In an escalation of the deadly conflict between the anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions and the rest of Cameroon, heavily armed anglophone secessionists launched two separate attacks over the weekend, killing five members of the Cameroonian security forces and four civilians, and injuring seven others. News of the attacks came on state radio and television not long after the country held long-delayed parliamentary and municipal elections. There have been mass demonstrations against President Paul Biya’s administration over the past three years, ever since anglophone separatists declared the unilateral secession of Cameroon’s English-speaking regions from the majority francophone country. Clashes between security forces and separatists have led to more than 3,000 deaths and the displacement of an estimated 700,000 Cameroonians.
Why It Matters
The February elections went by with minimal disruption, preceded by concessions from President Biya granting further autonomy to the anglophone regions in an effort to tamp down long-standing frustrations. Election observers were cautiously optimistic that relatively peaceful elections could open a path toward national reconciliation, but these latest attacks demonstrate that Biya’s reforms may have come too late. Any further escalation risks tearing the country apart, which would have wide-reaching consequences for the region. Cameroon’s separatist conflict is one of the main sources of concern for the African Union’s Silencing the Guns conflict-resolution initiative for 2020.