Since the beginning of 2020, the security and human rights situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon has greatly deteriorated. In the armed conflict known as the Anglophone Crisis, over 3,000 people have been killed and hundreds of villages have been destroyed, including 80 percent of schools in Anglophone regions. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 670,000 people have been internally displaced and approximately 58,000 people are now refugees. Since May, incidences of human rights violations committed by Cameroonian military forces and separatist groups have increased. Those killed in such incidences include Confort Tumassang, a civilian mother of four whose brutal murder by separatists was videoed last month, and Anglophone journalist Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe, who died in military custody shortly after his arrest in 2019.
In addition to worsening human rights violations and violence, earlier this month the Cameroonian government initiated a crackdown on dissenters in Anglophone regions by banning public meetings and protests indefinitely. The regulation cites concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, and asserts that illegal protests and gatherings would be punishable under the 2014 anti-terror law. Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Lewis Mudge, stated, “These steps are just a thinly veiled attempt by the Cameroonian government to use the Covid-19 pandemic and the draconian anti-terror law as a pretext to quell the right to assemble.”
The State Department and Congress have issued statements urging that inclusive dialogue be engaged as a way out of the current crisis and that humanitarian aid workers be allowed unhindered access to the Northwest and Southwest regions.
Please contact your Senators and urge them to pass S.RES.684 calling on the Government of Cameroon and armed separatist groups to respect the human rights of all Cameroonian citizens, to end all violence, and to pursue an inclusive dialogue to resolve the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions. Also contact your Representatives and thank them for passing H.RES.358, which called for peaceful dialogue and unhindered access to humanitarian aid workers. Ask Congress to continue to monitor the situation and support a rapid resolution of the conflict in Cameroon.
Cameroon has been in turmoil since 2016 as a result of what is called the Anglophone Crisis. The crisis follows complaints by English speaking Cameroonians of their marginalization within the Republic of Cameroon.
In 1919, after the defeat of Germany in World War I, the League of Nations divided the German colony of Cameroon between France and England. As a United Nations (UN) trust territory, 80% of Cameroon was managed by France and 20% was managed by England. The French territory received independence in 1960, while the territory administered by England continued to operate as a UN trust. In 1961, the United Nations gave Anglophone Cameroon two options for independence: joining either the independent French Cameroon or the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Anglophone Cameroon voted to join French Cameroon, but due to the effects of colonization by France and England, Cameroonians of the distinct Anglophone and Francophone cultures have faced conflict since the creation of the modern state of Cameroon. The Anglophone minority has long felt marginalized by the majority Francophone government, leading to the current crisis in the country.
This crisis touches our borders, as Anglophone Cameroonians fleeing violence have begun to migrate to the United States through South and Central America. Refugees face racist discrimination and violence as they travel to the US border, as well as dangerous conditions in the camps created to hold refugees stopped in Mexico at the request of the US government. Cameroonian refugees are at risk of contracting COVID-19 without access to medical care as they attempt to reach safety. Even once they reach their destination in the US refugees are being detained and deported rather than offered asylum.