Safer Edge Insights: Cameroon
Cameroon: North-West and South-West Regions
Low-impact bombings and small arms attacks on security forces highlights increase in radical activism in the face of the continued government crackdown
Over the last two months, a series of low-level bombings have taken place in the majority-Anglophone areas of North-West and South-West Cameroon indicating an increasingly unpredictable security environment in the area.
The most recent bombings took place on the evening of 12 November, when four homemade devices were detonated in Bamenda, the capital of the North-West region. According to local media, one device was detonated close to a mobile police unit, another by a well-known supermarket and two others at a crossroads near Commercial Avenue. No fatalities or injuries were reported.
Authorities were targeted in several violent incidents in the North-West region in the week before the recent bombings:
06 November – A policeman was shot dead in Jakiri (Bui department). The officer was reportedly in pursuit of assailants who had entered a school in the area and demanded that it join a boycott.
07 November – Two police officers were killed by masked men in the Two policemen at a checkpoint in Bafut, on the outskirts of Bamenda.
07 November – Security forces were attacked at Up Station in Bamenda, resulting in the deaths of two attackers.
These attacks prompted a government curfew to be imposed on Bamenda from 8-23 November, between 22.00-05.00. Local media suggest that public spaces and shops have also been shut in the city. Arrests warrants have also been issued for leaders of an Anglophone separatist party, the Southern Cameroon National Council. There has also been reports in recent days of the police seizing farming tools that they fear could be used as weapons against security forces.
Prior to the above incidents, similar low-impact bombings took place in Bamenda on 09 September, 21 September and 02 October. The incident on 21 September injured three police officers. Nobody was harmed in the other attacks. On 28 September, a device was detonated in Duala (South-West region).
The unrest in the typically placid North-West and South-West regions began in late 2016, when a group of lawyers from the English-speaking North West held protests in Bamenda. The original protests were held in reaction to the Cameroonian government’s increasingly strict policies on the use of English in courts and educational institutions in the region. The issue gained traction quickly. In November 2016, the police used live-fire ammunition to disperse crowds, killing four protesters.
The ‘Dead City’ demonstrations have continued throughout 2017, with calls for secession growing in the wake of increasingly authoritarian policies from the Cameroonian government towards the Anglophone minority. Bamenda has been the epicentre of unrest, with demonstrators clashing with police on multiple occasions throughout 2017.
The most violent episode of unrest took place in early October, when secession leaders announced a symbolic Independence Day for the regions on 01 October. Mass-turnout protests took place throughout the regions, with violence being reported in several departments. According to several human rights organisations, at least 38 Anglophone demonstrators were killed by the security forces in early October. There has also been reports of wide-spread arrests and assassinations of activists.
Having failed to make any progress through demonstration, elements of the movement are likely to remain committed to using violence as a means of airing their grievances in the short/medium-term future. The further use of homemade explosive devices and targeted attacks against security forces is likely to continue in the short-term future. The low-impact of the devices suggests that the assailants do not currently have the capability to build sophisticated bombs.
Further episodes of major unrest are likely, with Bamenda remaining the focal point of unrest. This dissent will be met with increasingly violent crackdowns by the security forces, including the use of live-fire ammunition at protests. So far there has been little evidence that President Biya’s government is willing to make concessions to the regions as a means of reconciliation. The issue looks like set to dominate the political agenda in Cameroon in the coming months.
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