Anglophone Crisis

The Anglophone Crisis (French: Crise anglophone), also known as the Ambazonia War,[10] or the Cameroonian Civil War,[11] is a conflict in the Southern Cameroons region of Cameroon, part of the long-standing Anglophone problem.[12] Following the suppression of 2016–17 Cameroonian protests, Ambazonian separatists in the Anglophone territories of Northwest Region and Southwest Region (collectively known as Southern Cameroons) launched a guerilla campaign against Cameroonian security forces, and later unilaterally proclaimed the restoration of independence. In November 2017, the government of Cameroon declared war on the separatists and sent its army into the Anglophone regions.[13]

Anglophone Crisis
Part of the Anglophone problem

     Undisputed Cameroonian territory
     Part of Cameroon claimed by Ambazonia
Date9 September 2017[1] – present
(4 years, 1 week and 2 days)
Status Ongoing
 Cameroon  Ambazonia
Commanders and leaders
Paul Biya
Philémon Yang
Joseph Ngute
René Claude Meka
Valere Nka
Julius Ayuk Tabe
Samuel Ikome Sako
Ayaba Cho Lucas
Ebenezer Akwanga
Units involved
Vigilante groups[3]
Militias of local chiefs[4]
Other groups
12,500 troops, 9,000 militia (total size of army)[5] 2,000–4,000 fighters
(as of May 2019)[6]
Casualties and losses
800-1,000 killed
(as of February 2020)[7]
~1,000 killed
(as of June 2019)[8]
4,000+ civilians killed
700,000 internally displaced
63,800 refugees in Nigeria
(as of March 2021)[9]

Starting as a low-scale insurgency, the conflict spread to most parts of the Anglophone regions within a year.[14] By the summer of 2019, the government controlled the major cities and parts of the countryside, while the Ambazonian nationalists held parts of the countryside and regularly appeared in the major cities.[6] A year later, clearly-defined frontlines had emerged, sometimes with a tacit mutual understanding between the belligerents on who controls which areas; while Cameroon would raid separatist-controlled towns and villages, it would not seek to outright recapture them,[15] focusing instead on securing the major urban areas.[6]

Thousands of people have been killed in the war, and more than half a million have been forced to flee their homes.[6] Although 2019 saw the first known instance of dialogue between Cameroon and the separatists,[16] as well as a state-organized national dialogue and the granting of a special status to the Anglophone regions,[17] the war continued to intensify in late 2019.[18] The 2020 Cameroonian parliamentary election brought further escalation, as the separatists became more assertive while Cameroon deployed additional forces. While the COVID-19 pandemic saw one armed group declare a unilateral ceasefire to combat the spread of the virus, other groups and the Cameroonian government ignored calls to follow suit and kept on fighting.[19]

Limited attempts have been made at negotiating. Talks mediated by Switzerland in 2019 ultimately failed, and internal divisions among the separatists since the 2019 Ambazonian leadership crisis has complicated the situation.[20] The same year, separatist leaders who were extradited from Nigeria in 2018 were handed life sentences by a military tribunal. However, facing mounting international pressure for a global ceasefire, in July 2020 Cameroon began negotiating with these imprisoned leaders.[21] The talks were held between Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and other imprisoned leaders and representatives of the Cameroonian government. The talks outlined a series of conditions for the Cameroonian government to accept that Ayuk Tabe said would create an "enabling environment" for substantial negotiations to occur.[22]