Cameroon is beset with two major violent conflicts but also faces rising ethno-political tensions on- and offline. The bigger conflict, between the government and separatists from the English-speaking minority, started in 2017 and has killed over 6,000 people. It has displaced 765,000 people, of whom over 70,000 are refugees in Nigeria. According to the UN, 2.2 million of the Anglophone regions’ four million people need humanitarian support while about 600,000 children have been deprived of effective schooling because of the conflict. The country also faces a reinvigorated jihadist insurgency with deadly attacks in the Lake Chad area. 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. Nascent ethnic clashes along the border with Chad have displaced thousands too. 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.
In 2019, Cameroon’s government acknowledged the Anglophone regions’ distinct identity by giving them Special Status. Yet this legal framework has not quelled the separatist rebellion. Would reforming it bring the parties closer to a settlement? The question is worth investigating.
Anglophone regions observed general strike on self-proclaimed independence anniversary, as separatists redoubled efforts to reduce internal wrangling and come closer to Nigerian separatists.
Anglophone conflict continued. Anglophone regions 1 Oct went silent on anniversaries of British Southern Cameroons’ 1961 reunification with Francophone Republic of Cameroon and 2017 unilateral declaration of independence by now-detained Anglophone leader Sisiku Ayuk Tabe. Most residents 30 Sept-2 Oct stayed indoors as businesses closed and transportation halted. Some administrators in South West regional capital Buea sanctioned businesses observing general strike. Low-level violence persisted: Ambazonia Defence Forces 4 Oct killed two men they accused of spying for govt forces in Batibo town (North West region), and govt forces 12 Oct killed six suspected separatist rebels in Akwaya subdivision (South West). Meanwhile, Anglophone separatist groups 5-8 Oct met in Canada to draw up plans to reduce internal wrangling and splintering of movement. Ayaba Cho Lucas’ Ambazonia Governing Council and Nigerian separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) factional leader Simon Ekpa 21 Oct signed cooperation agreement in Finland’s capital Helsinki, pledging mutual assistance in their respective separatist struggles. Following petition by 30 U.S. Congress members, U.S. President Biden 6 Oct extended Temporary Protected Status for Cameroonians for additional 18 months on account of thousands of people fleeing Anglophone conflict.
Jihadist and intercommunal violence persisted in Far North region. Authorities in Mayo-Sava division 3 Oct enforced night curfew in Mora and Kolofata towns in response to increasing jihadist violence. Boko Haram militants 4 Oct killed two vigilante members in Grea village, Mayo-Sava. Unidentified jihadist group same day kidnapped local chief and two staff members from multinational company in Bargaram locality, Logone-et-Chari division. Meanwhile, Kotoko farmers and Choa Arab herders 6 Oct clashed in Makary, Logone-et-Chari, with one killed and four injured.
Unknown assailants launched rare mass kidnappings in North region. Unidentified gunmen 21 and 23 Oct kidnapped at least 50 people near Touboro town in North region.
The authorities [in Cameroon] should persecute those who are responsible for crimes and include women in the peace process.
Pre-talks between Cameroon’s government and Anglophone separatists, facilitated by Canada, have opened the door to a long-overdue peace process, but Yaoundé has baulked. The government should embrace these talks, while domestic and external actors should put their full weight behind the initiative.
Since 2017, fighting between separatist insurgents and the military has disrupted the education of over 700,000 children in Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions. As the school year starts in September, education in the conflict-affected regions is at risk again. The two sides should strive to protect schools from being attacked and keep classrooms open.
As anglophone separatists continue their conflict with the government, women’s voices must be heard to find a solution.
In this virtual roundtable, Crisis Group's Cameroon Senior Analyst and invited experts discuss the current situation in the Anglophone regions and the role of women in setting the foundations of future peace.
Years of fighting between separatists and the state in Cameroon have hit women hard, uprooting hundreds of thousands. The government and external partners should step up aid for the displaced. Donors should start planning now for including women activists in future peace talks.
Cameroon will shortly begin hosting the biggest Africa Cup of Nations in history. Eight games will be held in Anglophone regions riven since 2016 by conflict between the government and separatists. Internal and external actors should seize the opportunity to broker a football truce.
In this episode of Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk with Arrey Elvis Ntui, Crisis Group’s Cameroon expert, about a deadly separatist insurgency pitting Anglophone militants against the Cameroonian government that is almost five years old but garners little international attention.
A heavily contested presidential election in 2018 has unleashed a new layer of political tensions that have taken an ethnic turn and found a formidable amplifier on social media.
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