In a statement issued on Friday, Crisis Group expressed concern in the conflict in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The international NGO says the conflict poses the most serious security problem among other challenges in the country.
The Anglophone crisis which began in Cameroon in 2016 as peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers demanding linguistic reforms, escalated in 2021 at the hands of all parties to the conflict.
Anglophone militias have announced plans to disrupt the Cup, hoping to showcase their grievances. The government has responded with severe restrictions upon movement and association in the Anglophone North West and South West.
The South West Region has received a massive security boost from the state with more troops deployed to the region ahead of the AFCON.
The towns of Limbe and Buea, which face major security threats from Anglophone separatists, will be hosting games is hosting Group F of the upcoming tournament. The Group features teams like The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, and Tunisia.
Silencing the guns
According to several media outlets, English Separatist leaders have vowed to “fight the Cameroon military anywhere they are present in the entire territory of Ambazonia during the AFCON Games.”
They’ve also advised authorities that the restive English speaking regions should not host visitors because of the ongoing war.
On the other hand, Cameroon has deployed troops to the South West Region. A move sources familiar with the deployment say is meant to secure the players, visitors and fans as they enjoy games away from the threats of the Separatists.
Crisis Group has called on warring parties to try a dramatically different approach: “cease hostilities for the Cup’s duration”.
“Separatist attacks during the month-long tournament may diminish the sympathy that Anglophone Cameroonians enjoy in Africa and elsewhere, and the government’s heavy-handed measures could produce popular backlash and escalate the conflict,” Crisis Group’s statement on Friday said.
Benefits of a ceasefire would be significant
The ongoing war has hindered aid delivery to thousands of displaced persons from the restive English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
Crisis Group says the benefits of a brief cessation would afford humanitarian agencies a chance to deliver more aid into the Anglophone regions that right now can be too dangerous to reach, offering a respite to the thousands of people endangered by the fighting.