home in capital Yaoundé. Ahead of vote, Anglophone separatists 4 Dec imposed three-day ghost town in North West and South West regions. On voting day, suspected separatists 6 Dec killed municipal councillor in Alabukam village and wounded two men near Akum village, both North West. Also in North West, suspected separatists 12 Dec kidnapped Kedjom Ketinguh village chief, released him three days later after ransom payment; armed forces 13 Dec reportedly killed community leader in Mukuru village, Wum commune, and 26 Dec reportedly killed two patients in Tubah District Hospital. In South West region, soldiers 12 Dec reportedly killed two civilians in Eyumojock subdivision, and 21 Dec raided two villages in Mbonge commune, killing six. Suspected separatists 13 Dec kidnapped three village chiefs in regional capital Buea, later killed one and released two. Army and separatists 22 Dec exchanged fire in Tombel town, leaving civilian dead. UN Special Envoy for Central Africa Louceny Fall 9 Dec briefed UN Security Council on Anglophone conflict; U.S. called Cameroon greatest concern in region with 6.2mn in need of humanitarian assistance, 2.3mn more than in early 2020. Boko Haram (BH) attacks continued in Far North. In Mayo-Sava division, BH overnight 9-10 Dec attacked Gakara village, injuring two soldiers; night of 15-16 Dec killed two civilians in Gouzoudou locality. In Mayo-Tsanaga division, BH 2 Dec killed three civilians in Mayo-Moskota town; 28 Dec killed civilian and injured several others in Ouzal village. In Logone-et-Chari division, BH overnight 23-24 Dec killed 12 civilians in Darak and Blangoua towns. In Adamawa region in centre, Central African Republic-based armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) 26 Dec reportedly kidnapped three Cameroonian gendarmes.
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.
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.
Cameroon cannot simply afford to allow the ethnic and political tensions it is facing to rise to levels where they could constitute inter-community violence.
Around 700,000 young people were excluded from the school system owing to the conflict.
Le gouvernement et la société civile anglophone ont mis beaucoup de pression sur les groupes séparatistes pour que leurs enfants retournent à l'école.
Le boycott des écoles était une stratégie des séparatistes ces dernières années. 700.000 jeunes environ étaient en dehors du système scolaire à cause du conflit.
Dans un contexte de violence accrue contre les populations et les séparatistes, le risque est que même une fois la paix revenue dans les régions anglophones, cela complique les relations entre les Mbororo et les autres groupes ethniques.
(The election) will further bias the character of state institutions toward the views of a single party and seems bound to reduce prospects for frank discussions about resolving the Anglophone conflict and other brewing crises.
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.
Crisis Group’s work in Cameroon put underreported risks in this country on the policymaking radar years before the outbreaks of the Boko Haram insurgency in the Far North and a separatist revolt in Anglophone regions.
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.