Authoritarian leader President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982. Under Biya’s repressive regime, the disenfranchised Anglophone population lacks political representation in contrast to the French-speaking majority. In 2016, English-speaking students, teachers and advocates took to the streets and protested their marginalization by the majority Francophone government. The protest was met with a severe crackdown by the state forces and has fueled the group’s mission to secede from Biya’s authoritarian regime and gain independence. Since late 2017, the Anglophone minority has been actively seeking independence from the Republic to establish their own state called Ambazonia.
Extra-judicial killings, beheadings and mass arson have reportedly been perpetrated on both sides of the conflict. Both government and separatist forces have wreaked havoc throughout Cameroon, leaving a trail of scorched villages and devastation among civilian populations. The conflict has presented terrorist groups such as Boko Haram with a safe haven. Cameroon continues to face a number of humanitarian emergencies, including a nutrition crisis and internal displacement.
Primary Terrorist Presence in Cameroon –
Boko Haram was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. in November 2013. Based in Nigeria, it conducts lethal bombing attacks and assaults, displacing thousands of people, especially in the Far North Region. While the Cameroonian government is currently preoccupied with suppressing the Ambazonia separatists, there has been an uptick in terrorist attacks as Boko Haram thrives.
The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) in West Africa aims to replace the bordering government, Nigeria, with an Islamic state. While ISIS is based primarily in northeast Nigeria, its limited presence in Cameroon exacerbates the general instability of the region.
Other Groups Engaged in the Conflict:
The Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) is an elite combat unit within the Cameroonian Armed Forces that reports directly to the president of Cameroon and is supported by the U.S. It has played a large role in the Cameroonian and regional war against Boko Haram and has been accused of human rights violations.
The Southern Cameeron Liberation Council is the general name for several separatist and insurgency groups, including the interim government of Ambazonia, all fighting for an independent nation of Ambazonia. This group formed in April 2019 to end the infighting plaguing individual groups.
Human Rights, Humanitarian and Refugee Crises:
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern to the government of Cameroon over the shrinking of civic space in the country, noting how certain rights and freedoms, especially those of peaceful association and assembly, have deteriorated in recent months (May 2019)
UNHCR estimates more than 437,000 people are internally displaced (March 2019) and in recent years, the country has seen a large number of refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria.
The Human Rights Watch report ‘These Killings Can Be Stopped’: Abuses by Government and Separatist Groups in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions documents the egregious human rights violations perpetrated by both government and separatist forces (July 2018)
Norwegian Refugee Council and UNICEF report that “23,000 school-aged children are out of school, while 92 pre-schools and primary schools remain closed in Far North Cameroon” (June 2018)
Other restrictions on Humanitarian Aid:
Bad roads, travel restrictions and unpredictable attacks have made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to get access to civilian populations (July 2018)
Cameroon in Recent News
UN: Shine Spotlight on Brutality in Cameroon, Human Rights Watch (May 13, 2019)
UNHCR Says Funds Urgently Needed for Displaced Cameroonians, UNHCR (March 26, 2019)
Cameroon’s Citizens are Losing Hope That Their Country Can Remain United, Washington Post (March 25, 2019)