What started in October 2016 as the presentation of unionist demands quickly morphed into an armed conflict following government’s denial of marginalisation claims tabled by locals in the North West and South West Regions.
Today, armed men have for close to two years been seeking independence for the minority Anglophones and an end to what they consider domination of the anglophones by the francophone regime in Yaounde.
It’s been an expression of deeper, long-held grievances around good governance and equitable political and social representation.
The non-state armed group has taken up weapons against the government’s security forces, causing thousands to die while hundreds of thousands are forced from their homes. Security forces are indicted for burning entire villages and carrying out extrajudicial killings and right violations.
Factories have been shuttered, roads have become impassable, warehouses have been destroyed, and truck drivers are routinely kidnapped for ransom. Tones of produce have been set ablaze, including cocoa, rubber and cement.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres in September 2017 urged Cameroonian authorities to “promote measures of national reconciliation aimed at finding a durable solution to the crisis, including by addressing its root causes.”
In her report to the 39th session of the UN’s Human Rights Council last September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet mentioned the crisis in Cameroon: “Fighting has intensified in the so-called anglophone regions between security forces and armed groups.
“The government has not acted to promote the conference on dialogue suggested by religious leaders, and there is still no mechanism in place which could envisage a halt in hostilities in the short term.”
Cameroon’s GDP growth had been projected to reach 3.8% this year, a rebound from the previous year, due to an increase in natural gas production. That goal is now likely unattainable, not with the redirection of resources to fight a war on several fronts.
The country’s economic growth “depends on the government’s ability to successfully handle the violent secessionist conflict in the two anglophone regions,” the World Bank stated last October.
The restive North West and South West Regions produce cocoa and coffee, the country’s two main agriculture exports. Oil production, which accounts for an estimated 40% of the country’s GDP, mostly takes place in the coast of the South West Region.
Coffee and cocoa are key economic mainstays of the country’s two English-speaking regions.
The country’s employers’ group GICAM estimated that exports for both crops were down 20 percent, blaming the insecurity and the displacement of people escaping the unrest.
Groupement inter-patronal du Cameroun (GICAM), an association of business leaders, declared in September that violence in two anglophone regions in the west of the country was forcing companies to halt operations.
Due to the crisis, GICAM estimates total loss of revenue as of October 2018 to be about 470 million US Dollars, while 13,000 jobs, mostly in the agricultural sector, have been or are about to be lost.
In fact, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) with over 20,000 contracts of employment has since folded up. The situation is even worst with Pamol Plantations Plc whose activities in its Ndian base have been grounded completely.
Government claims the situation is under control but in reality businesses are shutting down as unemployment is increasing in the country’s restive Anglophone regions.
Fighting has become a daily occurrence in both Anglophone regions since late 2017 when separatists issued a symbolic declaration of “independence”.
The state has been overstretched and all money for investment projects have now been diverted to the military.
Aside the government, local businesses have suffered. Days of ghost towns and lockdowns have paralyzed the economy.
Schools have also been shut down, an institution that provided many jobs and income for locals. Hospitals have also been closed and others burnt. Existing roads and bridges have been destroyed, while road projects have stalled.
Today, the Anglophones are suffering the consequences of the ongoing war, whose end is still unknown.
The question is, for how much longer?
Mimi Mefo Info Editorial