Addressing the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
Colonization and Linguistic Background:
Although Cameroon was originally colonized by Germany, the British and French troops disputed the ownership of Cameroon from 1916 until 1919, when 80% went to the French and 20% to the British. French-run Cameroon became independent in 1960 and English-run Cameroon was divided: the South joined Cameroon and the North joined Nigeria, where the primary language is English. Officially the Republic of Cameroon now, this country recognizes both English and French as their official languages. However, French is significantly more common.
The Beginning of the Anglophone Crisis:
Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis began in 2016, when lawyers and teachers protested the domination of the French language in Anglophone schools and courts. These protests lasted for months and quickly gained public sympathy. Although the protests were initially peaceful, many turned violent in the following months.
This escalated in October of 2017 when militant secessionist groups led by Sisiku Ayuke Tabe claimed autonomy over the two English-speaking regions in Cameroon. With this, Sisiku Ayuke Tabe proclaimed a new nation named Ambazonia. These claims of independence were rejected by current president Paul Biya.
The Cameroonian government claims that the English-speaking separatists are terrorizing citizens and government forces, which promotes the military retaliation. Civilians often take the brunt of this violence, which has led many to shift their support to the separatist groups.
Recent Escalation of Tensions:
In January 2018, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and nine of his followers were arrested in Nigeria, deported to Cameroon and given life sentences.
In September President Biya attempted to end the crisis with the “National Dialogue”, which took place from September 30th to October 4th. The initial reactions to National Dialogue were mixed, and separatist groups dismissed it outright. The two anglophone regions of Cameroon were given special status and some rebel prisoners were released following the talks. However, the violence continued. With the increased violence on both sides of the conflict and continuous violations of human rights, many Cameroonians have left for Nigeria as refugees.
The African Union supports talks but is ultimately committed to its “unwavering commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of Cameroon.”
Peaks in violence in the anglophone crisis are often caused by key political dates such as presidential elections and court proceedings for important separatist members. In November 2019, current president Paul Biya set a date for elections, which caused a spike in violence across the two western regions of Cameroon.
Rising Boko Haram presence:
Boko Haram’s presence in Cameroon is focused in the Farth North of the country and started in 2013. In August 2020, there was a deadly grenade attack on a camp for displaced people. This attack is only one of an increasing amount of incursions and attacks by suspected Islamist militant.
The violence that is destabilizing Cameroon affects its ability to fight terrorism and groups such as Boko Haram. Cameroon is currently a key partner of the United States in fighting terrorism.
As the 2021 Security Council, it is your responsibility to determine a peaceful solution to the Anglophone Crisis. You must do what you can to prevent further loss of civilian lives and the abuses of human rights on the part of both the government and the separatist groups.
Additional aspects to consider:
- There is considerably less development in anglophone regions
- Economic disparity between linguistic groups
- Protection of civilians until an agreement is made between the Cameroonian government and separatist groups
Resources for further reading: