Ambazonia attacks likely to continue in Southern Cameroons through at least late 2023 0

Separatist activism is likely to continue in Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon through at least late 2023. Unidentified assailants dressed in official military uniforms entered a bar and opened fire indiscriminately in Bamenda (Northwest) at around 19:30 July 16, killing nine people and injuring two others. The exact reason for the attack is unclear. A military spokesperson has attributed the attack to Ambazonia separatists.

The threat of violence remains elevated in the English-speaking regions as various armed groups continue to call for secession, highlighting the dangers for those operating or traveling in western Cameroon. The situation has remained tense since October 2017, when secessionists unilaterally proclaimed the independence of the so-called state of Ambazonia, which is unrecognized internationally. Human Rights Watch estimates that about 4000 civilians died due to armed forces and separatist-linked violence since late 2016.

Security-related operations are ongoing. Checkpoints and searches of vehicles and personnel are likely, particularly outside major cities such as Buea (Southwest) and Bamenda (Northwest). Authorities may enact temporary security measures such as curfews and telecommunication restrictions without notice in the event of significant violence or unrest.

Various armed groups operate in the region, such as the Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF), which is also plagued by banditry and other criminal activities.

Security forces frequently skirmish with Ambazonia secessionist militants (also called “Amba boys”), regularly leading to casualties. Separatists have carried out ambushes targeting security forces and government officials involving improvised explosive devices. There are also reports of militant abuses, including kidnappings and killings, against the local population. Militants often issue stay-at-home orders (also known as “ghost cities”); residents who do not comply with such measures may face intimidation and violence.

While many kidnappings go unreported, it is estimated that dozens to hundreds of people are kidnapped each year in both Northwest and Southwest regions. Targets notably include prominent members of civil society, politicians, security forces, teachers, and priests, among others. Militants may target foreign nationals due to their perceived worth in the event of a ransom demand. High-profile individuals have been kidnapped in recent months, including a senator and her driver, who were seized by ADF militants in Bamenda on April 30. Security forces released several hostages, including the senator, during a military operation in Ashong (Northwest) on May 30. The Bakassi Peninsula (officially part of Cameroon) also hosts many oil-related operations attracting criminals and militants who seek to kidnap oil workers, aiming for a higher ransom.

Culled from Crisis 24