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.
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.
Opposition leaders continued to reject President Biya’s win in Oct poll, in west Anglophone separatists continued to attack state representatives and kidnap students as military pursued deadly counter offensive, and in Far North Boko Haram (BH) attacks continued at low ebb. Maurice Kamto, official runner-up in Oct presidential vote, continued to claim victory. He and his supporters attempted to protest in capital Yaoundé 6 Nov, day of Biya’s inauguration for seventh term, but authorities arrested him and supporters, releasing them hours later. Kamto 26 Nov called on Francophones to observe general strikes every Monday afternoon in solidarity with Anglophones, threatening to extend strikes to all day if govt does not resolve Anglophone crisis by end of 2018. In Anglophone areas, separatists 5 Nov kidnapped 79 students and two staff from school in Nkwen, Northwest region; following international condemnation militants released students 48 hours later. Military reportedly killed about 30 separatists in Mayo-Binka, Northwest 12-13 Nov. Separatists 14 Nov killed Mayor of Nwa, Northwest. Military 16 Nov killed at least ten separatists in Belo, Northwest, including local head of Ambazonian Self-Defence Council (ASC), military wing of separatist group Ambazonia Interim Govt. Separatists 20 Nov kidnapped nine students and teacher from school in Kumba, Southwest; next day military attacked separatists’ camps, freeing captives and killing at least two. Separatists 27 Nov kidnapped Anglophone lawyer, released him next day. Cardinal Christian Tumi 14 Nov said Simon Munzu, head of organising committee of Anglophone General Conference, had resigned citing death threats from separatists. Organisers of conference scheduled for 21-22 Nov postponed it for second time until govt gives authorisation. In Far North region, BH killed four people in Igawa, Mayo-Sava department 1 Nov and one in Baljoel, Mayo-Tsanaga 2 Nov. Military 14 Nov arrested BH militant in Gouzoudou, Mayo-Sava. Biya 30 Nov signed decree creating committee to oversee Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of BH defectors and Anglophone militants.
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.
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.
We are not yet in a civil war [in Cameroon], but all the ingredients for a potential civil war are already assembled.
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.
In March 2018, Crisis Group’s Giustra Fellow, Tanda Theophilus, travelled for four weeks to the cities of Buea and Douala, which are at the heart of the Anglophone crisis that pits separatists against the government of Cameroon. He gauged the atmosphere in the Anglophone Southwest and Francophone Littoral regions ahead of the October presidential election.
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