The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) provides for documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history. It is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity and strengthen democracy.
USHMM published an extensive report on the risk of mass atrocities in Cameroon, with the main focus being on the Anglophone crisis. Below is a summary of the report:-
Crisis in Cameroon emerged decades of lingering grievances from the Anglophone minority about being mistreated by the francophone majority, who form over 80 percent of the nation.
The country was divided after the first world war between the British and the French and after the second world war, the UN handed these two territories to Britain and France as UN territories under their trusteeship.
This division gave the two separate countries different identities in terms of culture, education, language etc. upon independence in 1961, British Northern Cameroon decided to integrate to Nigeria while British Southern Cameroon chose to reunite with La Republique du Cameroun and form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The Federal Republic was later abolished, thereby laying a groundwork for the present day Anglophone crisis.
In 2016, Anglophone lawyers and teachers rose up to these marginalisation and demanded for equal treatment. The protests by the teachers and lawyers were met with stiff police brutality and arrests, further escalating the crisis.
It soon led to retaliations from a faction of Anglophones who started demanding for the complete independence of the former British Southern Cameroons from the status quo. This resulted to an armed conflict in 2017 which till date keeps on escalating.
The escalation of the crisis has brought to serious human rights violations in the two regions by the active members of the struggle; the government forces as well as the separatist fighters have gone to unimaginable lengths to attain their aims. Since the arm struggle began, there have been random killings of civilians on an almost daily basis in the two regions, with both groups of fighters guilty of crimes such as rapes, looting, summary executions, decapitations, massacres.
Burning down of villages, schools, hospitals, and churches as well as burning civilians alive in their homes.
In a bid to stop the support to the separatist movements by the civilians, government forces have embarked on intimidating the populations such as shooting on sight, burning houses and torturing. One of the most embarrassing was the Ngarbuh incident when the soldiers decided to go a killing spree in the village, killing almost two dozen people, including 13 children and a pregnant woman in the operation.
The government has equally shut down internet completely from both regions in order to limit the spread of propaganda messages and videos by activities from spreading. They equally threatened journalist in these regions and armed them not to report nor discuss matter that was related to the crisis, while at the same time restricting access to information to independent researchers.
In September 2019, the government launched a 5 days national dialogue that was aimed at discussing the happening of the country and how best to solve the problems faced by the country from the North to the South. Separatists however boycotted the dialogue on the grounds that it had not been planned based the preconditions they had proposed for an inclusive dialogue. The separatist equally rejected the special status accorded to the two English speaking regions as was concluded by the dialogue, saying that it made no sense and no difference.
In the face of the escalating crisis in the country and the government’s unwillingness to seek for genuine long lasting solutions to the crisis, the United States of America reacted by withholding military aid to Cameroon, reduced their security assistance to the country, ending their preference for countries under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), while equally calling for an independent investigation of the Ngarbuh massacre by the government.
The risks of future mass atrocities could be enormous, even more than what we have experienced already, some of which could be;
An upsurge in abuse by government troops and separatist fighters on the civilians; the separatist movement is fracturing. They are disunited and are acting as independent factions and mostly having to deal with infighting; separatist fighters are becoming better equipped and better trained than how they were at the beginning of the fight; security forces are equally becoming emboldened by a sense of impunity. Because their atrocities are continuously overlooked, they now attack hospitals, schools, churches, palaces etc, and equally with the strengthening of separatist fighters, they now feel more emboldened to attack civilians settlements with more impunity; neither sides are equally willing to make concessions necessary for a political solution to the crisis, as the government is determined to have military victory while the separatist are bent on gaining independence; to make things complicated, the sudden death or departure from office of the aging president may leave a power vacuum that could further destabilize the Anglophone regions.
Separatists may equally use this power vacuum at the centre to accelerate their target; public events are continuous triggers to conflicts. Separatist continue calling for lockdowns during public events such as during elections and the national days like 20th of May.
USHMM gives some policy options that could be followed by stakeholders in order to solve the crisis amicably for all. Suggesting to the Cameroon government, they stated; government cease targeting civilians; call for genuine and inclusive dialogue; end Anglophone marginalisation on all fronts and at all cost; investigate all atrocities committed by the military forces in the English speaking regions; open up the Anglophone regions for humanitarian organisations.
To the separatist fighters and civilian leaders they suggested to stop targeting civilian population, end school boycotts, participate in potential mediation talks, cooperate with international investigation activities.
Mimi Mefo Info