The crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, now one year old, escalated on 1 October 2017, when militant secessionist groups symbolically proclaimed the independence of Ambazonia. Violence left dozens of protesters dead and over 100 injured. This sharp deterioration in the situation requires an urgent response from Cameroonian President Paul Biya, as well as a strong reaction from international partners.
The events of 1 October (a date commemorating the 1961 reunification between the Cameroon under French mandate and the British Southern Cameroons) are the culmination of a new, intensified phase of the crisis. It is marked by the failure of official government missions abroad in August, which led to increased cases of arson and sporadic violence by unidentified splinter groups, violent repression of Anglophone activists by security forces on 22 September, bomb blasts in the Northwest, and a de facto state of emergency from 29 September to 3 October.
Due to such murderous repression, secessionist ranks are growing by the day, and some are more firmly evoking the idea of an armed struggle or “self-defence”.
If he hopes to avoid an armed uprising in Anglophone regions, which would without doubt have an impact in the Francophone zone, the Cameroonian president must go beyond superficial measures and take responsibility in order to find political solutions to the crisis. The recommendations detailed in the August 2017 Crisis Group report still stand, but the gravity of the situation means that more urgent action must be taken. Reforms should be preceded by an inclusive dialogue at the highest level to develop long-term solutions. Following this bloody repression, the worsening crisis now calls for the intervention of a credible mediator, such as the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) or the African Union.
International partners, who have until now been passive or complacent vis-à-vis the regime, should strongly condemn such state violence and terrible killings. They should also request an independent investigation and sanctions against the perpetrators, as well as the launch of an inclusive dialogue on decentralisation and federalism. Finally, they should clearly point out that renewed, widespread violence perpetrated by the security forces will lead to a reassessment of military cooperation with Cameroon.