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Cameroon: Escalation of the Anglophone crisis: Short Note 21 January 2020

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Parliamentary and municipal elections scheduled for February 9 2020 are intensifying an escalation of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. On 7 January 2020, fighters from the Ambazonian separatist group burned down the Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) office in Misaje commune, Donga Mantung division in Northwest region (Journal du Cameroon 08/01/2020). The action was to reiterate their earlier decision not to participate in legislative and municipal council elections scheduled for 9 February 2020. The Ambazonian Governing Council (AGovC) have stated that campaigning and talking about the elections by the populace in the proclaimed Ambazonia region is criminal (Twitter 26/12/2019). The decision not to participate in the elections and the subsequent attack have heightened tensions in the Northwest and Southwest regions, increasing protection and displacement risks for people living in these regions.

This escalation of the Anglophone crisis follows separatists’ 1 December 2019 attempted shooting of a commercial plane landing in the Northwest, and the abduction of around 40 candidates of the parliamentary and municipal elections in the west region on 14 December (VOA 16/12/2019).

The (AGovC) has also instituted a 6-day lockdown (6–11 February) in the area which would include a 24-hour restriction on movement, closure of schools, markets, and businesses. The lockdown has led to residents of the area stocking up on food, water and medical supplies.

The governing council also informed humanitarian organisations and diplomatic missions to suspend all activities in the Northwest and Southwest during the lockdown, signifying a deterioration of humanitarian access to displaced and vulnerable populations in these regions. Protection concerns have been raised for 4 million people affected by the crisis, including security of life and properties.

The deteriorating situation reflects the limited success of Switzerland’s mediation efforts which began in June 2019 and was aimed at the granting of special status to the English-speaking regions by the Cameroonian parliament on 20 December 2019 (VOA 20/12/2019). The special status aimed at improving bilingualism and increased both the number of elected positions and the powers of elected officials in the Englishspeaking areas. Elected officials could now recruit workers into government institutions such as doctors and teachers.