On 10 April, the Canadian government pledged $6.65 million in humanitarian aid to the Republic of Cameroon, with part of the funds to be directed towards security concerns over increasing conflict in the region in recent years. Conflict has also caused the USA to withhold funding and support provisions for Cameroon. On 13 April, women in Cameroon carried out calls and prayers for peace outside Yaoundé Conference Centre. This is the second recent report of women demonstrating in the country, after a march took place last month to call for the end of rape and violence against women during the war.
These events highlight the tensions surrounding Cameroon, a country fraught by ethnic, language, and class divisions since its creation in the 1960s. What has been termed the Anglophone Crisis refers to the increasing contention between the country’s English-speaking regions and the Francophone government and majority population, which first escalated in 2015 when English-speaking teachers and lawyers conducted a peaceful strike against increasing appointments of French-speaking teachers and lawyers in their region. This peaceful protest became a violent conflict that has since killed hundreds of people on both sides. Of particular concern is the country’s military turning its arms against protesting civilians with increasing frequency. Separatists who demand an independent state called Ambazonia have gained increasing support from English-speaking citizens, although they too have performed many acts of violence, such as the burning of schools and attacking of government officials.
In Al Jazeera’s report on Cameroon’s situation, as published on 12 April, correspondent Lea Harding, who has been relaying stories told to her by the English-speaking citizens of Cameroon, summarized the situation of the Anglophone Cameroonians: “[They] want to be better represented here and if that won’t work, [they] want [their] own country… there are human rights abuses according to different human rights watchdogs …people are suffering on both sides.” The report also mentions that the situation was being discussed by the UN General Assembly, but so far no international organizations have taken practical action to stop the conflict.
The country has been in a state of unease regarding the administration of laws passed by the French-speaking government within its English-speaking jurisdictions. While Cameroon is home to over 200 languages, colonization of different areas by the English and French over the past century have caused the various ethnic groups in the country to unify under French or English, linguistically and culturally. As published on the UN website, the World Bank stated last year that Cameroon’s economic growth “depends on the government’s ability to successfully handle the violent secessionist conflict in the two anglophone regions.”
It is critical for the international community to expressly condemn the increasing intolerance between Cameroon’s two populations, to lend support to the country’s most vulnerable people, and to encourage education, economic reform, and infrastructure initiatives. World players such as the USA also need to rethink the military training they provided to Cameroonian forces in light of the military’s increasing human rights abuses, and should instead urge the country to unify under goals of economic growth and human rights development.
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