Thursday, November 09, 2017 6:15 PM / BMI Research
BMI View: Renewed violence within the English-speaking regions of Cameroon will pose a key challenge to political stability over the coming months. The government's largely ineffective handling of previous protests will see separatist demands increase, and likely contribute to significant unrest heading into the 2018 election.
Political dissatisfaction from Cameroon's Anglophone community will remain a flashpoint in the country over the coming quarters. Since November 2016, protests against perceived linguistic marginalisation have led to significant unrest, and were met with a heavy-handed response from national security forces. Many activists were imprisoned as a result, and though some were released in August, this is unlikely to prove a sufficient concession.
Indeed, the unrest has brought renewed attention to demands by some activists for separatism of the 'Kingdom of Ambazonia' – the previous colonial Southern Cameroons territories – from Cameroon. Going forward, protests, strikes and other violence are likely to continue, drawing more attention to the separatist cause.
Given that the Anglophone question has been at the forefront of the political scene in the past few months, it is likely to be a central issue in the 2018 election, meaning we expect activists will aim to continue drawing attention to it. As such, we have downgraded the country's Short-Term Political Risk Index score to 56.7 out of 100 from 58.5 previously, reflecting deterioration in the 'Social Stability' component of the index.
Biya's Concessions Are Unlikely To Tame Dissatisfaction
While President Paul Biya made some concessions to the Anglophone community in recent months, these moves are unlikely to satisfy those who had felt persecuted by the government for their role in demonstrations and strikes.
These concessions included the release of activists imprisoned under anti-terror laws and negotiating with trade union activists – mostly lawyers and teachers whose concerns about the predominant use of French in the educational and legal system led to Anglophone disadvantage in the country.
However, many protesters, journalists, civil society leaders and others are still imprisoned. A fresh round of protests occurred in late September a few weeks after these concessions were made, after which security forces opened fire on participants and the government banned public gatherings in a number of areas. Going forward, we expect that a repeat of such heavy-handed tactics is only likely to add to dissatisfaction within the Anglophone community.
Indeed, even despite the ban on public gatherings we believe demonstrations and violence will continue in coming months as activists seek to draw attention to the issues at hand.
In addition to renewed protests in late September, two bombings were reported around the same time and public buildings have been burnt down in recent weeks, with radical separatist groups having claimed responsibility for some of these attacks. As highlighted earlier, the government's heavy-handed response to earlier dissent has inflamed tensions, and groups demanding separatism will continue to pose a potential threat of violence.
While we see the breaking apart of Cameroon as highly unlikely, we expect that actions taken by groups supporting a seceded 'Kingdom of Ambazonia' will continue, increasing social fragmentation.
Dispute Will Contribute To Turbulent Upcoming Election
The unrest surrounding the Anglophone region will be one of the key factors contributing to an uptick in political risk in the months leading up to Cameroon's 2018 election, likely to take place in October (see 'Risks Will Rise On Upcoming Election', June 28). While at present it is largely the Anglophone community that is protesting, wider concerns about social inequality and unemployment across Cameroon will likely strike a chord with both the Francophone and Anglophone populations.
Moreover, uncertainty surrounding
the 84-year-old Biya's succession and opposition to him extending his 35-year
presidency will also lead to an uptick in political risk. Separatists may seek
to take advantage of these other factors weakening his government's position in
order to gather support for separatism, meaning that period leading up to the
election is likely to be a turbulent one.
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