It’s been more than a year since large-scale protests, followed by a harsh government crackdown, began disrupting life in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, where the population has long complained of marginalization at the hands of the government and Francophone majority. Yet with actors on both sides embracing increasingly extremist rhetoric and tactics, there’s every reason to believe the crisis will continue—and several signs that its attendant violence will worsen.
Within a span of 24 hours this week, five soldiers and five policemen were killed in the country’s two English-speaking regions, according to Voice of America. An attack on a military convoy Wednesday morning claimed the lives of four soldiers, while a second attack Thursday morning left five policemen and a soldier dead. Speaking Thursday night, President Paul Biya put the death toll at six: four soldiers and two police officers.
The killings underscore the threat posed by an increasingly militant separatist movement, which is suspected of first using homemade bombs back in September. They are also likely to trigger further violence by state security forces. “How can we maintain dialogue with an interlocutor whose only ideology is the partition of a state that is legitimate and recognized as such by all international bodies?” asked Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s communications minister, in an interview with Voice of America.
As of October, the standoff had resulted in at least 55 deaths and hundreds of arrests, according to International Crisis Group. Those figures included dozens of deaths that occurred the week of Oct. 1, which was the day separatists staged a massive march and proclaimed the independence of Ambazonia, the state they hope to create in western Cameroon.
As WPR reported last year, tensions involving the Anglophone population—which accounts for one-fifth of Cameroon’s total population—can be traced back to the colonial era. But Biya, in office since 1982, has never seriously addressed them. While International Crisis Group and other observers have urged the government to pursue inclusive dialogue leading to substantive decentralization measures, there is little support for that approach in Yaounde, the capital. For this reason, perhaps the best the population can hope for at the moment is that violence remains fairly sporadic.
Source: World Politics Review