Tensions remain high as internet is restored in Angolphone areas

Tensions remain high in Cameroon, as media reported several killings of civilians by security forces in Bamenda and other parts of the north-west of Anglophone areas of the country in early February. As armed separatists continue to clash with Cameroon's military, a reported 43,000 people have fled the ensuing crackdown by the authorities, most of them going to the Cross River State of Nigeria. 

Also in early February, authorities imposed a curfew in two English-speaking regions of Cameroon. According to France 24, on 10th February a curfew was imposed because authorities feared "imminent" separatist attacks in Cameroon. Minister of Defense Joseph Beti Assomo announced "the introduction of a curfew between 8 pm and 6 am" in the two English-speaking regions of the country bordering Nigeria, where the Cameroonian government suspects the separatists have established their base. The government claimed that secessionists had called for an uprising to disturb the 11th February celebrations. This marks the date of the referendum that brought French and English Cameroon together and there has been a "Festival of Youth" celebration since 1966. This year, the 11th February was indeed marred by several instances of violence, with three police officers killed and the car of a local official burnt out. 

Northwest and southwest Cameroon are home to the majority of Anglophone Cameroonians. For over a year, these regions have faced a socio-political crisis which has gradually become more violent. The security situation in these English-speaking areas has deteriorated considerably since the announcement in late January of the deportation of 47 separatists arrested in Nigeria, including their leader Julius Ayuk Tabe.

Fears over security in Cameroon are also being driven by continued Boko Haram attacks. In early February, an attack attributed to the terrorist group left six people dead in the village of Hitawa in northern Cameroon, not far from the Nigerian border. Reports indicated that the attackers also burned more than 100 houses. In late February, news agency AFP reported at least seven more killed in Boko Haram attacks near the Cameroon-Chad border.

In an oral statement at the Human Rights Council on 7th March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al-Hussein called on the authorities to take steps to reduce tensions in the country:

"I urge the Government to make every effort to de-escalate the conflict in the Anglophone regions, and to allow unimpeded access to human rights monitors so that accurate information on the situation can inform constructive engagement on the way forward".

Expression

Internet back up but slow and sporadic

Reports from early March 2018 indicate that internet access has been restored in Anglophone Cameroon. For over a year, internet access in these areas has been intermittent, either being completely shut off or restricted and slowed down on a number of occasions. During this period, internet users in Anglophone Cameroon have either been unable to access social media platforms or have had to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access certain sites. Although access now appears to have been restored across the region, some sites continue to be very slow to load and VPNs are still needed to access some blocked content. According to digital rights group Access Now, the internet was blocked in these regions for a total of 136 days since 2017.

Peaceful Assembly

March in Douala banned by local authority

In late February 2018, trade union members in Douala organised a march to raise awareness of the suspension of ten of their delegates from a local community structure. They were also calling for the payment of eleven months of salary arrears. However the Sub-Prefect of Douala 1 banned the march which was to end at the offices of the local Governor. In order to protect the safety of its members, the Cameroon Trade Union Confederation of Workers decided to abide by the ban and called off the march. They have, however, vowed to continue protesting until their demands are met.

Teachers arrested in Yaounde

On 1st March 2018, the news website Africa News reported that a number of teachers had been arrested in the capital Yaoundé following protests by them over delayed payment of financial benefits and allowances. Africa News and other sources placed the numbers arrested at between two and three hundred. Other news sources in Cameroon however placed the number of people arrested at closer to fifty. Protests had been organised on 27th February, when the BBC reported that protest leader William Bouayelihii had been arrested. An unconfirmed report on 5th March, says that 56 teachers were released on 2nd March, having signed an undertaking to dissolve their association and delete any associated social media accounts.