Thousands displaced from North-West and South-West Cameroon

The violence that was rife between November 2016 till date in Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions and the support for the Operation Ghost Town that followed, showed that the Anglophone problem is deep-rooted. It will not be resolved by denying it exists or by repression, but by dialogue and institutional reform. In the context of pressure from the government and the financial difficulties of continuing the strike, some people have disassociated themselves from the movement and more would do so if it were not for the threats of secessionists. However, they are still dissatisfied. After sacrificing an academic year and resisting pressure from the government and secessionist militants, the risk is that they will become increasingly bitter if no reasonable progress is made, especially on educational reform and governance.

The government is wrong to bet on the crisis running out of steam. The threat of a second year of school closures hangs over the beginning of the next academic year. With a year to go before the next presidential and general elections, it would not be politically sensible to ignore the dissatisfaction and anger of a fifth of its population, especially as Francophones share some Anglophone grievances. Above and beyond the electoral question, the sporadic violence of the last few months and the use of social networks have shown that some secessionists are ready for the armed struggle. The opening of a front in the West could prove to be dramatic for Cameroon, which already faces Boko Haram in the Far North and militias from the Central African Republic to the East.