This COI Focus describes the current security situation in two regions of Cameroon, Northwest Region and Southwest Region, which have been rocked since October 2016 by what observers call the “Anglophone crisis”. This term refers to a protest movement of the English-speaking population, which over time turned into an insurrectional situation. Some radical secessionist groups and armed groups resorted to violent action, provoking repressive measures from the military. This COI Focus updates the COI Focus of 23 April 2018 entitled La crise anglophone and examines more particularly the evolution of the situation between April 2018 and September 2019. Documentary research was closed on 16 September 2019.
During the reporting period, the English-speaking regions have seen frequent fighting between the Cameroon military and several armed groups. In 2018, more radical and violent movements appeared on the scene, attempting to achieve secession through armed struggle. According to some observers (ICG, AI), there are currently a dozen armed separatist groups with several hundred combatants. It is difficult to define them accurately as their leaders, their composition and their rallying points often change. In addition to these groups, smaller groups of a few dozen members are also active in the English-speaking regions and, owing to the deteriorating security situation, purely criminal groups are also developing their activities.
In pursuing their goals, the Cameroon forces and the armed separatist groups are committing human rights violations. The separatists resort to different forms of violent action against the central state and its supposed allies: armed ambushes, explosive devices and frequent abductions targeting government officials, military personnel, tribal leaders, students and teachers. Abductions of military personnel and civil servants are generally carried out as a punitive measure. In other cases, abductions target critics of secessionist groups as well as dissident members who ignore orders to stop their activities. For their part, in their fight against secessionist groups, government forces resort to methods such as incommunicado detention, extrajudicial executions, torture and even scorched earth tactics.
Civilians are increasingly becoming victims of separatist militants and of the security forces deployed in the region. During the reporting period, casualties and the destruction of property have increased. NGOs accuse the armed groups and the defence and security forces of committing human rights violations.
Owing to the deteriorating security situation, the schooling of children is being jeopardised. Students in both English-speaking regions have not attended courses for two years. The civilian population lives in a precarious humanitarian situation, facing hunger, inability to cultivate their land, lack of water, communication problems and, sometimes, family dislocation. Humanitarian aid agencies face difficulties related to underfunding and access to affected areas. The Anglophone crisis has already seriously damaged the economic fabric in these areas, where various sectors have been hit, such as the agro-industry, agriculture, telecommunications, trading and distribution companies.
As villages and towns are being abandoned by their population, the number of refugees and internally displaced persons is increasing. There are more than 536,000 IDPs from the Southwest and Northwest Regions, and the UNHCR has registered approximately 39,000 refugees in neighbouring Nigeria, many of which have lost their documents during their flight or when their village was burned.
The situation in the English-speaking regions is at an impasse and tensions are likely to last, as neither the central government nor the secessionists are willing to negotiate a solution. According to ICG, neither side is in a position to prevail militarily over the other in the short term. The same source reports that 1,850 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict. The dialogue between the central government and the separatists is at a standstill but president Paul Biya has announced on 10 September 2019 a possible resumption later in the month.
The policy implemented by the Commissioner General is based on a thorough analysis of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin. This information is collated in a professional manner from various, objective sources, including the EASO, the UNHCR, relevant international human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, professional literature and coverage in the media. When determining policy, the Commissioner General does not only examine the COI Focuses written by Cedoca and published on this website, as these deal with just one aspect of the general situation in the country of origin. The fact that a COI Focus could be out-of-date does not mean that the policy that is being implemented by the Commissioner General is no longer up-to-date.
When assessing an application for asylum, the Commissioner General not only considers the actual situation in the country of origin at the moment of decision-making, he also takes into account the individual situation and personal circumstances of the applicant for international protection. Every asylum application is examined individually. An applicant must comprehensively demonstrate that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there is a clear personal risk of serious harm. He cannot, therefore, simply refer back to the general conditions in his country, but must also present concrete, credible and personal facts.
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