Cameroon Anglophone Crisis – Ongoing Risks
12 Feb 2018
Violent clashes between Anglophone insurgent groups and Cameroonian security forces have been escalating since 01 October 2017. Peaceful protests in Anglophone regions were violently suppressed by security forces, leading to a boost in support for armed insurgent groups. Ongoing counter-insurgency efforts have been met with limited success; significant attacks have occurred as recently as 11 February 2018. Estimates suggest upwards of 30,000 Anglophone refugees have fled into Nigeria under UN protection due to the unrest since 01 October 2017.
- Separatists in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions are demanding independence from the majority French-speaking country due to perceived discrimination and disenfranchisement.
- Regular clashes between Anglophone separatists, protesters, and Cameroonian security forces have left hundreds dead.
- Tens of thousands have fled Cameroon’s English-speaking regions into Nigeria to escape the escalating violence.
Political – Armed Conflict: Violent clashes between Anglophone insurgent groups and Cameroonian security forces have been escalating since 01 October 2017. Peaceful protests in Anglophone regions were violently suppressed by security forces, leading to a boost in support for armed insurgent groups. Ongoing counter-insurgency efforts have been met with limited success; significant attacks have occurred as recently as 11 February 2018. Estimates suggest upwards of 30,000 Anglophone refugees have fled into Nigeria under UN protection due to the unrest since 01 October 2017.
The refusal of the central government to engage in any meaningful way with the Anglophone leaders, and the excessive use of force against protesters, galvanised the English-speaking population. On 1 October 2017, the Anglophone separatist group, Southern Cameroonian Ambazonia Consortium United Front declared the independence of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions. The central government responded with a major crackdown on dissent dozens have been killed, and hundreds have been injured in the subsequent security operations. Anglophone militant groups now regularly conduct attacks against Cameroonian security forces, leading to increased instability throughout the region.
Solace Global COmment
Cameroon’s deep-rooted divisions stem from the end of World War One, when the former German colony was divided up between France and Great Britain. After independence, both regions were unified, but the government has been dominated by those from the larger French speaking regions. The divide in Cameroon between Anglophone and Francophone goes far deeper than language; different regions have their own unique history, culture, and traditions. Cameroon’s Anglophones make up 20 per cent of the population. Most live in former British territories in the north-west and south-west regions. Cameroon’s current Anglophone crisis can be traced to a strike in October 2016 when a group of Anglophone lawyers protested the appointment of French-speaking judges to courts in a predominantly English-speaking region, with the intent of conducting legal proceedings in French. The strike quickly inspired other English-speaking groups who had long felt disenfranchised and discriminated against by the overwhelmingly French-speaking government. Initial protests were met with hostility from the Cameroonian government, with excessive force used by the security forces to disrupt and disband the largely peaceful demonstrations.
The violent protests on 01 October 2017 were a watershed moment for Cameroon’s Anglophone movement. At least 40 people were killed and over 100 injured during largely peaceful protests. There were widespread reports of excessive use of force by security forces including helicopter gunships firing into crowds of protesters in Kumba, Bamenda, and Buea, and soldiers murdering people in their homes in the villages of Ewele, Akwaya, and Eyumodjock. These clashes motivated the foundation and support of the violent and heavily armed Anglophone militant groups that we see today and caused mass migration of refugees into Nigeria.
Multiple armed groups now operate in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, these include dozens of small self-defence groups whose primary concern is the safety and security of individual towns and communities, examples include the Tigers, Ambaland forces, and Vipers. Two larger militia groups also operate in the region, the Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF) and the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces. These groups have launched multiple small-scale attacks against Cameroonian police, military personnel and government installations killing at least 22 since November 2017. The latest attack took place on 11 February 2018, when three soldiers were killed by separatists in the town of Kembong, in Cameroon’s southwest region. The attack took place only hours after President Paul Biya said in a televised address that the situation in Anglophone regions was stable.
Anglophone grievances are largely based on issues around identity and marginalisation. Instead of seeking to mitigate these issues, the Cameroonian government has persisted with heavy handed security operations and public insults. Presidential elections are set to be held in 2018, the outcome is highly likely to be dominated by Francophone candidates as they dominate the ballot-papers. However, the election may act as a trigger for further widespread protests as there is a growing impatience and discontent among the Anglophone population. Some reports have even suggested that members of the security forces have deserted and joined armed Anglophone groups, which may lead to an escalation in violence across the northwest and southwest regions.
The threat to travellers in the region is high as armed bandits are known to operate throughout Cameroon. Western travellers especially are at risk of being kidnapped due to the high ransom kidnappers believe they will receive. Although Anglophone militants pose a risk to travellers, they are not Cameroons only security threat, Islamist extremist groups such as Boko Haram are known to operate in the north of the country, close to the Nigerian and Chadian borders, and may conduct indiscriminate bomb or gun attacks, or targeted kidnappings of individuals.
SECURITY ADVICEArmed ConflictHigh
Tourists and expatriates should avoid unnecessary travel the volatile Northwest and Southwest region of Cameroon. Travellers should be aware there is an increased security presence in these regions. Increased checkpoints have been noted, in addition to Â Â ongoing police and military patrols. If travelling within country, it is vital that travellers adhere fully to the instructions of security forces; opposition may result in a violent response.
It is recommended that all protests are avoided. It is likely police and troops will use violent measures against demonstrators given recent trends. Foreigners caught in demonstrations of this kind may be subjected to harsher punishments by local security forces. Political gatherings may initially seem peaceful but can escalate rapidly to violence. It would be advisable for travellers to maintain a low profile and monitor local events. If currently in the north-west or south-west Anglophone regions, travellers are advised to ensure they have a robust security and evacuation plan should the situation degrade further.
Solace Global would advise clients to employ enhanced security measures when visiting Cameroon â airport meet and greet and a security driver for the length of a visit should be minimum security precaution. Travellers should also consider employing executive protection for certain areas of travel. Travel tracking software with an integrated intelligence feed is recommended for all travel; this allows employers to implement effective duty of care, and travellers to remain aware of developments in their security environment.
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