On Thursday, March 28, Human Rights Watch reported that at least 170 civilians have been killed since October in the escalating violence in Cameroon. The violence has occurred primarily along linguistic lines between Cameroon’s Anglophone and Francophone populations. The ethno-linguistic tension stems from perceived discrimination against the minority Anglophone Cameroonians: The government operates primarily in French, courts have ostracized Anglophones, and Anglophones are unable to hold civil service jobs. As a result, many Anglophones feel like second-class citizens, and ties between the two communities continue to fray while trust in government, especially in Anglophone regions, has plummeted.
Both the government and separatists are accused of atrocities. According to the report, “government forces in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have killed scores of civilians, used indiscriminate force, and torched hundreds of homes over the past six months.” The separatists, however, have also contributed to the violence through kidnappings—including of at least 300 children under age 18 years old—and two executions, says the report. Over 430,000 have fled in response to the violence. The violence is also compounding poverty in the country, as farmers have been forced to abandon their crops and exports are in decline.
As a result of the violence, earlier this week, the U.S. placed sanctions on over 20 military personnel, civilian actors, and government ministers in Cameroon. Aid programs and military training by the U.S. have been withdrawn.
Source: Brookings Institution