Strong increase of politically motivated murders: African state on the verge of civil war

Escalation of violence in Cameroon (Press Release)

President Paul Biya, who has been leading the country for 35 years, does not seem to be willing to enter a credible dialogue with the minority. Photo: Cia Pak via UN Photos

Following a series of politically motivated murders in Cameroon, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warned that there might be even more violence – and that the country on the verge of a civil war. “Regarding the dispute over the oppression of the English speaking minority in the Central African state, there must be political negotiations to prevent a further escalation of the tensions. However, President Paul Biya, who has been leading the country for 35 years, does not seem to be willing to enter a credible dialogue with the minority,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director. This week, four members of the security forces lost their lives in attacks supposedly carried out by supporters of a secession of the English-speaking regions.

On Friday, a soldier was ambushed and strangled by armed and masked attackers near the city of Mambé, close to the border to Nigeria. The controversy over the future of the English-speaking areas had escalated in late 2016, when the security forces brutally suppressed protests by members of the minority – and the conflict intensified when (on October 1, 2017) soldiers had shot at least 17 protesters in the course of the symbolic proclamation of the English-speaking Republic “Ambazonia”. According to eyewitness reports, army personnel in helicopters had indiscriminately opened fire on the celebrating crowd in the city of Bamenda in the northwest of the country. Later, a state of emergency had been imposed on the city, and the mobile communications network had been shut down. Several dozen protesters were arrested, and around 20,000 members of the English-speaking minority fled to Nigeria.

The human rights organization demanded that those who are responsible for the escalation of violence must be punished – as a basis for a credible political dialogue involving respected spokespersons of the English-speaking minority and the French-speaking majority.

Around one fifth of the country’s 23 million citizens belong to the English-speaking minority in the north and the southwest of the country. The English-speaking people have been complaining about being treated as second-class citizens for years – suffering from discrimination in society, politics, and the economy. Further, they are accusing the government, which is dominated by the French-speaking majority – of neglecting their regions. The conflict is a result of the colonial era, specifically the fact that, in 1916, the former German colony had been divided between France and the United Kingdom. On October 1, 1961, the English-speaking areas had been associated to the state of Cameroon, which had become independent from France in 1960.