Africa’s Neglected Conflict and the Price Paid by Civilians
On the coast of the Gulf of Guinea lies Cameroon, a country in Central Africa known for its geographical, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Although the official languages of Cameroon are French and English – over 600 indigenous languages are spoken throughout the country according to CETRA Language Solutions. However, Cameroon’s linguistic variety does not come without its consequences. The Anglophone Crisis began in 2016, when English-speaking lawyers and teachers protesting against discrimination by the Francophone government were met with lethal force by military officials. In response, a movement to secede from Cameroon began in the Anglophone region. The separatists consider themselves “freedom fighters” whilst the Cameroonian government labels them as “terrorists.” The United Nations estimates that the Anglophone Conflict impacted over three million people, displaced over 700,000, and killed over 4,000.
Before 2021, the Anglophone Conflict was primarily defined by attacks between separatists groups and government forces. However, according to the United Nations and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) Project, separatist groups are increasingly targeting innocent civilians. Since 2021, separatists have been accused of abducting dozens of civilians, murdering village leaders, and even carrying out IED attacks. Since the end of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, separatist forces have targeted schools for violent attacks due to the dominance of the French language in the Cameroonian education system. Between October and December of 2020, “…the United Nations recorded 35 attacks on schools including the killing, torture and abduction of students and teachers, as well as arson of education facilities,” according to a report published by Al Jazeera.
However, separatists groups are not the only accused. In the same time frame, military forces have been accused of burning homes, unjustly arresting individuals, and killing countless individuals. According to Human Rights Watch, government forces even attacked, looted, and destroyed the Royal Palace in Bafut – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, military forces used inhumane methods of detention and torture against suspected separatist rebels. Such methods included severe beatings, humiliation, and even near-drowning.
Despite the vast amount of human rights abuses, destruction of both private and public property, abductions, and murder of countless civilians – the conflict in Cameroon lacks sufficient humanitarian funding. According to Al Jazeera, a 2019 UN Appeal gathered only 43% of requested humanitarian funding. Evidently, the conflict in Cameroon is overlooked by the international community at the cost of the homes, businesses, and lives of innocent Cameroonian civilians. Until the international community pays adequate attention and contributes necessary funding to Cameroon, Africa’s neglected conflict will continue to worsen whilst civilians bear the brunt of the damage.