According to the Office of the United Nations Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) an estimated 4 million people are affected by the conflict while 1.3 million need some form of humanitarian assistance. More than 250 villages have been burnt. The Norwegian Refugee Council December 2018 publication estimates that more than 437.500 people have been displaced because of the conflict.
US Foreign Policy magazine has listed this crisis as the 8th global conflict to watch heading into 2019. In its 2018 report on the crisis captioned ‘Horrific violence escalates further in Anglophone regions’, Amnesty International described the violence as “becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiraling out of control.” In a similar report in 2018 based on interviews of 80 witnesses and victims of abuses, Human Rights Watch documented the abuses committed by the Cameroon government, which included extrajudicial executions, excessive use of force and the unjustifiable use of firearms against mostly unarmed demonstrators, torture and ill-treatment of suspected separatists and other detainees, and the burning of homes and property in several villages by government security forces. This is the tragedy happening in Ambazonia, a place very few Norwegians have ever heard of.
A failed decolonization
Historically, Ambazonia and Cameroun were two United Nations Trust territories under the mandate of the United Kingdom and France respectively. On 1st January 1960, Cameroun gained independence from France. On 11 February 1961 the United Nations imposed a referendum on Ambazonia to decide whether to integrate with Nigeria or federate with Cameroon. Ambazonians overwhelming voted to federate with Cameroon and on 21 April 1961, the UN General Assembly voted an overwhelming 64 votes against 23 and 10 abstentions for the independence of Ambazonia. Norway joined 63 other countries in voting “Yes” for that independence. That federation was dissolved in 1972 as Cameroon effectively began the occupation of Ambazonia.
Political assimilation and protest
In 1966, the President of Cameroun dissolved all political parties and turned the country into a one party and one-man rule. The Houses of parliament and Chiefs of Ambazonia were dissolved given Cameroun effective political control of Ambazonia. This political control translated into political exclusion from public office and the appointment of Cameroun political administrators within Ambazonia. Until 1993, Ambazonians were forced to take university education in French and student protests were ruthlessly suppressed, students killed, and others detained. For the past 50 years Ambazonians have protested unsuccessfully demanding a return to the federal system that brought the two countries together. In 2016, lawyers and teachers from Ambazonia began peaceful protests to decry the imposition of the French language in Ambazonian schools and courts and the gradual erosion of Ambazonian values. The government responded by arresting and detaining teachers and lawyers, shutting down the internet in the entire Ambazonia and forcing thousands to flee from their homes. In September and October 2017, the government of Cameroun deployed helicopters against protesters killing hundreds.
Consequences on peace
The ongoing civil war has far reaching implications on international peace and security and maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. Piracy, armed robbery at sea, illegal fishing, smuggling and trafficking, pose a major threat to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and ultimately to the economic development of the entire region. The destabilizing effect of a prolonged separatist war in this region will be immeasurable in promoting these problems increasing human suffering and the loss of life.
This is genocide in the making and without urgent action to address the disastrous humanitarian situation and the root causes of the conflict, the world will be saying Never again to another genocide.