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.
Govt continued military campaign to subdue independence-seeking Anglophone militias, while jihadists kept up attacks in Far North region.
Security situation in Anglophone regions remained dire. Govt aircraft 10 Jan crashed in Kikaikelaki town, near Kumbo city, Bui division (North West region); exchange of fire followed between Anglophone separatist combatants and govt forces, with unknown casualties; military said aircraft suffered mechanical failure, while separatists claimed shooting it down. For first time since Dec 2019, govt 20 Jan said army 9 Jan killed separatist militia Ambazonia Defence Forces ground commander in clashes near Batibo town, Momo division (North West). Meanwhile, govt’s renewed attempt to crush weekly general strike called by separatists, dubbed “Monday ghost town”, ratcheted up tensions. Notably, separatists reportedly trying to enforce ghost town 15 Jan attacked police station and fired shots for hours in Nkwen neighbourhood of North West regional capital Bamenda. Fako Black Tar separatist militia overnight 29-30 Jan raided parts of South West regional capital Buea and killed at least two civilians, claiming residents did not comply with ghost town order. Separatist faction Interim Government of Ambazonia 29 Jan announced ending cooperation with UN agencies, putting humanitarian operations at risk. Biafra separatist militants from Nigeria 12 Jan reportedly attacked Cameroonian govt forces in Abana town, Bakassi Peninsula (South West).
Jihadist militants kept up attacks on military, civilians in Far North region. Boko Haram 1 Jan killed four Christians and abducted ten others celebrating New Year in Bargaram village, Logone-et-Chari division; in video posted online, militants vowed to avenge Palestinian victims of war in Gaza. Army 7-8 Jan repelled jihadist attack on military post in Zamga town and cleared three landmines near Djibrili town, both Mayo-Tsanaga division, while Boko Haram 20 Jan killed at least five civilians in two villages of Mayo-Tsanaga. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen 10 Jan abducted three staff members of international humanitarian organisation Première urgence in Yémé village, Mayo-Sava division.
President Biya announced fuel price increase in bid to cut spending. In his end-of-year address, Biya 31 Dec announced further reduction of fuel subsidy in 2024; move could further increase cost of living and fuel popular discontent.
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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