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 conflict took heavy toll on civilians, with over 30 killed in two major attacks; jihadist groups continued targeting civilians and govt forces’ positions in Far North.
Massacres highlighted civilians’ vulnerability amid Anglophone conflict. In South West region, unidentified gunmen overnight 6 Nov rampaged through Egbekaw neighbourhood of Mamfe town (Manyu division), setting houses ablaze and killing at least 25 civilians; day marked anniversary of President Biya’s rise to power (see below). In Francophone West region, near border with Anglophone North West, suspected armed separatists 21 Nov raided market in Bamenyam village (Bamboutos division), killing nine people, abducting at least ten and wounding two soldiers. UN condemned both attacks, urged govt to conduct investigations and hold perpetrators accountable. Meanwhile, fighting continued between Anglophone separatists and govt forces. In North West region, separatist combatants 8, 11 Nov clashed with army in regional capital Bamenda, leaving two soldiers dead; army 11 Nov raided separatist hideout in Nguri locality (Donga-Mantung division), killing six fighters including one commander; separatists 10 Nov attacked soldiers with rocket-propelled grenade in Belo town (Boyo division), killing three.
Jihadist groups kept up attacks on military, civilian targets in Far North region. Suspected Boko Haram (BH) combatants early to mid-Nov attacked several localities in Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga and Logone-et-Chari divisions, with four civilians killed 12 Nov in Kolofata and Hile Alifa towns. Fighting between militants and govt forces continued. Suspected Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) elements 5 Nov attacked military post in Fotokol town (Logone-et-Chari), killing one soldier. BH-army clashes 9-13 Nov also left four dead in several areas of Mayo-Sava.
Ruling party celebrated President Biya’s 41st anniversary in office. Ruling party 6 Nov held rallies in several cities to celebrate Biya’s 41st anniversary in power, called on 90-year-old president to vie for eighth term in 2025 presidential election.
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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