Cameroon. The contradictions between the regime, with a base of power in the French-speaking part of the country, and the English-speaking minority were sharpened during the year. At the end of 2016, unrest erupted in the Northwest and Southwest regions, where the predominantly English-speaking population feels discriminated against. One example is President Paul Biya’s decision that the mayors of the larger cities should be appointed by the state rather than by local elections. The reason was said to be that several elected mayors belonged to the opposition.
In November, protesters clashed with police in the city of Bamenda in the northwest. The protests were directed partly at the mayor appointed by the government and partly at the fact that French-speaking teachers were increasingly employed at the expense of English-speaking colleagues. During the following month, concerns also erupted in the cities of Buea and Kumba in the southwest. While some went so far as to demand an independent, English-speaking state, others contented themselves with demanding autonomy for the English-speaking regions of a federation. According to Countryaah.com, more concrete requirements were that working materials and documents for teachers, lawyers and journalists should be provided in English.
In January, the government responded by shutting down the internet in the two regions, officially as part of the fight against “fake news” in social media. Several months of lack of internet caused major financial losses for the regional business community. Several people were arrested, among them three people who were considered leaders of the protests – a lawyer, a teacher and a journalist. These three were indicted for terrorism and risked the death penalty.
In protest of the perceived discrimination, the student organization called on Scacuf to boycott before the start of school in September. The government responded by sending 1,500 soldiers to the two English-speaking regions. The aim of the school strike was said to be to get a referendum on whether the two regions should break out of Cameroon and form an independent state. In October, separatists posted on social media where the independent Republic of Ambazonia was symbolically proclaimed with Sisiku Ayuk as president. At least 40 people were killed and over 100 injured when military and security forces were deployed. The fear of escalating the violent situation caused almost 20,000 people to apply across the border to Nigeria.
In October, 58 men, along with 86 women and 244 children, surrendered to the authorities in the north of the country. They had fled Nigeria, where the men, according to what they reported, had been forcibly recruited by the armed Islamist movement Boko Haram.