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40. Cameroon (1961-present)

Crisis Phase (October 1, 1961-December 19, 1991):  French Cameroon and the southern part of British Cameroon were united as the Federal Republic of Cameroon on October 1, 1961.  Supporters of the Union of Cameroonian Peoples (Union des Populations du Cameroon – UPC) led by Ernest Ouandié and Tankeu Noé established the National Liberation Army of Cameroon (Armée de Libération Nationale Kamerounaise – ANLK) in opposition to the government of President Ahmadou Ahidjo.  In January 1962, the National United Front (Front National Unifié – FNU) was established with André-Marie Mbida as president.  On June 23, 1962, the FNU published a manifesto opposing the establishment of a single-party system in Cameroon.  On June 29, 1962, André-Marie Mbida and other FNU leaders were arrested and imprisoned.  Tankeu Noé was captured by government troops, and convicted of terrorism on September 9, 1963.  Tankeu Noé was executed by the government in Douala on January 3, 1964.  Legislative elections were held on April 24, 1964, and the Cameroon Union (Union Camerounaise – UC) won 40 out of 50 seats in the National Assembly.

The Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) won ten seats in the National Assembly.  President Ahmadou Ahidjo was re-elected on March 20, 1965. The Cameroon National Union (Union Nationale Camerounaise – UNC) was established as a result of a merger of six political parties in September 1966, and the government banned the UPC and all other political parties. Some 125 individuals were killed in political violence in the village of Tombel on December 30-31, 1966. On May 13, 1967, seventeen individuals were sentenced to death for their involvement in the killings in Tombel.  Legislative elections were held on June 7, 1970, and the UNC won 50 out of 50 seats in the National Assembly.  Ernest Ouandié, leader of the UPC, was captured by government troops on August 18, 1970, and he was sentenced to death on January 5, 1971.  Ernest Ouandié and two other individuals were executed on January 15, 1971.  A new constitution, which called for abolishing the federal structure and changing the name of the country to the United Republic of Cameroon, was approved in a national referendum on May 20, 1972.  The government proclaimed a one-party political system on June 2, 1972.  Legislative elections were held on May 18, 1973, and the UNC won 120 out of 120 seats in the National Assembly. President Ahmadou Babatoura Ahidjo was re-elected for a fourth term without opposition on April 5, 1975.  President Ahidjo appointed Paul Biya as prime minister on June 30, 1975.  Legislative elections were held on May 28, 1978, and the UNC won 120 out of 120 seats in the National Assembly.  Government troops and civilians clashed in the village of Dolle on October 20-21, 1979, resulting in the deaths of some 30 individuals. President Ahidjo was re-elected to a fifth term with 99 percent of the vote on April 5, 1980. President Ahidjo resigned on November 4, 1982, and Prime Minister Paul Biya was appointed as president on November 5, 1982.  President Biya appointed Maigari Bello Bouba, leader of the National Union for Democracy and Progress (Union Nationale pour la Démocratie et le Progrès – UNDP), as prime minister on November 6, 1982.  Legislative elections were held on May 29, 1983, and the UNC won 120 out of 120 seats in the National Assembly.  President Paul Biya accused former president Ahmadou Ahidjo of plotting a coup and announced emergency measures on August 22, 1983.  President Paul Biya dismissed Prime Minister Maigari Bello Bouba on August 22, 1983.  President Biya was re-elected without opposition on January 14, 1984, and he was inaugurated on January 21, 1984. On February 28, 1984, two individuals were convicted and sentenced to death by a military tribunal for their involvement in a rebellion, although the sentences were commuted to life imprisonment on March 16, 1984.  On March 24, 1984, three other individuals were executed for their involvement in the rebellion.  Government troops suppressed a military rebellion by the Republican Guard (presidential palace guard) on April 6-9, 1984, resulting in the deaths of several individuals (estimates range from 71 to more than 1,000).  Some 35 members of the Republican Guard were executed for their involvement in the military rebellion.  The government declared a state-of-emergency on April 18, 1984. The UNC was renamed as the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais – RDPC) in 1985.  Municipal elections were held on October 25, 1987. Legislative elections were held on April 24, 1988, and the RDPC won 180 out of 180 seats in the National Assembly. President Biya was elected without opposition on April 24, 1988.  The Social Democratic Front (Front Social Démocrate – FSD) was established by John Fru Ndi in Bamenda on May 26, 1990.  Government police clashed with supporters of the FSD in Bamenda on May 26, 1990, resulting in the deaths of six individuals.  The National Assembly approved legislation on December 6, 1990, which provided for a multiparty political system.  Several thousand individuals demonstrated against the government in Yaoundé and other cities on May 4-16, 1991, resulting in the deaths of some 45 individuals.  The government lifted the state-of-emergency on December 19, 1991.  Some 300 individuals were killed during the crisis.

Post-Crisis Phase (December 20, 1991-July 1, 2006):  On December 31, 1991, the FSD announced a boycott of upcoming legislative elections.  Legislative elections were held on March 1, 1992, and the RDPC won 88 out of 180 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNDP won 68 seats in the National Assembly.  President Biya of the RDPC was re-elected with 40 percent of the vote on October 11, 1992, and he was inaugurated as president for a third term on November 3, 1992. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) sent observers to monitor the presidential election, and reported that there had been “widespread irregularities” in the election process on October 28, 1992.  The European Community (EC) appealed for negotiations between representatives of the government and opposition parties on November 4, 1992.  The U.S. government imposed economic sanctions (restrictions on foreign assistance) against the government of Cameroon in November 1992.  On November 8, 1994, the UNDP boycotted the National Assembly after the arrest of 30 members of the UNDP in July 1994.  Cameroon joined the Commonwealth of Nations (CON) on November 13, 1995.  Municipal elections were held on January 21, 1996, and the RDPC won some 56 percent of the vote.  Two individuals were killed in political violence in Douala on January 23, 1996, and four individuals were killed in political violence in Limbe on March 2, 1996.  Southern Cameroon separatists killed four government soldiers in Bamenda on March 28, 1996.  President Paul Biya dismissed Prime Minister Simon Achidi Achu, and appointed Peter Mafany Musonge as prime minister on September 19, 1996.  Legislative elections were held on May 17, 1997, and the RDPC won 109 of the 180 seats in the National Assembly.  The FSD won 43 seats in the National Assembly.  Five individuals were killed in election-related violence.  The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) sent two long-term observers and seven short-term observers to monitor the legislative elections from May 1 to June 9, 1997.  The CON sent 21 observers from twelve countries headed by Jean-Jacques Blais of Canada to monitor the legislative elections.  The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent observers to monitor the legislative elections. Cameroon’s two main opposition parties – the FSD and UNDP – filed an appeal with the Constitutional Council requesting that the elections be annulled.  President Biya of the RDPC was re-elected with 93 percent of the vote on October 12, 1997.  The presidential elections were boycotted by the main opposition political parties. The CON and IFES refused requests by the government to monitor the presidential election.  President Biya re-appointed Peter Mafany Musonge as prime minister on December 8, 1997.  The U.S. government lifted economic sanctions (restrictions on foreign assistance) against the government of Cameroon in 1998.  Government police killed three individuals in pro-Southern Cameroon separatist protests in Kumbo and Bamenda on October 1, 2001.  Legislative elections were held on June 30 and September 15, 2002, and the RDPC won 149 out of 180 seats in the National Assembly.  The FSD won 22 seats in the National Assembly.  Seydou Diarra, former prime minister of Ivory Coast, monitored the elections on behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on June 17-30, 2002. The CON sent four personnel to “be present” at the elections on June 19-30, 2002.  Opposition political parties claimed election fraud in the legislative elections.  The CON sent eight personnel to monitor the registration process in Cameroon from August 31 to September 7, 2004.  President Biya was re-elected with some 71 percent of the vote on October 11, 2004.  The CON sent 16 observers and nine staff members headed by Joe Clark of Canada to monitor the presidential election from September 25 to October 16, 2004.  On October 25, 2004, the Constitutional Court confirmed the results of the presidential election.  The governments of Cameroon and Nigeria signed the United Nations (UN)-mediated Greentree Agreement  in Greentree, New York on June 12, 2006, providing for the implementation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) 2002 ruling that Nigeria would have to withdraw its troops and transfer control of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.

Crisis Phase (July 2, 2006-present):  The Bakassi Movement for Self-Determination (BAMOSD) led by Tony Ene Asuquo launched a separatist movement against the Cameroonian government beginning on July 2, 2006.  BAMOSD leader Tony Ene Asuquo died in an automobile accident in Nigeria on August 17, 2006.  Legislative elections were held on July 22, 2007, and the RDPC won 153 out of 180 seats in the National Assembly.  The FSD won 16 seats in the National Assembly.  Twenty-one government soldiers were killed by militants, self-described as the Liberators of the Southern Cameroon People, in the Bakassi peninsula on November 13, 2007.  Government police suppressed an anti-government protest in Newtown on February 23, 2008, resulting in the death of at least one individual.  At least 40 individuals were killed in anti-government protests in Douala and other cities on February 2529, 2008.  Government police arrested more than 1,500 individuals.  On April 17, 2008, the National Assembly approved a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the presidential term limit.  On April 12, 2008, John Fru Ndi, leader of the opposition FSD, called for a national day of mourning for those killed during the protests and to commemorate the “death of democracy” in Cameroon.  At least three government policemen were killed by militants in the Bakassi peninsula on June 10, 2008.  Government soldiers clashed with militants in the Bakassi peninsula on July 25, 2008, resulting in the deaths of one government soldier and ten militants.  Nigerian troops completed their withdrawal from the Bakassi peninsula on August 14, 2008.  More than 100,000 individuals fled from the Bakassi peninsula to neighboring Nigeria.  Militants known as the Bakassi Freedom Fighters (BFF) led by Ebi Dari seized ten crew members of a vessel near the Bakassi peninsula on October 30-31, 2008.  On September 25, 2009, the government offered amnesty to militants in the Bakassi peninsula who agreed to surrender their weapons.  Five individuals, including three government soldiers, were killed by militants near the Bakassi peninsula on November 17, 2010.  BFF militants killed two individuals in Limbe on February 6-7, 2011.  One individual was killed by militants in Douala on September 29, 2011.  President Paul Biya was re-elected for a sixth term with 78 percent of the vote on October 9, 2011.  The FSD claimed election fraud and asked the Supreme Court to nullify the results.  On October 21, 2011, the Supreme Court affirmed the results of the presidential election.  The African Union (AU) sent observers led by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali to monitor the presidential election.  The CON sent six observers led by Frederick A. Mitchell of the Bahamas to monitor the presidential election.  The OIF sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) sent observers led by Victor Manuel Neto Correia to monitor the presidential election.  President Biya was inaugurated for a sixth term on November 3, 2011.  The BAMOSD declared the independence of the Bakassi peninsula from Cameroon on August 9, 2012.  Cameroon’s first Senatorial elections were held on April 14, 2013, and the RDPC won 56 out of 70 elective seats in the Senate.  The AU sent 35 observers led by Edem Kodjo of Togo to monitor the Senatorial elections from April 6 to April 19, 2013.  The government of Cameroon gained full sovereignty over the Bakassi peninsula on August 15, 2013.  Legislative elections were held on September 30, 2013, and the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais – RDPC) won 148 out of 180 seats in the National Assembly.  The FSD won 18 seats in the National Assembly.  The AU sent observers led by Azizou El Hadj Issa of Benin to monitor the legislative elections.  The CON sent two observers and two staff members led by Irfan Abdool Rahman of Mauritius to monitor the legislative elections from September 23 to October 6, 2013.   The OIF sent observers led by Pascal Couchepin of Switzerland to monitor the legislative elections.  Government troops clashed with gunmen that had attacked a village in eastern Cameroon on November 17, 2013, resulting in the deaths of five gunmen, one government soldier, and one villager.  On March 2, 2014, government troops clashes with Boko Haram militants in northern Cameroon, resulting in the deaths of six militants and one government soldier.  Government troops clashed with Boko Haram militants near the town of Kousseri on June 1, 2014, resulting in the deaths of some 40 militants.  Government troops clashed with Boko Haram militants in the village of Wambache and one other village in northern Cameroon on June 26, 2014, resulting in the deaths of at least eight militants.  Government troops clashed with Boko Haram militants in the village of Balgaram on July 24, 2014, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers.  Boko Haram militants attacked at least two homes in the village of Kolofata on July 27, 2014, resulting in the kidnapping of the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali.  Seini Boukar Lamine, mayor of the village of Kolofata, and five members of his family were also kidnapped, and at least three individuals were killed in the attacks.  Government security forces rescued the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali from Boko Haram militants on July 29, 2014, resulting in the deaths of some 16 individuals.  Boko Haram militants attacked the village of Zigague in northern Cameroon on August 6, 2014, resulting in the deaths of ten individuals.  On September 6, 2014, government troops clashed with Boko Haram militants near the town of Fotokol in northern Cameroon, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 militants.  On September 18, 2014, Boko Haram militants killed four civilians in the village of Ganse in northern Cameroon.  On December 28, 2014, government military aircraft bombed Boko Haram militants near Assighasia in northern Cameroon.  On October 11, 2015, two suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed at least nine individuals near the town of Moro in northern Cameroon.  On October 12, 2015, the U.S. government began deploying approximately 300 soldiers to a military base in Garoua in northern Cameroon in order “to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region”.  On November 21, 2015, suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed four civilians in the village of Nigue.  On January 13, 2016, two suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed twelve individuals in the town of Kolofata.  On January 25, 2016, three suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed at least 29 individuals in the village on Bodo in northern Cameroon.  On February 19, 2016, suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed at least 12 individuals in the town of Meme in northern Cameroon.  On August 22, 2016, a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomber killed three individuals in the town of Moro in northern Cameroon.  On October 6, 2016, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) organized a sit-down strike in courtrooms to protest against the use of the French language in schools and courtrooms in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.  On December 8, 2016, government security forces clashed with protesters in Bamenda in the English-speaking northwest region, resulting in the deaths of at least four individuals.  On July 12, 2017, suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed at least 12 individuals in the town of Waza in northern Cameroon.  English-speaking Cameroonians in the northwest and southwest regions officially declared the independence of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia from Cameroon on October 1, 2017.  At least least 17 individuals were reportedly killed in clashes between government security forces and protesters in Bamenda, Kumba, Kumbo, Mamfe, and other towns on October 1-2, 2017.  On May 5, 2018, the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted a resolution condemning the human rights violations committed in Cameroon since October 2016.  President Paul Biya was re-elected with 71 percent of the vote on October 7, 2018.  The AU sent 11 long-term observers and 22 short-term observers led by former Prime Minister Kwesi Ahoomey Zunu of Togo to monitor the presidential election from September 4 to October 9, 2018.  Government troops clashed with English-speaking separatists near Nkambe on November 13-14, 2018, resulting in the deaths of at least 30 separatists.  Maurice Kamto, leader of the opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (Mouvement pour la Renaissance du Cameroun – MRC), received 14 percent of the vote in the presidential election.  On November 21, 2018, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) strongly condemned “the human rights violations and abuses that have plagued the people in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon.”  Opposition leader Maurice Kamto was arrested on January 28, 2019, and he was formally charged with sedition, insurrection and inciting violence on January 31, 2019.  On February 6, 2019, the U.S. government announced a reduction in military assistance to Cameroon as a result of concerns about allegations of human rights abuses by Cameroonian government soldiers.  On February 25, 2019, the Vatican offered to mediate negotiations between the Cameroonian government and English-speaking separatists in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon.  On April 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning human rights violations in Cameroon and called for an investigation of possible war crimes committed by Cameroonian government soldiers.  On June 8-9, 2019, more than 300 Boko Haram militants attacked government troops on the island of Darak near Lake Chad in northern Cameroon, resulting in the deaths of 21 government soldiers, 16 civilians, and more than 80 militants.  On June 27, 2019, the government of Switzerland confirmed that it would mediate negotiations between representatives of the Cameroonian government and English-speaking separatists in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon.  President Paul Biya convened the Major National Dialogue (Grand Dialogue National) in Yaoundé with English-speaking separatists from September 30 to October 4, 2019.  Several opposition politicians and separatist leaders, including members of the main opposition political party, boycotted the national dialogue.  Opposition leader Maurice Kamto was released from prison on October 5, 2019.  On December 20, 2019, the parliament approved a bill granting “special status” to the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon.  On December 22, 2019, suspected Boko Haram militants killed at least 50 individuals, including at least 20 Cameroonians, on an island in Lake Chad.  The Swiss government, along with the Geneva-based Centre of Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), ended their mediation efforts in December 2019.  On January 6, 2020, nine individuals were killed in an explosion in the town of Fotokol in northern Cameroon.  Legislative elections were held on February 9, 2020, and the RDPC won 139 out of 180 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNDP won seven seats in the National Assembly.  The AU sent 34 short-term observers led by former Prime Minister Seyni Oumarou of Niger to monitor the legislative elections.  On February 14, 2020, government troops killed 21 civilians, including 13 children, in the village of Ntumbo in the northwestern region.  On February 18, 2020, CON Secretary-General Patricia Scotland strongly condemned the “recent killings of civilians, including women and children in the North-West of Cameroon” and “all forms of violence, and in particular, the loss of lives of innocent civilians including women and children.”  On April 21, 2020, the government admitted that government soldiers and Fulani militiamen killed several civilians, including children, in the village of Ntumbo in the northwestern region in February 2020.  On May 10, 2020, separatists ambushed and killed Mayor Ashu Priestley Ojong of Mamfe.  Representatives of the government and English-speaking separatists led by Julius Ayuk Tabe held talks on July 2, 2020.  Boko Haram militants attacked the Nguetchewe camp for displaced persons in northern Cameroon on August 1-2, 2020, resulting in the deaths of at least 16 individuals.  On August 14, 2020, UN spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, “strongly and unequivocally” condemned reported cases of “serious human rights violations and abuses” in Cameroon.  On September 1, 2020, a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomber killed seven individuals in the village of Koyapé.  On September 2, 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) strongly condemned the suicide bombing in Koyapé.  Separatists attacked Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in the town of Kumba in the southwest region on October 24, 2020, resulting in the deaths of seven children.  On October 26, 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the attack in the town of Kumba.  A Boko Haram suicide bomber killed at least 12 individuals, including eight children, in the village of Mozogo in northern Cameroon on January 8, 2021. On January 10, 2021, government soldiers killed nine individuals, including some civilians, in the village of Mautu in the southwest region.  On June 7, 2021, the U.S. government imposed economic sanctions (visa restrictions) against individuals “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.”  On July 24, 2021, Islamic insurgents attacked a government military outpost in Sagme in northern Cameroon, resulting in the deaths of eight government soldiers. On July 26, 2021, militants attacked a government military outpost in the village of Zigue, resulting in the deaths of five government soldiers and one civilians.  More than 5,000 individuals have been killed as a result of the Boko Haram and English-speaking separatist insurgencies during the crisis.  More than 750,000 individuals have been displaced during the crisis.

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Selected Bibliography

Clark, Joe. “Election Observation Missions: Making Them Count,” Africa Program Occasional Paper Series, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, January 2006, pp. 1-10.

Konings, Piet and Francis B. Nyamnjoii. 1997. “The Anglophone Problem in Cameroon,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 35 (2), pp. 207-229.