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Cameroon police officials walk with riot shields on a street in the administrative quarter of Buea. Photographer: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Secessionist Crisis in Cameroon Risks Sliding Into a Rebellion

Bloomberg | A secessionist push in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions is on the brink of a full-blown revolt, threatening political stability in a country ruled by one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.

Following a crackdown on independence supporters who tried to raise flags on government buildings in the central African nation’s English-speaking regions in October, at least 16 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks the government blames on the activists. This month a mob of 200 men besieged a paramilitary police station, according to the government.

It marks a dangerous turn in the crisis that began about a year ago with peaceful protests against the French language’s dominance in courtrooms and schools. Attacks on the military “presented those activists who were against armed combat before with a fait accompli — those who want to take up arms now have the upper hand,” said Hans De Marie Heungoup from the International Crisis Group. “There’s a real risk of rebellion that could make the Anglophone regions ungovernable.”

The secession issue in Cameroon echoes a global trend spanning from Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia in Spain, where leaders this year led thwarted drives for independence, to Africa itself. In neighboring Nigeria there are new calls for a southeastern Biafran state, 50 years after a previous attempt led to a civil war that claimed a million lives. Meanwhile, Kenya’s political opposition, smarting from an election loss they blame on rigging, have warned some regions could seek to secede.

Vital Ports

Cameroon’s English-speaking minority, about a fifth of the population, has complained of marginalization for decades and many highly educated Anglophones have moved abroad. The country, whose roads and ports are vital for landlocked neighbors such as oil-producing Chad, was split after World War I into a French-run zone and a smaller, British-controlled area.

Radical factions of the protest movement in the Northwest and Southwest regions now refer to the area as Ambazonia and discuss armed struggle on social media. About 20 percent of the population in the affected regions is estimated to support secession, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

The unrest comes as Cameroon’s army struggles to halt a spate of bombings and raids by the Islamist militant organization Boko Haram near the northern border with Nigeria. While Boko Haram forced thousands of Cameroonians to flee their homes last year, the secession campaign poses a much bigger threat to the government, Heungoup said by phone from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

“Even if Boko Haram killed a lot of people, it was clear from the onset that they would never threaten or capture the state,” he said. “But the Anglophone crisis calls the foundations of the Cameroonian state into question.”

Heavy-handed Response

President Paul Biya, who calls the secessionists criminals, is seeking to extend his 35-year rule in elections next year. Biya is the continent’s second-longest serving head of state, after Teodoro Obiang of neighboring Equatorial Guinea. Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, resigned in November.

Some say the radicalization is a result of a heavy-handed government response that’s left dozens of people killed in protests this year and some leaders jailed. While the government initially ignored the crisis, it switched tactics in a bid to suppress the movement. The internet was cut off for several months in the two regions and a nighttime curfew was imposed. Activists responded by organizing general strikes in the biggest towns, leaving schools and businesses closed.

Ambazonia now has a self-proclaimed president, a flag and an official government website. Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland spent five days in Cameroon this month in an attempt to defuse the crisis.

“When this crisis was in its beginning stages, the government thought it could kill a few protesters, arrest others and heavily militarize the North West and South regions for the crisis to be over,” said Shadrack Mbirwang, an activist who claims to be a member of the Ambazonia army. “This time around, we are ready to fight and fight till the restoration of our statehood.”

— With assistance by Divine Ntaryike Jr

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  1. One mistake with this write-up…..upwards of 80% is for restoration of statehood. 2 countries came together inn a mutual arrangement. However, deception and greed has forced Southern Cameroons to want out.

  2. If Biya thinks he has the right to single handedly change the name of the country from United Republic to LRC and removing one star from the flag,it therefore means that,HE Ayuk Tabe also have the right to change the name of SC to Ambasonia and come with his own flag of the former British trust territory,which of course, do not belong to LRC.What is good for the goose,is also good for the ganders.Now,it depends on which state u belong to,in order to choose which flag to burn and which one to pay allegience to.As for me,I will burn the flag created by Biya and pay allegience to the one created by HE Sesekou and co…While @Ras Tuge and @Zam Zam will pay allegience to the one star flag created by Biya…Biya,we command u to release all Ambasonians from jail,including those who burn your flag

    • Kikikiki, Kongosa…we di fight na for future CMR pickin dem, na dem go enjoy a real bilingual and united Kamerlun….we go finish witi Popol then fix kontri for the way wey any region go damé according to hard work and resources.

      Ayuk di plan for damé daso yi one witi yi kombi dem…

  3. Bloomberg prefers to interview Marie Heungoup in Kenya instead of doing so with President Ayuk Tabe in the USA, one of the 30,000 Refugees in Nigeria or ground zero resistance comrades. Who cares about all these hyperventilating media anyway? Biya has used all the treasury money to bribe you enough. We are going to take what is ours by force. Ambazonia!

    • I am one of the 80% of the Anglophones who don’t recognize that your mother f’cker Ayuk Tabe you call president. He is a terrorist who has joined his brothers in Ejagham Nigeria and hijacked our protest against the Biya regime which was lead by Agbor Balla. He has destroyed our schools and infrastructures and threatened our children depriving them from going school while his and his followers comfortably go to school in the U.S. We the 80% of Anglophones against this Ambazonia madness will one day bring him to justice if Biya and his BIR don’t get him.

      • USA Africa,
        We have not lost track of you at all! Continue wasting your time chanting your anglophone singsong. You should love the fact that you are an Equato-Gabonese longhand and that it must be really bad for you to claim to be an anglophone. The joke is on you wrinkled gorilla!

        • @ Firefighter, I am a 100% Anglo Camair from Santa in the NW province and not an Anglo Camair with tainted Biafra blood like you. Just as you were eating your dog in Biafra, continue to eat it in China. Santa people have nothing to do with Biafra people. We are very far from them. Our brothers are the Bamileke people with whom we share the same boundaries and culture even though they speak the French man’s language. We have no connection with those Biafra Cameroonians in Mamfe. The fact that we both speak the English man’s language doesn’t mean we are one people and can form one country. Our culture is different from yours in Mamfe. I understand you are being pushed by your Biafra brothers to separate from Cameroon so that you can form your Biafra Ambazonia republic. Sweet dreams. Minalmi.

      • @bobjazz

        U cannot carve Bamenda and NW out of this as the killings started there. 3 days ago, 4 gendarmes were dropped in Bawuru. Conventional wisdom should dictate that u should be scared of anyone who wields so much power from abroad in using only 20% of Anglophones to shut down schools, impose 2-3 days ghost towns, shut down markets and bars, reject and uproot a centralize dictatorship and its principles. What then will happen if he sets foot aground? if at all you have any rational thinking left in you, you must realize that all this measures can NEVER be attained if only 20% of the population endorse it. So far and counting 110 Birs and other paramilitaries have been send to the world beyond by an invisible force. What ever calm LRC is enjoying now is just the calm before the storm.

        • @ AG. Sweet dreams my friend. I am from Santa in the NW province and my neighbors are the Babajou and Mbouda people with whom we share the same boundaries and culture. I have nothing to do with people with tainted Biafra blood like your president Ayuk Tabe from Ijagham. Speaking the English man’s language doesn’t make us one. Just as they feel attached to their Biafra neighbors and brothers so too do I feel attached to my Bamileke neighbors and brothers and will never separate from them. They can join their Biafra brothers fighting Nigeria and form their Biafra Ambazonia there. This protest was about the marginalization of Anglophone Cameroonians and had nothing to do with separation, terrorism and barbarism. The courageous Agbor Balla remains our leader and not that your terrorist Ayuk.

      • Pompidou Mensah

        You are a sick bastard. Go join bir and biya and underdevelop us to the stone age. Our schools were worth shit, bac chad which you have, bribery, prostitutes, HIV, horrible roads, witchcraft, train accidents, road accidental, try going to Manyu in the rainy season. Ayuk Table can’t do any worse you coward, contribute, be patient, victory is immanent.

        • keep on dreaming Mensah. You must be one of those Ghanaiians who has joined the Biafrans. We will send you back to Ghana.

  4. Very misleading essay with the assistance of someone who is not even a journalist.
    People we have to talk facts here:
    1) quote: “The secession issue in Cameroon echoes a global trend spanning from Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia in Spain …” untrue as the people of catalonia and the kurds are homogeneous group of people and that is not the case in the so-called ambazonia.
    2) quote: “Cameroon’s English-speaking minority, about a fifth of the population, has complained of marginalization for decades and many highly educated Anglophones have moved abroad …”
    misleading as there is no heavy “English-speaking minority” in cameroon, there is an area that was under the british rule for a period of time and whose population has a minority that speaks english.

    • 3) quote: “Ambazonia now has a self-proclaimed president, a flag and an official government website.”
      rubbish. this is some lost souls minds. Virtual does not equate reality

      • This insane gorilla @Mbappe again! Why don’t you start by telling Baroness Scotland her ancestry is West African and she can never be British? Does your air mud filled head even understand the context of English-Speaking? You started by brutalizing us, proceeded to killing us into submission and now trying to call us family! No no no we are not family! Your family is in Gabon, EG and Congo droopy mouth gorilla.! Ambazonia has an elected president, a government, a flag, anthem, a DoD and an army. There’s absolutely nothing you can do about it forest gorilla.

        • Mbappe is confused, please. Don`t worsen his situation.

        • Who is this nitwit called Mbappe! Another Biya agent! Xmas remittances to Cameroon dropped by 95% this year. The worst is yet to Come and Mugabenization of Biya would be a laughing matter soon for the LR.

      • ` Reality, is hard to comprehend or to accept. Ambaland, has a population,
        flag and able administration. One good thing that excites me, is the fact
        that these are not the usual old quacks.

  5. The soldiers are dying virtually it is not real, they shall rise again.
    Living in denial as usual

  6. Stop misleading your audience with wrong information. The 22nd september and 1st of October 2017 events proof otherwise.About 80 percent of us Anglophones want to separate from the Came round.By the grace of God, it shall come to pass.

  7. “Kangaroo Court Frees Prof. Patrice Ngagang after pressure from Donald John Trump.
    Today’s court decision came after a marathon trial adjourned to 19th January was hurriedly brought back today Morning in order not to provoke Donald Trump
    Patrice Ngagang was freed during the kangaroo court trial today. The colonial officers asked him to leave Cameroun immediately and never return.”

  8. The War has not started yet Biya will see something in 2018 if his colonial soldiers don’t live Ambazonia we will finish them.

  9. The drowning regime is now confused, arresting arbitrarily. Soon, it will look for fault
    and arrest another engligh speaking PM and jail. So Yang, be carefull.

  10. It is undeniably manifest that the majority of Cameroonians (Franco & anglo) despise Biya and rightly long for the tyrant’s eviction. Nangang, Patrice Nouma etc are all examples of this shared aspiration. Given this, you have to wonder why a tiny fraction of a fraction of Cameroonians want to torpedo the chances of dislodging Biya by engaging in unrealistic pseudo-secessionist buffoonery. Does randomly killing a few soldiers weaken Biya or does it alienate others and Biya pretext to further stifle the citizenry? Only time will tell. War is ugly. A pointless war is even uglier. The misery and chaos in Manyu is just a tiny glimpse of what awaits our communities if this escalates further. It need not be so! Sane minds must prevail to focus on the number one problem: Biya the tyrant

    • Nganang…..

      give Biya pretext

    • You can sing your Biya stale singsong for an eternity, only you will enjoy the tune. Those mental gymnastics to force small useless parties into competition with Biya and his presidential majority have run their course. It’s not as if you suddenly knew Biya to be pretending to focus on him. What has your focus on him for the past 35 years produced? I don’t think you believe war is ugly! Hear you:” All those Anglophones who have been craving for war you fight now”. These words from you betray any other rambling and sanctimonious declarations about peace. Your people suffered genocide but you did not learn a lesson, because you are naturally selfish. If you were normal mentally, you would never come out waxing strong against Anglophones, calling them terrorists, cowards, murderers.

      • Give it up already…you sound like a jilted girlfriend. Zam Zam must have seriously bruised your frail ego. What else could explain such paranoia? I almost feel sorry for you. It must be terrible to live with such bitterness. This is a forum for discussing ideas, instead you spend your time here talking about identities, second-guessing individuals about whom you know nothing. Your childish focus on individuals is an indication of a poverty of intellect and a shallowness of mind. You could not provide any substantive rebuttal of my argument above, so you resort to regurgitating your ridiculous native blah blah. Be a man, challenge my ideas. Quit acting the jilted-girlfriend drama-queen.

        • Few days ago , I posed many simple questions about Balla to you and you melted away. You are somebody who can discuss ideas? What ideas do you have by the way? I will stay on you and completely reward you for your bullying. You started it and I warned you that I would get tough with you! Remember you saying I sponsored Boko Haram, calling me murderer? How can you forget so soon and turn the accusation on me? If you withdraw those statements, then you will have peace here, if not, I will knock you senseless!

        • @ Nyamfuka, You are wasting your time with this moron called firefighter and his anger and bitterness towards Francophones. He must have caught a Francophone on his wife or girlfriend. This is very personal to him and has nothing to do with the Biya regime and the marginalization of Anglophones.

        • “If you withdraw those statements, then you will have peace here, if not, I will knock you senseless!” Oh I am terrified now… Buffoon! I cannot withdraw statements I never uttered. And even if I did utter those statements, your feckless threats would have zero effect. I have told you several times that I am not Zam Zam, but your primitive obsession with tribalism and personalities on this forum would not let you acknowledge that you erred. This is a forum for discussing ideas, and my challenge to you still stands. Take me up on it if you can! Otherwise, keep acting the jilted-girlfriend drama-queen, wallowing in your cesspool of irrelevant tribal antics.

        • Nyamfuka,
          What is your argument? This intellectual masturbation will not help you. Our people have been killed for expressing themselves. We will never forget 22/09/2017. We will never forget 01/10/2017.
          We want out and if you doubt it, organize a referendum. Catalonia has taught those watching what alienation can do to national unity. It’s a referendum or self defense.

        • @Musaka, Catalonia is not Cameroon. Educate yrself on the sociology of secessionist movements. Biya is the common enemy and your radical approach to resolving this crisis is unrealistic and has produced zero results for anglos. Instead, we are worse off today than 18 months ago. What has your strategy achieved? Zero, zip, zilch. My point is we must fight intelligently: maximizing our gains while minimizing our loses. The lawyers and teachers fought and achieved more for anglophones in three months than you have in your 18months of blunder. At least they had OHADA translated including other concessions from gov’nt. Today the SCACUF extremists stand isolated, with zero leverage, zero territory, shunned by the international community and a good majority of anglos. You call that progress?

        • Nyamfuka,
          Obviously YOU need to be educated on the grievances of Catalonia….identity…imposition of Spanish monarchy and denial of the Catalan identity. Castellano over Catalan. In My book it’s the same as Anglophone Cameroon receiving tons of rubbish from Yaoundé.
          Now you herald a two decade old translation of an OHADA code into English, I am not sure what you have been smoking but your OHADA is rubbish and not needed. The evidence is that Cameroon’s greatest trading partner (your precious Nigeria since you love to refer to us as Biafra) is not a member of OHADA and does not use it.
          You say we have achieved zilch? Heheheh Bebelle Zamba go an ask your masters in Etoudi, il n’y a pas de problème Anglophone. That much we have achieved and Aluta Continua!

  11. It is quite sad that a nation is going through it’s worst crisis, yet citizens feel comfortable discussing trivia or slinging mud at each other!

    Throughout time and space, the olive branch has represented PEACE. Failure to recognize this means of communication has led to firing of tear gas or even live bullets into crowds wielding green leaves to indicate dissent. Inside the National Assembly or the Senate, debate/discussion is taboo, prompting an aggrieved senator to communicate by using her shoe as a missile!

    And yet we all parrot dialogue here, peaceful cohabitation there. What exactly is the shape of cohabitation without communication?

    • JD, There is a lot of communication going on. But I assume you mean that there can be no peaceful cohabitation without dialogue. If that is what you meant, you are right.

  12. something that would have been peacefully addressed,the dictator took Ambazonians for granted,unarmed protesters were heavily brutalized at the mercy of suffering,now their backs are on the walls,need to know why their fellow compatriots were killed,so let lrp be ready,the killing is on both sides now,let the lies telling medal man tchuroma come and say the military has never killed.Were are on the ground.2018 will be too hot for biya and his half baked trained soldiers.

  13. Korup Forest

    I’m not a Cameroonian but I agree most of what “bobjazz” writes. The marginalisation of Anglophones is what its all about. I agree with what he says about that self proclaimed president and government. Power hungry people are not what you need now. I’ve seen some of their video’s on YouTube and I’m sorry to say that they don’t sound very clever to me.

  14. Most people know Albert Einstein only in connection with his theory of relativity Wich is “out there”. Much nearer home is his definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome”.

    Lady Patricia Janet Scotland’s of the British Commonwealth of Nations has come and gone, prescribing DIALOGUE as the wonder drug for Cameroon’s elusive quagmire. And some have been narcotized to accept it as others gleefully dance Kumbaya.

    And yet, a step back in time should remind them of a similar euphoria that came on the heels of a court judgement delivered in Banjul, The Gambia to settle this very matter between the English-speaking Cameroon an His Excellency President Paul Biya. Does anyone recall where that judgement proposing DIALOGUE led to?

    • In an earlier post, you insinuated there could be no peaceful coexistence in Cameroon without dialogue or “communication” as you put it. Now you say engaging in dialogue would be tantamount to insanity. Which begs the question, what is the point you are trying to make and what is your proposed course of action for resolving this crisis? War?

  15. Dear ambazonia.some of this comments that have been posted is a good job done by Pau? Biya with his ideas of curoption he has paid for some of this comments to discourage the Ambezonia independent…. a real Ambazonia can not be against his own poeple , no thing last for ever the days of slavary are over .,,this time we are asking world is Britain and France is one country .or English and Frence is the same language.so we the Ambazonia have nothing Cameroon .Biya want to aborlish English .if i can ask what is Brenda doing in America. why not France ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    • Dear Deeeesss,
      No go you school again Yaa? Yes Papa! Ton Anglais la aurait pu nous assurer UNe place à la coupe du monde en Russie.
      En tout cas Ambazonia for ever, au moins tu as réussi a dire ca!