Cameroon is beset with two violent conflicts. The first, between the government and separatists from the English-speaking minority, has killed over 3,000 people and displaced 600,000. In the Anglophone regions, 800,000 children are out of school and one in three of the four million people are in need of aid. The country also faces a renewed Boko Haram insurgency: after waning briefly, it has come back to carry out deadly attacks in the Lake Chad basin. The war with Boko Haram -- centred in the Far North -- has killed 2,000 Cameroonians, displaced 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. Crisis Group aims to de-escalate conflict and promote a peaceful resolution in both the Anglophone regions and the Far North. Through field research and advocacy with the government as well as with national and international stakeholders, we also work to reduce friction exacerbated by the 2018 election dispute.
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.
Violence continued in Anglophone regions and Boko Haram (BH) launched deadly attacks in Far North. After govt 3 April announced reconstruction plan for Anglophone North West and South West regions, separatists immediately rejected project and reportedly attacked public buildings, infrastructure workers and govt forces; military said subsequent fighting in both regions left thirteen separatists killed by mid-April. In North West region, govt forces 3, 14-15, and 26 April reportedly killed seven civilians suspected of supporting separatists; clashes between military and separatists 9-12 April left six dead including two civilians in Bui area. In South West, govt forces 22 April reportedly killed three separatists and three civilians in Muanbong village. Report by independent investigation commission 22 April confirmed govt forces responsibility in killing of 23 civilians in north-western Ngarbuh village mid-Feb. Constitutional Council 7 April announced ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement had won all thirteen seats in 22 March parliamentary election rerun in eleven constituencies in Anglophone regions. In Far North, attacks by BH militants continued, killing at least sixteen civilians and two soldiers 5-11 April in Mayo Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-Et-Chari departments. Notably, suspected BH double suicide attack 5 April killed ten civilians in Amchide locality. Military 20 April killed three BH militants and captured three others in Amchide locality; 24 April killed militant in Sandawadjiri village. Tensions increased between govt and main opposition party Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC) amid COVID-19 crisis. After govt late March created national solidarity fund to finance response to COVID-19, MRC leader Maurice Kamto 3 April launched own fundraising initiative; govt 7 April declared initiative illegal, but MRC reportedly pursued fundraising. Following disappearance of President Biya from public sight since 11 March, Kamto 15 April called on National Assembly speaker to seize Constitutional Court and declare power vacancy; Biya next day made public appearance in capital Yaoundé. Biya 15 April announced prisoner release to limit spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director, says the crisis over Cameroon's 7 October election is the worst for 25 years, adding new risks in a country already on the brink of civil war due to the Anglophone crisis. Tensions may rise further once the election results are officially announced.