The current crisis in Cameroon isn’t one that has made the front pages of many newspapers, being overshadowed by multiple other issues including Brexit, Trump and the ongoing refugee crisis, however this does not make Cameroon any less deserving of our attention, due to 160,000 of its population already having been displaced, with 21,000 fleeing to the neighbouring Nigeria. However, these tragic occurrences have not suddenly appeared, but rather this crisis originated from a country rooted in division, between the French-speaking majority and the English-speaking minority, with this split only worsening when Cameroon gained independence in 1960, becoming a united front. Yet it was this that led to some of the English speakers feeling that they had been forced into the newly founded Republic.
In 2016 conflict reached new heights, when protestors took to the streets after their request for English to be used in courtrooms and public schools of Cameroon’s two anglophone regions was turned down, and therefore this backlash escalated into extreme violence which has continued across the country, putting Cameroon on the brink of a Civil War. The situation again escalated even further in early October last year, when militant secessionist groups symbolically proclaimed the independence of the creation of a new state within Cameroon, Ambazonia, which resulted in more violence, leaving dozens of protestors dead and over 100 injured.
if violence is still raging throughout the country, the election could be the catalyst to push the country into Civil War
Recent incidents however have appeared to be increasingly concerning, with reports and explicit film footage showing villages being burnt to the ground, as well as civilians being brutally tortured and killed. The government have denied having any involvement with these events, however three residents from the village Munyenge confirmed it to be the work of the government who burnt down their village, and other reports have suggested similar accusations. The government meanwhile claim if they found out any of their officials were involved with the burning or torturing of innocent civilians then they would be court martialled, however any form of discipline still appears non-existent. Whether or not they have been involved, the government must act quickly in resolving this violence, due to the next presidential election coming up this October, and consequently if violence is still raging throughout the country, the election could be the catalyst to push the country into Civil War.
The lack of coverage on this crisis in the media also suggests a poor amount of international reaction and involvement towards this crisis, with a recent video uploaded onto Facebook depicting the burning of one village, with a speaker in the video asking the United Nations what they plan to do about this destruction. This can consequently be used to argue that perhaps international intervention is often slower towards countries outside of the Western world, with limited attention paid to countries excluded from this bubble. It is also important that the citizens of Cameroon are also seen as part of the refugee crisis, due to the sheer amount that have been displaced, and these huge numbers should not be discounted purely on account of their separate location from the majority of refugees.
However, the worsening crisis throughout the country badly needs a mediator, meaning it is increasingly crucial for international organisations to cease being passive and instead take a stand, with the hope that they will launch an investigation into what is truly going on. It can be argued that the U.K. should take some responsibility due to it being a former colonial power, and therefore upon giving Cameroon Independence it was them who left the country divided and in chaos without taking responsibility for their actions. France have also acted controversially by traditionally giving support to President Biya and the government’s side, however they have not taken a strong public position recently, potentially due to them recognising the current conflict has raised questions regarding the government’s involvement within this violence. Another huge world power, the USA, has actually called out the Cameroon Government forces for its targeted killings, however despite this the US has continued to provide support to Cameroons armed forces due to their connection with the US campaign against Boko Haram, the jihadist militant organization, prominent in the Far North of Cameroon, where the Muslim population is high.
The lack of coverage on this crisis in the media also suggests a poor amount of international reaction
Perhaps the beginning of resolving this awful conflict is by us internationally not just viewing the events in Cameroon as being distant violence holding no resemblance to anything we are familiar with in Britain, but rather looking at the conflict being one reminiscent in Western society. When it boils down, the conflict is rooted in the divisions between English and French speakers, a conflict caused by differing nationalities, different languages, and therefore when we begin to see it like this, we can hopefully see how similar circumstances are prominent in Western society, making the situation no longer as far removed from our everyday life. Therefore, this can hopefully not only urge further international intervention, but also be taken by a warning of Western society as to the violence and chaos that can ensue when we allow our nationalities, ethnicities and languages to become separate binaries that act as barriers between each other.