ACTS OF TERRORISM AND THE EROSION OF SUSTAINABLE PEACE AND SECURITY: THE CAMEROONIAN CASE (2016-2023)
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It is relevant to realize that, the processes of peace and security have come under serious threats as a result of a number of factors which pose the threat. Recent developments and security threats in Mali, Central African Republic and Nigeria are becoming very alarming. And we cannot keep aside South Sudan and the endless conflicts in Somalia and the Great Lakes. The African Union (AU) for instance, at its 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, pledged not to bequeath to future generations of Africans a legacy of wars and conflicts, by silencing the guns by 2020. What is the way out of this situation? The African continent as a whole has no doubt witnessed many transformations in the last several decades, ranging from advances in the use of communication technology, to rapid economic growth triggered by an expanding market for Africa’s commodities, and a burgeoning youth population able to innovate in this environment. At the same time, its potential to translate these transformations into stable peace and development for African people is hampered by the continuing threat of armed conflict, along with its transmutations. Generally, armed conflicts have become a recurrent reality in Africa which can be traced from their independence (Olusegun Obasanjo, 2013). According to a 2009 report of the African Union, from 1960 until the present day, fifty percent of Africa’s states have been ravaged by one form of conflict or another. Hence, The post-Cold War conflict resurgence is particularly disturbing. Peace and security scholars have attempted to classify armed conflicts on the continent into various categories some of which understandably only feature in our discourses in a historical sense. Categorization at this point is necessary, if only as an indication of how far we have come as a continent (Olusegun Obasanjo, 2013). Conflicts linked to secessionist ambitions such as the case of Sudan and South Sudan (1983–2011); the age-long Cassamance rebellion in Senegal; the Cabinda agitations in Angola; and the Biafra civil war in Nigeria (1967–70). Resource-based conflicts such as the Sudan and South Sudan conflict over the Abyei region; the Congo-Brazzaville conflict (2007); the Senegal/Mauritania conflict (1989); and the conflict raging in eastern Congo over the last decade. Identity-based conflicts such as inter-ethnic or inter-tribal conflicts. Examples of these are the 1994 Rwandan Genocide; the Burundi massacres; the Tuareg uprising in Mali; clan fighting in Somalia and Liberia; Algerian Berbers fighting against the ruling Arab class in Algeria; and the ongoing South Sudan conflict. Annexationist conflicts such as the occupation of the Western Sahara by Morocco in 1975; and British Southern Cameroons in 1961 (Olusegun Obasanjo, 2013).
The important question here is; what triggers all these violent conflicts marked with acts of terrorism which poses some opposition to Peace and security in Africa?
Politically, poor governance, state building processes such as the struggle for control of power, and unconstitutional changes of government remain key conflict drivers (Rebeka Gluhbegovic, 2016). Economically, corruption, struggle for ownership, management and control of natural resources, as well as unequal distribution of these resources constitute major factors that trigger conflicts across the continent. Socially, inadequate capacity for diversity management, the real or perceived inequality and discrimination against minorities, marginalization along ethnic and religious lines as well as the alienation and consequent disillusionment of the youth are further additions. Internationally, colonial legacies, and foreign interference in political transition and governance have equally triggered conflicts. But what is indeed new is the format of mutation of old conflicts (Bakken, Ingrid Vik & Siri Aas Rustad 2018). As a result we sometimes see their manifestation in more extreme forms of militancy. To be certain, this extreme expression of violence is not the unique preserve of Africa. However, while it is tempting to conclude that what we are experiencing is copycat stealing of “narratives” from all over the world, we must reflect on how deeply militant groups believe in those narratives. Initial evidence suggests that despite a copycat method of expression, these are reactions to local rather than global conditions. We now know that we cannot ignore the “power of Africa’s streets” both in its violent and nonviolent manifestations. The phenomenon in which largely young populations take to the streets to voice their feelings of exclusion through mass non-violent protests; and another phenomenon in which a form of socialization causes young people to throw bombs on themselves and are ready to kill deserves closer attention. As a result we see the threat landscape changing. The study hence seeks that, Africans must ask ourselves whether this threat landscape is changing fundamentally and whether we are still looking at the right framework for addressing the breadth of security challenges confronting the continent (Olusegun Obasanjo, 2013).
1.1: BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
After many years of being considered one of Africa’s more peaceful countries, Cameroon is now struggling with the combined threats of a civil war in the South West and North West Region, terrorist attacks in the northern region, increasing political corruption, and the negative impacts of climate change. As a result, Cameroon is seeing high numbers of internally displaced persons within the country and an influx of Englishspeaking Cameroonians seeking asylum abroad. This backgrounder covers the issues that have contributed to its many crises (Achankeng, 2021).
The Anglophone crisis has introduced a new element in the understanding of terrorism in Africa as the local population in the Northern region of Cameroon who are constantly oppressed and live in fear and equally those in the English-speaking regions of Northwest and Southwest Cameroon and equally persons, flee from military and security operations while embracing individuals designated by the state as terrorists. The escalating violence has displaced thousands of refugees to neighboring Nigeria and could jeopardize Cameroon’s upcoming Presidential election while stimulating new security challenges for the country and entire Lake Chad Basin area (C. Nna-Emeka Okereke, March, 2018).
On one hand, a phenomenon of terrorism faced in Cameroon could be inked to the Anglophone Crisis and equally acts of terrorism in the northern region of Cameroon caused by Boko Haram. Firstly, the current Anglophone crisis is an extension of the historical resistance to the alleged assimilation of the indigenous English-speaking population. It began with the unprovoked harassment of Anglophone lawyers engaged in peaceful protest marches in September 2016 to vent their grievances over the perceived marginalization of the Anglophone Common Law practice in the country (C. Nna-Emeka Okereke, March, 2018). In October 2016, they went on strike, and in November, the Anglophone Teachers Trade Union also staged a solidarity strike to protest against the distortions confronting the educational system in the Anglophone regions. The targeting of the University of Buea and National Polytechnic Bambli in November 2016 by military and other security agencies, culminating in the arrest and torture of students also aggravated the present crisis. Likewise, the arrest, torture and killing of some youths engaged in peaceful protest in Bamenda and Kumba by security agencies (C. Nna-Emeka Okereke, March, 2018).
A 2019 UN report looks at the phenomenon of terrorism in Cameroon from a different perspective. Looking at the Northern region of Cameroon, in 2020, terrorist activity increased in Cameroon in the Far North Region. Terrorists launched at least 400 attacks during the year, a 90 percent increase since 2019. The government attributed these terrorist attacks to Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa. According to reports, terrorists mostly targeted civilians. In November, Caritas Maroua-Mokolo, a Catholic humanitarian organization based in the Far North Region, reported that terrorist attacks on civilians were “grossly underreported.” The International Organization of Migration estimated the number of displaced persons as of October at 321,886, while UNHCR reported 114,710 Nigerian refugees in October. Boko Haram and ISIS-WA carried out significantly more suicide attacks, compared with 2019. Terror attacks appeared to target communities and locations that hosted internally displaced persons (IDPs).
By 2017, terrorists attacks in the North region of Cameroon had become vast as they attacked vigilance committee members and local community leaders in the Far North Region. By July 2022 according to a UN report, the government relocated 155 former Boko Haram and ISIS-WA fighters from the Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF) camp in Mora to a demobilization, deradicalization, and reintegration (DDR) center in Meri. In September the government inaugurated a camp in Mozogo for the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite military force that has played a large part in the Cameroonian and regional war against Boko Haram (Britannica, 2022).
Cameroon is beset with two major violent conflicts but also faces rising ethno-political tensions on- and offline. The bigger conflict, between the government and separatists from the English-speaking minority, started in 2017 and has killed over 6,000 people. It has displaced 765,000 people, of who over 70,000 are refugees in Nigeria. According to the UN, 2.2 million of the Anglophone regions’ four million people need humanitarian support while about 600,000 children have been deprived of effective schooling because of the conflict. The country also faces a reinvigorated jihadist insurgency with deadly attacks in the Lake Chad area. The war with Boko Haram, centred in the Far North, has killed over 3,000 Cameroonians, displaced about 250,000 and triggered the rise of vigilante self-defence groups. Nascent ethnic clashes along the border with Chad have displaced thousands too. Elsewhere and particularly following the October 2018 presidential election, ethnic discourse is heightening political tensions on- and offline. Through field research and advocacy with the government as well as with national and international stakeholders, Crisis Group works to de-escalate conflict and promote a peaceful resolution in the Anglophone regions and the Far North as well as to stop ethno-political tensions from sliding into violence (Crisis group, 2018).
1.2: STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The issue of terrorism activities in Cameroon is becoming a terrible aspect. The natives hence fear for their lives as individuals as well as groups without political aims decide to take up arms and execute the law themselves hence leading to persons been slained. Lives have thus been lost in the process. Industrialized cities like Douala have been met with several acts of violence which state authorities classify as terrorism, towns like Buea, have been frequent with violence in modern times. Even within school settings and institutions within Cameroon, students have become very violent against their own teachers and there is a need for consent as youths within Cameroon since 2016, have engulfed in terrorist activities. The problem here is, persons as well as the state, have failed to identify what aspect should be considered as terrorism, and how it should be handled.
1.3: RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What are the causes of acts of terrorism in the nation Cameroon since 2016?
- What measures have been put in place in curb the acts of terrorism in Cameroon since 2016
- Who is responsible for peace and security in Cameroon
- Are all acts of terrorism politically motivated, or is one man’s Terrorist another man’s freedom fighter?