Cameroon must urgently rethink a policy of “murderous repression” in its restive English-speaking regions or risk the crisis spiralling into an armed uprising, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned Thursday.
In a report on the political crisis in the west African nation, the NGO said the government’s crackdown on the anglophone minority had failed and had only served to fuel a clamour for independence.
French-speaking Cameroon has a large anglophone minority which comprises around a fifth of its population of 22 million.
Gathered mainly in two regions, many English-speakers say the suffer inequality and discrimination.
Simmering resentment has fuelled a breakaway movement that on October 1 issued a symbolic declaration of independence for the putative state of Ambazonia, prompting a crackdown by a government firmly opposed to secession.
In the face of mounting protests in the runup to the declaration, the security forces “responded with disproportionate force, leading to at least 40 deaths and over 100 injured protesters between September 28 and 2 October,” the ICG said.
It pointed to the use of live rounds and excessive use of teargas.
“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’,” it said.
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, 84, must act swiftly to find a serious political solution to the crisis, and it was also crucial that the international community speak out firmly against such state violence, the ICG said.
“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 report was published three days after Prime Minister Philemon Yang began a visit to the Northwest Region, one of the two troubled anglophone areas, as part of what he termed a “dialogue” with the English-speaking minority.
Yang travelled to Bamenda, the main regional town, where he met the heads of trade unions in the transport, education and shopping sectors, as well as with bankers and other business figures, Cameroon Radio Television (CrTV) said.
He delivered “a message of peace and living in harmony” while those who met him put forward proposals “for a definitive way out of the crisis,” it said, without giving further details.