Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict: Children should be able to return to school

At the start of Cameroon’s academic year on 5 September, schools in the two Anglophone regions kept their doors shut to comply with a general strike (locally known as a “ghost town” operation) imposed by separatist militias combating the government in Yaoundé. The following day, only a handful of schools offered classes, primarily in the relatively safe towns of Buea and Limbe.

School’s out

Some separatist groups have ordered public schools in the Anglophone regions to remain closed until at least 1 October. On that day five years ago, separatists proclaimed the independent Federal Republic of Ambazonia, as they call the North West and South West regions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cameroonian army soldiers secure the perimeter of a polling station in Lysoka, near Buea, southwestern Cameroon, on October 7, 2018 during presidential elections. MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images

In early April, separatist fighters attacked houses belonging to members of the Mbororo, a seminomadic pastoralist group of Fulani or Fulbe lineage, in a village in the Northwest region of Cameroon. The attack resulted in a dozen homes being torched and at least as many people killed. One militia belonging to the immensely divided Anglophone separatist movement took responsibility, claiming that it targeted the house of an Mbororo who had been cooperating with the Cameroonian military.

The attack occurred only a month after the assassination of a traditional ruler from the Esu community, also in Northwest Cameroon. The attack was suspected to have been carried out by Mbororo youth and resulted in local Esu youths setting fire to homes, businesses, and farms belonging to the ethnic group.…  Seguir leyendo »

Portrait of a young woman caught up in the conflict in Cameroon. ‘Although there is no peace process at present, women will need to be included in negotiations when the sides are ready to talk.’ Photograph: Giles Clarke/UNOCHA/Getty

Young girls should never be forced to have sex to get through a security checkpoint. Female activists or rebels should not be relegated to side discussions because of their gender. And women should be able to advocate for peace without fear of reprisals. Yet in Cameroon’s conflict between English-speaking separatists and the government, this is the reality for many women and girls.

Coming to grips with this reality is critical to move beyond the simplistic view that it’s only men who play an active role in the conflict. Women are involved as peace or political activists. Others have joined separatist militias or are key community influencers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cameroonian policemen patrol the market in the majority English-speaking South West province in Buea, on October 3, 2018. MARCO LONGARI / AFP

About a billion people around the world are expected to watch 24 football teams compete in the Africa Cup of Nations, kicking off on 9 January and running through 6 February in Cameroon. Matches will take place in stadiums around the country, including eight games in Limbe and Buea, cities in the English-speaking South West region, that will put a spotlight on the armed conflict between the government and Anglophone separatists. Anglophone militias have announced plans to disrupt the Cup, hoping to showcase their grievances. The government has responded with severe restrictions upon movement and association in the Anglophone North West and South West.…  Seguir leyendo »

An ex-combatant leans against a window of a dormitory room at an internment camp for ex-Boko Haram fighters, in Goudoumaria, Niger, in August 2018. (Jane Hahn/For The Washington Post)

My last international trip before the covid-19 lockdown was to Nigeria’s neighbor Chad. It wasn’t my first visit to the north-central African nation of some 16 million, which ranks last on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, but it was unique. I ventured to the Lac region, the country’s principal agricultural region, an area impoverished by climate change, corruption, diseases, dictatorship — and now, the militant group Boko Haram. Having monitored the advent and transformation of Boko Haram in Nigeria, I knew that the group had inflicted substantial damage across the Lake Chad region, but I wanted to see and feel the situation for myself.…  Seguir leyendo »

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. Credit Patrizia 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 »