Two deadly attacks this week in Anglophone regions of Cameroon underscore the security challenges facing the country as it hosts one of the world’s biggest football tournaments, the Africa Cup of Nations.
big picture: What began as a protest movement led by teachers and lawyers in two English-speaking regions of western Cameroon in late 2016 developed into a civil war that forced nearly 1 million people to flee their homes, 700,000 children Dropped out of school, and moved. With no sign of resolution for five years.
Running news: Separatist rebels killed a soldier on Wednesday during an attack in the town of Beaia, where the four national teams participating in the tournament are stationed.
- a rebel leader told Reuters The aim was to disrupt preparations for Wednesday’s games in the nearby town of Limbe, which will host five more games this month.
- In another incident, a prominent senator was shot dead in northwestern Cameroon on Tuesday. No group claimed responsibility, but separatist militias killed several politicians whom they deemed insufficiently helpful.
History: The former German colony of Cameroon was divided into French and British protectorates after World War I, and was reunified as independent Cameroon in 1961.
- French and English are both official languages, but French is spoken by about 80% of the population.
- Lawyers and teachers launched peaceful protests in late 2016 against what they saw as the marginalization of Anglophone culture, and in particular against the appointments of French-speaking judges and teachers in Anglophone regions, says Senior Researcher for Human Rights for Central Africa Ilaria Allegrozzi says. Watch.
- The government responded forcefully. “They dispersed the protest, they fired at peaceful protesters, they arrested hundreds of them,” Allegrozzi says. “It also led to frustration, resentment and the creation of armed groups.”
separatists declared rebel The English-speaking regions were determined in 2017 to make it impossible for an independent state and central government control to be called Ambazonia.
- A particularly controversial strategy is a forced school boycott who has seen many students being threatened, assaulted or kidnapped on their way to school. many who still go to school sneak away, ensuring that they do not wear their uniform in public. United Nations They say In North-West and South-West Cameroon, 2 out of 3 schools remain closed.
- Meanwhile, the army is allegedly It burned villages and made arbitrary arrests during its anti-insurgency campaign, and it is “preparing for a long war”, according to one International Crisis Group Report,
- “With neither side clearly moving forward and both reluctant to engage in talks, the conflict has come to a standstill amid a lack of international attention,” the report said. Both sides have been accused of mistreatment of civilians.
With the most views in Africa At this month’s sporting event in Cameroon, the government has attempted to show it has control over the entire country by choosing Limbe as one of the six primary venues.
- Meanwhile, the separatists want to undermine the government and bring international attention to their issues.
- When organizers planned the tournament’s mascot to visit the large Anglophone city of Bamenda last month, it required not only a lion costume but a bulletproof vest and military escort.