Still Time to Increase Chance of Peaceful Poll in Cameroon – A Letter from Crisis Group 0

Dear friends of Crisis Group,

On 7 October 2018, Cameroonians will vote in a precarious presidential election. The political climate is tense, the economy unsteady and the country is threatened by Boko Haram in the Far North and armed separatists groups in the Anglophone regions in the Northwest and Southwest. A few days ahead of polling day, communal tensions are also growing, while new movements are forming across the country, which, though still embryonic, reject the election.

Crisis Group has been closely following recent developments in Cameroon and their implications for the upcoming election, along with a steady flow of reporting since 2014 on Boko Haram in the country’s Far North, and on the Anglophone crisis since 2016. Our publications provide an overview of key issues surrounding the vote. We have prepared a full reading list, and outline some of our key publications below.

Today, our briefing entitled Cameroon: Divisions Widen Ahead of Presidential Vote was made available in full in both English and French. In it, we argue that the government and armed Anglophone separatists still have time to declare a ceasefire to improve prospects for a peaceful poll in areas affected by the conflict. In addition, the government should strike a more conciliatory tone toward the Anglophone conflict and make moves to curb rhetoric stigmatising specific ethnic groups across the country. Outside powers – in particular the African Union, France, the UN and the U.S. – should use the days before the election to push for a ceasefire while taking a firmer line against leaders implicated in violence on either side. They should also call on the government to refrain from cracking down violently against any protests that take place around the vote.

In September, Crisis Group issued a statement calling for national and international support for the proposed Anglophone General Conference. We argue that the conference could offer a decisive breakthrough in the Anglophone crisis if all parties, including the separatists, attend.

As fighting between government forces and Boko Haram insurgents in Cameroon’s Far North diminishes, a lasting peace depends on how the government deals with former members of the jihadist movement, its former prisoners and the vigilante groups set up to fight it. Our August report advocates for community service, public confessions, symbolic ceremonies and vocational training to help reintegrate those who do not pose a threat.

The danger of bloodshed around this weekend’s vote is high in Anglophone regions, and insecurity in the Far North will hinder the administration of the poll. In a more peaceful climate, the election could offer the political renewal Cameroon needs. As things stand, it risks further polarising society. Though time is short before the vote, these parties could take steps to calm tensions and reduce this risk.

Dr. Comfort Ero
Director, Africa Program
International Crisis Group