1, February 2019
Senior Cameroon military leaders have assembled the country’s armed forces in light of recent security vulnerabilities. Troops have been ordered to stand by at their headquarters in Yaounde to await deployment assignments. In a recent report, officials say the military is redeploying more resources to hotspots around the country.
ISWAP, best known as Boko Haram, has been menacing the country’s northern border with Nigeria, recruiting local militants to organize attacks on Cameroon soil. ISWAP, or a splinter group from Nigeria, has been on the rise in the region for some time, and there appears to be a strong resurgence brewing near the Lake Chad basin. There have been five reported attacks across the border and in the Lake Chad basin just this month. Last week, in the border town of Fotokol, three people were slaughtered. Boko Haram has taken responsibility for the attacks. Reports say government troops repelled the assault.
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, there are also separatists fighting to establish an English-speaking state. The separatist forces have recruited mercenaries to support them in their fight to destabilize the Cameroon government, and in so doing, have begun a fresh chapter of bloodshed in the region. Fighting has taken place near separatist strongholds in the northwest and southwest provinces. The Cameroon military reported it has killed more than 40 separatists already this year. The separatists have denied these claims, instead arguing that “we are the ones doing the killing.” Last year Cameroon was under the microscope internationally for their handling of another separatist uprising in the west.
According to VOA, Cameroon Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo, speaking at the defense headquarters in Yaounde on Jan. 21st, said, “2019 will not be a bed of roses. We shall continue with various operations in the far north, northwest and southwest regions, reactivating special operations in the Adamawa region where criminal groups specialized in kidnapping are wreaking havoc and requesting ransom.”
Clearly, worrying times lie ahead for the people of Cameroon. Although no conclusive data has emerged about the increase in violence, locals, turning to social media to have their voices heard, have indicated that things are heating up in the country.
Although the deployments of the Cameroon military are reasonable at this stage, the government should look to Ukraine as a lesson. They should strive to engage in more peaceful negotiations with the would-be separatists to avoid further armed conflict. Otherwise, the government could quickly become embroiled in one of these never-ending wars. Since fighting first broke out with the separatists in 2016, more than 1,200 people have been killed and approximately a quarter of a million displaced.