When at least 53 people died in Cameroon in late January after a bus collided with a fuel-laden truck—one of the worst road accidents in the country’s history—few observers would have expected that reactions to the tragedy would include ethnic slurs, mainly on Facebook. They were directed toward members of the Bamileke community, from which most of the victims appeared to originate. Cameroon has long prided itself on the relative harmony between the country’s approximately 250 ethnic groups, none of which dominates nationally—a diversity that many Cameroonians consider to be a safeguard against communal violence.

But Cameroon now has to deal with a new reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

Paul Biya. Photo: Getty Images.

President Paul Biya issued his annual message to mark Cameroon’s annual youth day on Wednesday. In a break from the usual platitudes, he made a heartfelt appeal for young people in the two English-speaking regions, Southwest and Northwest, where government forces and Anglophone separatists have engaged in increasingly brutal violence and reprisals since 2016, to lay down their weapons and return to community life.

He also made a vigorous defence of new decentralization laws that, he claimed, represent ‘a genuine peaceful revolution that respond to the desire of our fellow citizens to participate more fully in the management of local affairs’.…  Seguir leyendo »

A young child holds posters of Cameroonian President Paul Biya on a wall in Yaoundé on November 6, 2018. AFP/STR

How are Cameroon’s elections likely to unfold?

In November 2019, President Paul Biya called elections for Cameroon’s National Assembly and local councils, to be held on 9 February. The elections should have been held in 2018, when these bodies’ five-year terms came to a close, but the government has put them off twice. In 2018, the government argued that it was logistically impossible to hold them at the same time as the presidential polls that year, and in 2019 it cited a tense political and security atmosphere, including in Anglophone areas, as justification for further delay. Now Biya is moving ahead with the vote, however, perhaps in order to keep up appearances after the national dialogue held in September and October 2019 (discussed below) failed to bring an end to the Cameroonian government’s conflict with Anglophone separatists.…  Seguir leyendo »

The world has been paying little attention to the crisis in the English-speaking, or Anglophone, regions of Cameroon — which is perhaps less of a surprise considering that many local journalists have abandoned their profession in fear for their lives.

Last month, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released a publication underlining the gravity of the crisis and warning that “the risk of mass atrocity crimes occurring in the immediate future is very high.” While the military and armed separatist forces are both guilty of violence, the government has already perpetrated crimes against humanity, as documented in a report co-authored by our Cameroon-based Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cameroonian gendarmerie patrol during a meeting of the ruling party in Buea, capital of the English-speaking province (South-West).

On May 20, 2019, Cameroon celebrates the 47th edition of its "Unity Festival", commemorating when the country went from a federal state to a unitary state. However, this celebration is taking place in a deep state of national upheaval. What is now known as the "Anglophone crisis " has so far caused more than 1,850 deaths in 20 months of conflict, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group. Now saying they want the dialogue they have so far opposed, Cameroon's political powers are trying to brush under the carpet international crimes that have been and are still being committed in this conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this photo taken on 7 October 2018 Cameroon's incumbent President Paul Biya looks on as he votes at the polling station in Bastos neighbourhood in the capital Yaounde during Cameroon's presidential election. ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP

On 22 October Cameroonian authorities declared incumbent Paul Biya winner of the presidential election with a score of 71 per cent. What happened?

The presidential election was held amid the worst insecurity since 1992. In the Far North, Boko Haram continues small scale attacks, and the fallout from nearly five years of conflict continues with 240,000 currently displaced. Violence by armed groups from the Central African Republic is affecting the East. In the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions, a growing insurgency has seen almost daily fighting with security forces.

On the day of the vote, no major security incident was reported in Francophone areas, where about 55 per cent of registered voters cast ballots.…  Seguir leyendo »

Voiture incendiée dans la province majoritairement anglophone de Buea, Cameroun, le 3 octobre. Photo Marco Longari. AFP

Quand notre ami Theo a fait la connaissance de Libby, dans la province du Shandong, les parents de la jeune Chinoise, qui allait devenir son épouse, d’abord soucieux de protéger leur fille unique et méfiants envers les Africains, ont finalement accordé leur bénédiction avec ces mots : «Au moins, ce n’est pas un de ces Noirs qui sont moches.» Theo raconte l’anecdote avec un amusement narquois, donnant à penser qu’il développerait la question s’il n’était déjà autrement accablé. C’est un homme agréable et doux, respectueux et fiable, quelqu’un dont on dirait en Afrique de l’Ouest : «C’est un garçon bien élevé.»…  Seguir leyendo »

A Cameroonian couple on a scooter tow a boy on roller skates on the fringes of an campaign rally for Joshua Osih, the candidate of the Social Democratic Front, an opposition party to President Paul Biya in the capital Yaounde, Cameroon, on Friday. (Nic Bothma/EPA-EFE)

Cameroonians head to the polls Sunday to reelect Paul Biya as president — a foregone conclusion despite the country’s acute crisis. In the north, the government is still engaged with the terrorist group Boko Haram, while a devastating uprising in English-speaking areas in the northwest and southwest has enveloped the country’s politics.

Biya, age 85, has been in power for an incredible 36 years. He will win these elections — but not because he is the most popular candidate. Rather, Cameroon is one of Africa’s most enduring electoral authoritarian regimes. While multiparty elections exist on paper, these elections are not free and fair and are tilted in the regime’s favor.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cameroonians in Rome denouncing the discrimination suffered by Cameroon's Anglophone minority.CreditCreditPatrizia Cortellessa/Pacific Press, via LightRocket, via Getty Images

When our friend Theo first met his Chinese wife, Libby, in Shandong Province, her parents, protective of their only daughter and wary of Africans, finally gave their blessing with the words, “at least he’s not a bad looking black.” Theo tells this story with wry amusement, as though he would parse it more if he were not already so burdened. He is a pleasant and gentle man, respectful, trustworthy, the kind of man who in West Africa would be said to have had “good home training.” But for the past year, a dark sighing heaviness has blanketed him.

He is an Anglophone Cameroonian, and his home is in peril.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dans la région camerounaise de l’Extrême-Nord, les forces de défense et de sécurité affrontent depuis 2014 le mouvement djihadiste Boko Haram, apparu au Nigeria. Au moins 1 900 civils et 200 militaires ont été tués par Boko Haram, et l’Extrême-Nord compte aujourd’hui 240 000 déplacés internes. Mais ce sinistre état des lieux ne dit rien des problèmes sociaux liés au conflit, en particulier des grossesses adolescentes, des mariages d’enfants et de la situation des enfants victimes de Boko Haram.

A l’occasion de travaux de recherche à Maroua, Mokolo, Mora et Kousseri, en février et mars, portant sur les comités de vigilance et les combattants de Boko Haram qui se sont rendus, International Crisis Group (ICG) a pu approfondir son analyse de ces aspects généralement méconnus du conflit, auxquels le gouvernement camerounais comme les donateurs internationaux devraient porter une plus grande attention.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un soldat camerounais patrouille dans les rues de Buea, dans la région du Sud-Ouest, une des deux régions anglophones en crise, le 26 avril. Photo Alexis Huguet. AFP

Le 20 mai, le Cameroun a célébré la 46e édition de la fête de l’unité nationale, sur fonds d’affrontements entre milices séparatistes et forces de défense dans les régions anglophones (Sud-Ouest et Nord-Ouest). La crise en cours depuis presque deux ans s’est transformée en conflit armé. Son bilan est difficile à tirer, mais des centaines de personnes seraient mortes depuis un an, 160 000 sont déplacées et 35 000 réfugiées au Nigeria voisin. Les milices «ambazoniennes», défendant l’indépendance de cet ancien territoire sous tutelle britannique (1918-1961) ciblent les représentants de l’Etat, principalement les forces de sécurité et de défense mais aussi les gouverneurs, préfets, sous-préfets, enseignants.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le Cameroun fait face à une insurrection qui ne cesse de croître. La situation dans les régions anglophones (Nord-Ouest et Sud-Ouest) continue de se détériorer. L’Est, l’Adamaoua et le Nord subissent quotidiennement la violence des coupeurs de route, voleurs de bétail et braconniers, et Boko Haram, même affaibli, n’accorde aucun répit aux populations de l’Extrême-Nord. À l’approche de l’élection présidentielle prévue cette année, les clivages ethniques s’accentuent et la tension politique atteint son paroxysme.

Il y a un an et demi, même les Camerounais les plus pessimistes n’imaginaient pas que la crise dans les régions anglophones, où résident 20% des 24 millions d’habitants du pays, puisse aboutir à une insurrection armée qui menace à présent de se muer guerre civile.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this undated image taken from video distributed Aug. 14, 2016, an alleged Boko Haram soldier standing in front of a group of girls alleged to be some of the 276 abducted Chibok schoolgirls held since April 2014, in an unknown location. (Militant video/Site Institute/AP)

Although widely understood as the Islamist terrorists that they are, Boko Haram insurgents in the borderlands between Cameroon and Nigeria are also slave raiders — at least that’s what many local residents call them. And there’s good reason to use that term. In many striking ways, Boko Haram’s raids for “wives” parallel the slave raids of a century ago.

Thinking about Boko Haram as slave raiders, complete with a history in the semi-lawless borderlands, might change how policymakers approach this group and similar insurgencies across West Africa.

Boko Haram’s activities echo those of earlier smugglers, Islamist militants, and slave raiders

Boko Haram began in 2002-2004 in Maiduguri, the largest city in northeastern Nigeria, as an Islamist movement in which young men from prominent families and jobless youths rejected any engagement with the Nigerian state.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imprimé sur des coupons de tissu, « Son Excellence Paul Biya, Président national, du PDPC, Chef de l’Etat » camerounais depuis 1982. Crédits : Akintunde Akinleye/REUTERS.

Au Cameroun, pour qui veut les égrener, les symptômes de la décadence sautent aux yeux et ne cessent de s’accumuler. Arrivé au pouvoir de manière inattendue en 1982 après la démission d’Ahmadou Ahidjo, premier chef d’Etat camerounais, Paul Biya ne fit guère longtemps illusion.

Brutalement ramené à la réalité en 1984 au lendemain d’une tentative sanglante de coup d’Etat qui coûta la vie à des centaines de mutins originaires pour la plupart du nord du pays, il rangea très vite au placard les velléités de réforme dont il s’était fait, un temps, le porte-parole. Puis, s’appuyant en partie sur les dispositifs et techniques de répression hérités de son prédécesseur, il entreprit de mettre en place l’un des systèmes de gouvernement parmi les plus opaques, les plus centralisés et les plus prosaïques de l’Afrique postcoloniale.…  Seguir leyendo »

On 22 September, massive protests across Cameroon’s Anglophone regions brought an estimated 30-80,000 people onto the streets. These were far larger than those which sparked the crisis at the end of 2016. In clashes with security forces, three to six protesters reportedly died – the first deaths in the crisis since January.

The demonstration came in the context of an already-deteriorating situation marked by the use of homemade bombs by militants, the failure to open schools for a second year due to ongoing strikes, and mounting incidents of arson.

The violence followed incidents in Western capitals throughout the previous month. On 1 August, a meeting in Washington between a senior delegation from the Cameroonian government and the US-based diaspora descended into farce, interrupted by angry exchanges.…  Seguir leyendo »

Déclenchée par des revendications sectorielles, elle reflète un sentiment plus profond de marginalisation historique, politique et économique de 20 pour cent de la population qui s’identifie comme anglophone. Elle s’est encore exacerbée en août et préoccupe désormais les francophones qui semblaient pourtant peu concernés au départ. Ces inquiétudes montrent que la question anglophone a des implications nationales, d’autant plus que les francophones partagent de nombreuses demandes des anglophones.

La crise a éclaté le 11 octobre 2016 avec les revendications successives d’avocats, d’enseignants et d’étudiants. Les avocats anglophones ont lancé une grève pour dénoncer la « francophonisation » du système juridique spécifique, inspiré de la Common Law anglaise, en vigueur dans les régions anglophones depuis le rattachement du Southern Cameroons (Cameroun britannique) à la République du Cameroun (Cameroun sous administration française) en octobre 1961.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cameroon has been fighting the Boko Haram jihadist group in its Far North region for the last three years. The conflict has killed nearly 1,600 people in Cameroon alone and has led to a humanitarian crisis in what was already one of the country’s most impoverished and least-educated regions. As donors and experts convene on 24 February at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin, the international community must find ways to improve overcrowded refugee camps and mitigate growing problems for the local population.

The Far North now hosts 87,000 of Cameroon’s over 360,000 refugees, 191,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and 36,000 Cameroonian returnees.…  Seguir leyendo »

Boko Haram attacks per month in the Far North Region, 1 January 2013 to 31 January 2017. Africa Research Institute

On 21 November 2016, around 40-60 Boko Haram members assaulted Darak in Cameroon’s Far North region (Logone et Chari department), killing six soldiers, the leader of the local vigilante committee and 16 fishermen. They attacked Darak again the following day, and a landmine they planted in Zamga (Mayo Tsanaga department) injured eight troops. The same week, Boko Haram also attempted four suicide bombings that were thwarted in the cities of Kolofata and Mora (Mayo Sava department).

November 2016 was a particularly interesting month for Boko Haram watchers as the attack on Darak, one of the most intense and violent actions of Boko Haram in Cameroon that year, was accompanied by nine other attacks, four suicide bombings and fighting between factions of Boko Haram itself.…  Seguir leyendo »

Worldwide indignation has been spurred on by the actions of Boko Haram in Nigeria — from the 2011 bombings of the United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja to the kidnapping of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria in April 2014.

But, as a report by the International Crisis Group published this month details, not nearly enough attention has been paid to the damage inflicted by the jihadist group in neighbouring countries, particularly Cameroon’s far North.

The report shows that Boko Haram’s presence dates back to at least 2009, when the jihadi group crossed Cameroon’s border after the Maiduguri crackdown and started settling sleeping cells, caches of weapons and using the Far North region as a refuge for its logisticians.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier belonging to the Emergence 4 Unit deployed at Poste de Mabass, Far North, Cameroon. March 2016. CRISIS GROUP/Hans De Marie Heungoup

In March 2016, Crisis Group Analyst Hans De Marie Heungoup travelled for four weeks into an insecure area only few researchers are given access to: Cameroon’s Far North Region. He was escorted three days by the military between the front-line towns of Ldamang, Mabass, Kolofata, Amchidé and Gansé, before he went on to travel alone across the region: to Maroua, the Minawao refugee camp, Mokolo, Mora, Kousseri and Goulfey. During the four weeks he spoke to a wide range of people, including traditional chiefs, local inhabitants and administration staff, refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), vigilante groups, local NGOs, humanitarian actors, academics, the military, former Boko Haram members, former traffickers, and others, some in presence of the military but the vast majority on his own.…  Seguir leyendo »