The Centre for Hunan Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria is deeply concerned about the ongoing Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, characterised by non-state armed groups in the North-West participating in violent conflict with the government of Cameroon over perceived discrimination on the basis of language.
North-west Cameroon is mainly populated by anglophone speakers whilst the rest of Cameroon is francophone, leading to serious challenges of governance and administration of justice. The crisis has historical ties to the relinquishment of colonial control over Cameroon, where the British organised a referendum with the UN which excluded the option of independence to the North-West region of Cameroon, instead offering the North-West region a merger with either Cameroon or Nigeria.
This crisis has resulted in widespread violence, gross human rights violations, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. The conflict has escalated in recent years, with a significant impact on the lives of civilians in the North-West and South-West regions of the country without any signs of abating, as separatist groups jockey for control of the region to the detriment of civilians.
The conflict sits at the intersection of deep political tensions within Cameroon that have erupted along linguistic and regional lines, with a devastating impact on the lives of citizens caught in the crossfire. Given the heavy-handed approach taken by both sides in the conflict, it is essential that all parties engage in constructive dialogue and work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The crisis has seriously impacted education, with many schools closed down to avoid frequent attacks against education facilities where teachers and students have been attacked, kidnapped, threatened, and killed. More than 700,000 children are deprived of education in the North-west and South-west regions. The government of Cameroon has responded to the violence by imposing harsh restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and association, as well as the targeting of journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders.
The reaction by the government is unacceptable and there appears to be no concrete humanitarian guarantees for civilians living in the affected areas, with humanitarian workers being denied access to conflict zones.
We call on the Cameroonian government to ensure that civil and political rights of people living in the North-West region are protected, and that all those who have been arrested and arbitrarily detained for exercising these rights are released immediately and unconditionally to demonstrate the Cameroonian government's commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of excessive force by the security forces, as well as the actions of non-state armed groups, resulting in the death of innocent civilians, including women and children. We call on all parties involved to respect international human rights and humanitarian law and to protect civilians from harm.
The humanitarian situation in the North-West and South-West regions is dire, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and in need of assistance. We call on the Cameroonian government to ensure that humanitarian actors are given full and unrestricted access to those in need and to provide support to those affected by the crisis.
We urge the international community to take immediate action to end the violence and to support efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. We call on the African Union, the United Nations, and other regional and international actors to work together to support Cameroon in its efforts to address the root causes of the crisis and to promote lasting peace and stability.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Cameroon and reiterate our commitment to promoting and protecting human rights and dignity for all.