The Canadian, British and United States governments have issued a travel warning to its citizens in respect of the Manyu Department in Cameroon’s southwest region.
The respective warning said citizens should avoid all travel to the area “due to tensions between armed groups and law enforcement.”
The Cameroonian government early this week confirmed that an attack by secessionists in the area had killed four paramilitary forces known as gendarmes.
Government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary said the four had been killed in the town of Kembong located in the Manyu Division.
“The assailants, ensnared by the measures put in place by our defence and security forces, are now reduced to sporadic attacks carried out by hidden faces and using perfidy,” Tchiroma said.
“The U.S. Embassy in Yaounde has deferred all non-essential travel by U.S. Embassy personnel to Manyu Division of the South West Region and all locations within 10 miles of the Nigerian border in the same region.
“These travel restrictions are due to the potential for violent clashes between separatists and government forces in those areas. U.S. citizens are advised to adjust travel plans accordingly,” the U.S. statement of December 21 read.
On Friday December 22, the U.K. Foreign Commonwealth Office and Canada’s Foreign Affairs office also advised nationals “against all but essential travel to Mamfe in the South West region.”
“The city of Buea (South West region) is calm but tensions remain high in Mamfe (South West region) and Bamenda (North West region)” the U.K. alert read in part.
The Southwest along with the Northwest region forms the minority English – speaking ‘Anglophone region’ of the French – dominated Central African country.
The secessionists under the banner of Ambazonia Governing Council (AGC) continue to attack security personnel deployed to the region by President Paul Biya. Despite Biya having declared war on the group, they have vowed to fight back deployments they consider as ‘occupying forces.’
There has been a humanitarian situation in the regions as people continue to flee into neighbouring Nigeria. The United Nations estimates that over 7,500 has entered Nigeria so far adding that they were preparing for as many as 40,000 people.
Genesis of the Anglophone crisis
What began last year as peaceful protests by Anglophone activists against perceived marginalisation by Cameroon’s Francophone-dominated elite has become the gravest challenge yet to President Paul Biya, who is expected to seek to renew his 35-years in power in an election next year.
Government repression – including ordering thousands of villagers in the Anglophone southwest to leave their homes – has driven support for a once-fringe secessionist movement, stoking a lethal cycle of violence.
The secessionists declared an independent state called Ambazonia on Oct. 1. Since then, 7,500 people have fled to Nigeria, including 2,300 who fled in a single day on Dec. 4 fearing government reprisals after raids by separatists militants killed at least six soldiers and police officers.
At the end of World War One, Germany’s colony of Kamerun was carved up between allied French and British victors, laying down the basis for a language split that still persists.
English speakers make up less than a fifth of the population of Cameroon, concentrated in former British territory near the Nigerian border that was joined to the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon the year after its independence in 1960. French speakers have dominated the country’s politics since.