The Current

Could a conflict along language lines push Cameroon to civil war?

Increasing civil unrest in Cameroon could be pushing the country to the brink of civil war, as the government battles Boko Haram in the north and its own Anglophone minority in the south.

Country's Anglophone minority claim marginalization by Francophone majority

Protesters at a pro-Anglophone rally in Bamenda, an English-speaking hub in northwest Cameroon, Sept. 2017. The sign reads, in part: 'Free All Arrested Now. Free Southern Cameroon.' (AFP/Getty Images)

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While soldiers in the north of Cameroon battle Islamic insurgents Boko Haram, a lesser-known conflict between English and French communities in the south could push the country into civil war.

"What has been happening ... is the basic fight for rights, a fight against marginalization and oppression," said Felix Agbor Nkongho, a human rights lawyer. 

The country's Anglophone minority — about 20 per cent of the population — began protesting alleged marginalization by the Francophone majority in Oct. 2016, he told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

The government reacted with "brutality," he said.

"People were beaten, lawyers were arrested, their wigs and gowns were seized, students were robbed."

Anglophone rebels declared an independent republic, Ambazonia, in the south last year. (Google)

The conflict escalated to the point where Anglophone rebels declared an independent republic, Ambazonia, last year.

In the ensuing conflict, both government forces — led by Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982 and was recently reelected — and rebels have been accused of atrocities. A video that went viral during the summer showed women and children blindfolded and shot by what appear to be Cameroonian soldiers.

To discuss the political situation, The Current's guest host Laura Lynch was joined by:

  • Felix Agbor Nkongho, a lawyer who spent a year in prison for his human rights advocacy
  • Paul-Joel Kamtchang, a freedom of expression and digital rights activist who works with an organisation called Data Cameroon
  • Christopher Roberts, an analyst and an instructor in the political science department at the University of Calgary

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Caro Rolando, Danielle Carr, and John Chipman