The Report documents gross human rights abuses that have been committed during the conflict in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon since 2016. These regions are predominantly English-speaking, in a country that has a majority French-speaking population. The North West and South West regions, known as the anglophone regions, were formerly the colonial territory of Britain from the end of the First World War to the attainment of independence by Cameroon in 1960/61. The conflict involves tensions between the minority anglophone populations of Cameroon and the majority francophone populations, and has thus been termed the ‘Anglophone Crisis’. Crucially, the Report situates the recent crimes in the sociolegal and historical context of the longstanding ‘Anglophone Problem’ in Cameroon.
The recent violence in anglophone Cameroon began with strikes by anglophone lawyers and teachers in protest to perceived government-backed attempts to marginalise traditional practices within anglophone courts and schools. In response to the unrest, the Cameroonian Government was recorded to use coercion and force, which led to an escalation of tensions and demands. Since the 2016 protests, the conflict has become increasingly violent, and crimes have been committed by multiple parties. The Report provides a comprehensive analysis of alleged human rights abuses committed to date and recommends actions.
The current violence in Cameroon cannot be properly comprehended outside of the historical context in which it has arisen. The report accordingly begins with a historical overview of the Anglophone Problem, which is rooted in a land boundary implemented by British and French colonial forces. The analysis then moves on to show how the border complexities have carried over into independence from colonial rule, which is examined through the anglophone independence plebiscite. Various issues of contention have arisen in relation to this vote because the option of secession, for which many anglophone stakeholders campaigned, was denied to the people. Consequently, the reunification of the anglophone regions to Cameroon has never been fully accepted by all. Despite vociferous frustrations expressed by anglophone stakeholders since this time, these grievances have yet to be addressed by the Cameroon State and the international community.
The Report then moves on to consider evidence of human rights abuses that have been committed by the Cameroonian State forces and by separatist groups in the anglophone regions. Suspected human rights violations include extra-judicial killings, torture, destruction of property, fair trial violations, and inhumane and degrading conditions of detention. These violations breach both Cameroonian national laws and international human rights laws that bind Cameroon.
The Report also documents and analyses photographic and video-graphic media material received via the messaging service WhatsApp between August 2018 and up to October 2019, material which is logged in Appendix A. The Report further reviews reporting on the human rights abuses by international organisations, non-governmental organisations and reports by mainstream news media.
Analysis of primary and secondary human rights data leads to the research team to identify a range of pressing concerns, which include: the continued escalation of the conflict; the complexity of issues fueling the conflict, which stretch beyond a simple francophone/anglophone divide; the inadequacy of the Cameroonian government organised dialogue of September 2019; the lack of accountability for human rights abuses; the absence of remedies of human rights violations; and the wider implications of the conflict on peace in the broader Sahel Region.
The Report draws attention to the distinctive moral responsibility of the British government to respond to these concerns, which arises on at least three grounds: 1) Cameroon as a former colony of the British state; 2) The role of the British government in the creation of the Anglophone Problem; and 3) The prolonged and substantial presence of the British state in Cameroon through its developmental organisation, Voluntary Services Overseas, from pre-independence in 1958 until withdrawal in 2014.
In light of the evidence considered, the Report makes the following specific recommendations to the British government:
- Support efforts to stop the violence
- Support conflict resolution
- Support the initiatives of peacebuilders
- Ensure a return to the rule of law
- Monitor detention conditions.
Precise ways that these recommendations might be achieved are suggested.
The full report is available here.