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Cameroon: An “Island of Peace” or a Mere Time Bomb?

A Conflict
Prevention and Early Warning Analysis of the Country


Regional and intra-state conflicts in Africa have become a new tendency in the
post-Cold War period. The Central African region has witnessed an
uncountable number of intra-state conflicts, making it a hotbed of political
tension and insecurity. Ranging from a myriad of political, economic and socio-
cultural causes, these conflicts have led to mass killings and human movements
within and even across state borders. Meanwhile conflict prevention and
resolution are key objectives on the agenda of most African governments; their
prioritisation within government actions does not match the commitments taken.
Political power-struggle, struggles over economic resources and social or group
exclusion appears to play very complex roles in these new forms of conflicts in
the region. Cameroon, being a State in the Central African region is not
excluded from this tendency.
The country is bordered by Nigeria to the west;
Chad to the northeast; the Central African
Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea,
Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the
south. Besides its description as ‘Africa in
miniature’, Cameroon is also often said to be, an
“island of peace”; one of the most peaceful countries in the continent and the
most peaceful in the region. This sometimes justifies the high rate of refugee
influx in the country, since it’s ‘seemingly peaceful’ nature makes it the first
choice for most refugees fleeing from wars in their countries. However, a
critical analysis of this haven of peace, Cameroon, may transform this blinded
perception into greater caution and ignite positive actions towards restoring and
safeguarding genuine and durable peace in the country. From an analysis of past
and recent political, economic and socio-cultural events occurring in the country
and taking into consideration the tensed and complex atmosphere that prevails,
one may be tempted to declare the existence of a latent conflict in Cameroon
with possible escalation in the near future if the right policies, politics, reforms
and corrective actions are not taken on time. The principal objective of this
paper is to provoke policy discussions and place preventive diplomacy or
conflict prevention and peace building in Cameroon at a preferential position
within the political agenda. The paper while establishing the nexus between
Cameroon’s peace, risk factors and variables and a potential conflict escalation;
projects the possible modes or trends of conflict occurrence and proposes some
preventive measures to deal with it. It is hoped that the analysis will ignite
specific institutional and policy suggestions from decision – makers that would
help Cameroon and other peace facilitators in preventing or mitigating future
conflicts such that power, ethnic or social differences and economic resources
will stop being regarded as pure negative factors that only cause conflicts, but
become positive factors for nation building.

Theoretical Framework

In our analysis of this conflict prone country Cameroon, we shall build on two
major theories and other variables in the peace and conflict resolution system.
The theory of protracted social conflict (Azar, 1990)1 which focuses on deep or
root causes and governance deficiencies as a vehicle of conflict escalation.
According to Azar, conflicts could be caused by protracted or prolonged
struggles for basic needs and security, recognition, access to political institutions
and economic participation and development that persists between groups or
communities against a system or regime. Azar further establishes some
preconditions that can cause a potential conflict situation to escalate. The first
precondition which is a core concern is the communal content factor which is
characterised by differences between the State and identity groups based on
ethnic, racial or cultural values. Here, the non response to or neglect of
individual interests and needs, by the State leads to fragmentation in the social
fabric. The second precondition is the deprivation of human needs (security,
political access, identity, and development). In this respect, identity groups use
conflicts as a way of obtaining the satisfaction of these needs from non
responsive governments. The third precondition concerns the State and its
system of government; where the system is marked by incompetence, non
respect for impartiality and human rights, and authoritarianism (monopoly of
power, lack of legitimacy, group exclusion).
The ethnopolitical rebellion theory (Gurr, 1998)2 indicates risk factors for ethnic
or group driven conflict or rebellion to occur. Amongst these factors, Gurr
identifies collective incentives for initiating group actions (history of lost
political autonomy, ongoing discrimination against the group, history of State
repression); group capacity for sustained collective action (depth and strength of
the group’s identity); and group opportunities for collective actions (number of
neighbouring countries with potential conflict, active support from external

Objective and Subjective Root Cause Dimensions

The objective dimension of a conflict takes into account those elements that are
seen to be in short supply and are largely based on interest over tangible and non
tangible resources such as food, water, land, weapons and other basic needs;
power and societal positions. The subjective dimension on the other hand deals
more with emotions and perceptions which affects behaviours. It includes
mistrust, fear, anger, jealousy, hatred leading to hostility. Moreover, in the
subjective dimension, values are very much at play.

Definition of Terms

Peace has generally been defined as the safety from fear and want and the
absence of war or violence. However, there is more to the concept of peace than
this mere definition. The peace theorist Johan Galtung distinguished two forms
of peace which are negative and positive peace. Negative peace according to
him is the absence of war, fear, direct violence and conflict both at individual,
national, regional and international levels while positive peace is the absence of
unjust structures, unequal relationships, justice as well as inner peace at
individual level (Francis, 2006: 18). Michael Lund on his part theorises peace in
three stages. The first stage is durable peace (positive peace) marked by high
level of cooperation and understanding amongst parties based on shared values
and goals; the second is stage is stable peace which is higher in its degree of
tension than the precedent and marked by limited cooperation and trust despite
the relative national stability; the last stage is the unstable peace which comes as
a result of unresolved differences leading to rising tensions. Here tension and
mistrust run very high and the possibilities of resorting to a crisis are equally
very high. It is sometimes characterised at intrastate level by sporadic violence
and government repression of opposition and manifestations.3 If situations
persist in this direction, the peace may move to the level of a crisis marked by
direct confrontations between opposing parties. Such a conflict may move from
a crisis level to an open and full fletched war.

Time Bomb (Conflict)

For the sake of this paper, we have used the expression ‘time bomb’ here to
designate a latent conflict situation. Conflict has generally been defined as a
situation characterised by struggle, fight, serious disagreement or controversy
involving two or more parties. Conflict is part and parcel of the human society
as long as there is interaction. Conflicts occur at various levels: individual
(psychological /internal), national and international; emanating generally from
the pursuit of incompatible interests and goals. Conflicts do not just occur out of
nothing. All conflicts have a root cause which when fanned can develop into
wider conflagration. Conflicts have greater impacts on innocent citizens,
particularly on the poor and marginalised; and preventing or ending violent
conflicts is a condition sine qua non for sustainable development. Attempts to
resolve conflicts have led to the development of different concepts such as
mediation, preventive diplomacy or conflict prevention, conflict analysis and
peace building. Conflict is not just an evil or negative thing as many have long
painted it; but if when well managed, conflict can be the locomotive for positive
individual and societal change or transformation.


The term violence has often been used interchangeable with conflict, in the
scientific and most especially the international community and media. There are
three forms of violence identified by conflict theorists. Direct violence which is
most common is the use of physical force or violent means to inflict perceptible
harm or pain on an individual or group (shooting, murder etc). Structural
violence which can not be easily seen by the eye as violence resides with the
very weaknesses in a system of governance; deficiencies in structures and
institutions to provide for basic human needs (health, employment, security,
justice) ; where because of unequal and unbalanced structures, some groups are
ill treated, oppressed, refused rights or discriminated against. Direct violence
used in order to reform a system has often been said to be the immediate result
of structural violence. Cultural violence deals very much with the psychology,
the way we think with respect to our values against our perception of other
individuals or values; the negative perceptions (attitudes) towards other cultures
or groups. This thinking and perception often gives excuses for structural and
direct violence. It can be realised that all three forms of violence are inextricably
linked as one form either causes or results to another.

Peace in Cameroon

The history of Cameroon has been marked by a fluctuation between peaceful

and unstable moments. Unlike its neighbours of the Central African region –
Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, or its
western neighbour Nigeria; Cameroon has never been in an open and wide
consuming conflict. Besides the border clash with Nigeria over the rich oil
Bakassi Peninsular, Cameroon has been in ‘relative peace’ with almost all of its
immediate neighbours.
Internally, she witnessed one of her worst upheavals during the struggle for
independence. The bloody fights during the maquis which opposed the
government backed by France and the UPC (Union des Populations du
Cameroun) party. The terrorist activities ended in January 1971 with the arrest
and executed of its last ring leader Ernest Ouandie. Soon after Paul Biya took
over power from the country’s first President, Ahmadou Ahidjo in November
1982, he was victim of a failed but bloody coup d’etat in April 1984. From that
time on, Cameroon witnessed peace until 1991 following the “ghost town”
manifestations organized by opposition parties against Biya’a regime and in
1992 following the post October presidential election violence in protest against
the rigging of the election results. This incidence saw the calling of a state of
emergency by the government in most violent regions like the North West. From
1992 onward, Cameroon enjoyed relative internal peace despite some light
protest and manifestations by trade unionists and other groups such as the
minority Anglophone community and their repeated attempts of secession since
the 1990s with the first All Anglophone Conference (AAC) which took place in
Buea in 1990, the activities of the Cameroon Anglophone Movement (CAM),
and the 1997 armed clashes between government forces and the Southern
Cameroon Youth League (SCYL) – the armed wing of the Southern Cameroon
National Council (SCNC). In 2005, there was a nationwide student strike that
almost grew into a civil war, if the government did not take quick but violent
and inhumane measures to stop it; and recently in February 2008, there was a
nationwide hunger strike that almost crippled the economy. This relative peace
enjoyed by Cameroon can be attributed to the high level of police repression of
manifestations and expressions of grievances and the imprisonment of or threats
on political opposition leaders and members causing many to go on exile
abroad. The relative political peace that Cameroon has witnessed compared to
her peers in the region has made many to give her the appellation “island of
peace” and/or “haven of peace”. However, many analysts consider Cameroon’s
peace to be merely “cosmetic”. This therefore calls for a deeper analysis of the
country, using certain conflict variables to see if the country’s peace rest on
solid and sustainable foundations or if there is need for greater precaution and
preventive actions.

Indicative Factors for a possible conflict in Cameroon

State and Governance System

Cameroon’s Personalised Rule System

Following Azar’s precondition III, one realises that power in Africa is like
opium. Since independence and most especially after the Cold War, most
African countries have undergone problems of governance related to power and
power distribution. The winner-takes-all attitude that characterised post
independent regimes made it difficult to ensure smooth regime transition when
the wind of democratic change blew across Africa in the early 1990s. Most
African leaders because of the thirst for power developed a form of democracy -
the one-party-democracy - that differs from western-styled liberal democracy. In
this way, all opposition was contained within the ruling and only party. This has
led to the concept of personal rule which is ‘… a dynamic world of political will
and action that is ordered less by institutions than by personal authorities and
powers…” (Jackson & Rosberg, 1982, 12);4 that is, a government commanded
more by individuals than by rules. Because personalised regimes prioritise
regime security and survival over human security and development according to
Nguendi (2008), their ‘democratic dictatorship’ practices and complex
patronage makes power transition through the ballot boxes difficult ; thereby
making the gun option (violence ) being seen as the best power-changing
option. Such a system has produced post regime instability in countries in
Central Africa such as Mobutu’s Zaire (present day the Democratic republic of
Congo) and Bokassa’s Central African Republic- CAR (Nguendi, 2008)5. This
applies to the leaders of most African countries in the general sense and to
Cameroon in particular. Cameroon is constitutionally proclaimed as a
democratic government with powers divided between the executive, legislative
and the judiciary. In the early years of President Paul Biya’s regime, there was a
level of checks and balances and the different organs of the state assumed their
functions with a certain degree of independence. However, as time went on, the
challenges facing the regime were enormous and it took pain and tact to
overcome them. Biya then sought to consolidate his power and implement his
‘vision’ for the country. Surrounded by a weakened political opposition,
relinquishing power became a problem and a sort of ‘powermania’ and tyranny
set into the governance system like gangrene. The regime became a government
directed more by the desires of the person (President) than by constitutional
rules and laws. Securing power then took precedence over the visions and
missions of the State and this was to be achieved by any means necessary.
To guarantee his grip on power, Biya has assumed simultaneously the titles and
duties of head of state, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, chair of the
higher judicial council and chairperson of the ruling party – Cameroon Peoples
Democratic Movement (CPDM). Biya also used similar strategies to maintain
the loyalties of civil servants meanwhile those who presented anti-CPDM
tendencies either lost their jobs or were transferred to very remote and less
conducive areas (Mukum, Ihonvbere &Takougang, 2003).6 Biya appoints and
disappoints ministers and heads of governments at will; totally controls the
judiciary and parliament as well as owns the powers to appoint the president of
the supreme court and speaker of the assembly at his satisfaction (Nguendi,
2008). Political intrigue and election manipulation are some of the strong tools
used by the Biya regime to remain in power. Before the creation of the defunct
NEO (National Elections Observatory), the Ministry of Territorial
Administration which is not an independent electoral commission was in charge
of conducting elections and counting the ballots. This way, the regime was able
to manipulate the electoral process and twist ballot figures to favour Biya and
maintain him in power. Frequent demands by opposition parties for the creation
of oversight institutions such as the senate and institutional courts that will
guarantee some transparency and checks in Cameroon as stipulated by the
Constitution have fallen on deaf ears. There seems to be wide consensus on the
fact that Biya would have lost the 1992 presidential election if the results were
not infringed by the CPDM-dominated Vote Counting Commission (Mukum,
Ihonvbere &Takougang, 2003). Patrimonialism and clientelism characterises
Biya’s regime despite recent progress in governance thanks to mounting
pressures from the international community and financial bodies (World Bank
and International Monetary Fund-IMF).
This hidden ‘plein pouvoir’ in a supposed democracy has led to oppositions
from various factions of the society: the local population who though powerless
(unarmed and face with frequent police repressions), virulently criticise the
regime in their nooks and crannies; opposition parties, especially the SDF
(Social Democratic Front) and its attempts and hopes to recoup the stolen
1992 presidential election victory; and the Anglophone minority group that
constantly decry the neglect and discrimination by the Biya regime. Since
personal rule regimes only last the lifespan of the leader’s stay in power, any
sudden and unprepared withdrawal or post-Biya regime transition in Cameroon
could be very disastrous and marred by violence as observed in CAR, former
Zaire and Equatorial Guinea. Presently, there are no indications of a groomed
successor to ensure a smooth post-Biya transition. Thus, with more than 20
years of difficulties in obtaining democratic transition through the ballot boxes
due to election malpractices, opposition parties and groups may begin to device
violent measures (the gun option) in order to ensure a change of regime in,

The Effects of Unfulfilled Promises

Biya upon accession to power in 1982, swore to the nation that his actions
would be based on ‘commitment’ to his duties as president and ‘fidelity’ to the
Cameroonian people as well as to government policies (Sam-kubam, 1985).7 He
promised a new political ethos through rigour, moralisation, fight against
favouritism, sectarianism, nepotism, tribalism and corruption; promote greater
justice and liberty for Cameroon with new dynamics under the powerful term
‘New Deal’. He summarised these in a message addressed to the nation on
December 31, 1983 where he declared:

We will have, in particular, to pursue the establishment of a model society

that symbolizes the New Social order and whose ultimate good is social
justice, that is, organizing the fair distribution of our collective effort
among the various social groups and laying the ground works for equal
opportunities through appropriate measures designed to solve our social,
educational, health, employment …wage, social security and other
problems. (Sam-kubam, 1985: 38-39).

At the beginning of his government, the new pump gave hope to many
Cameroonians and his actions truly marched words.However, 27 years after,
many analysts seem to think that Cameroon is rather retrograding. The things
Biya promised to fight such as favouritism, sectarianism, corruption are very
much present in the country and even worst than before, meanwhile poverty,
high rate of unemployment, degrading health and social security, political
intrigue, constitutional malpractices and underdevelopment are strong
characteristics of the regime. Other opinions hold that though Ahmadou
Ahidjo’s rule was “repressive”, Cameroon however witnessed greater
development (1961-1982) than under the present regime. The high rate of
corruption in Cameroon earned her the title of most corrupt country in the world
in 1998 and 1999 by as published by Transparency International, meanwhile,
almost all anti-corruption crack-down campaign have been carefully and
selectively carried out to hit only those who try to sap Biya’s political power.
With such a state of affair marked by progressive impoverishment, pain and
deterioration of standards of living due to unfulfilled promises; the population in
general, the youths and the Anglophone minority in particular feel duped and
betrayed by the government and have lost confidence in the regime. This has led
to mistrust, protracted social frustration, and anger (subjective) which
systematically has been translated into action in many instances. The masses
manifested against the regime in instances such as the 1991 “ghost town”
manifestations organised by the opposition parties led by the SDF; the 1992
demonstrations particularly in the Anglophone regions ( North West and South
West ) of Cameroon after the presidential election that were rigged by the
regime in favour of Biya; the 2005 nation wide university student strike
manifestations against the poor educational conditions and system; and the
February 2008 nation wide hunger strike against the poor economic and social
living conditions of the masses. All these manifestations almost crippled the
country’s economy and political stability at one point in time. According to
Nguendi (2008), given that the sustainability of the regime is not founded on
solid and legitimate institutions but on the person (president), the peace and
stability the country boast of is “cosmetic” and “could potentially evaporate at
the slightest provocation” (Nguendi, 2008: 35).

Negative Peace in Cameroon (Structural Violence)

Human Security Dynamics

The concept of human security places a greater focus on the safety and
protection of individuals and communities than on the State. A human security
paradigm seeks to grapple with individuals and communities need to make them
live safer and more secured lives within the limits of their national territories.
The concept has both a narrow dimension which limits it definition to freedom
from fear and is focused on violent threats to individuals; while the broad
approach looks at it as freedom from need, focusing on addressing root causes
of preventable or avoidable deaths due to hunger and disease. When such needs
are not met due to either bad governance, poorly framed and adopted policies or
ethnic or social exclusion, there are possibilities of violence or insurgency in the
long run.

A) Socio-economic dimension

Looking at the Cameroonian society one can say without fear of contradiction
that a greater portion, if not all of human security indicators have a dysfunction.
Economically, while it would have been expected that countries like Angola,
Chad or Cameroon, with their massive natural and mineral resources ( oil boom)
would top the charts in terms of economic security; paradoxically they fall in the
ranks of highly indebted poor countries and are below the United Nations
Human Development Index (Ayangafac, 2008).8 Cameroon, ranked sixth largest
oil exporter in Africa with oil revenue accounting for about 4,9 per cent of the
country’s gross national product (GDP), 60 per cent of exports and 20 per cent
of government revenue (Gary & Carl 2003, cited by Ayangafac, 2008 : 57); is
still below human security expectations. This is clearly punctuated by perpetual
and steady rise in youth unemployment. According to the 2008 UN estimates,
Cameroon's population was at 18.9. This population is dominated by the youths
who are estimated at 41.2% - for youths under 15 and 96.7% for youths under
65 (2005 estimates).9 Despite a labour force of 6.674 million, the unemployment
rate stood at 30% (2001 estimates).10 This percentage has greatly increased in
recent years, exacerbated by the global financial crisis of 2008. Majority of
Cameroonians are hard stricken by abject poverty and about 48% of the
population was living below the poverty threshold in 2000. Since the late 1980s,
the government has been following programmes imposed by the World Bank
and IMF to reduce poverty, privatise industries, and increase economic growth,
but things seem not to improve drastically as expected. This amongst other
factors is caused by poor or bad governance, high level corruption and
embezzlement of public funds by government officials and most often with the
complicity of some private companies. According to the BBC (British
Broadcasting Corporation), the widespread corruption in the ministry of finance
by 2005, cost Cameroon the loss of 1 billion CFA francs (Ayangafac, 2008).
The February 2008 hunger strike demonstrations in Cameroon that led to
immeasurable destructions and caused 40 deaths (according to official sources)
and 100 deaths (according to Amnesty International) amongst whom many
youths (direct violence) is a glaring proof of the mass anger and discontent
concerning the economic condition of Cameroonians.

Health wise, there is inadequacy of basic health care and facilities especially in
the rural areas. This is worsened by unrealistic government policies which
neglects or mismanages skilled labour. One of the greatest challenges faced by
most third world countries is health care, yet, medically trained personnel-
doctors and nurses are poorly treated (low salaries and inconsistency in their
payment); leading to “brain flight” for better salaries and social conditions, at
the detriment of Cameroon and its needy citizens. The birth rate is estimated at
33.89 births per 1,000 people, meanwhile the death rate at 13.47 with life
expectancy standing at 51.16 years (50.98 years for males and 51.34 years for
females- UN 2008). Worst still, Cameroon could only boast of 0, 19 physicians
per 1 000 patients in 2004 (Ayangafac, 2008). This inadequacy in health care
facilities and personnel has contributed to the death of many Cameroonians in
general and in the increase in infant, maternal and neonatal mortality rates
especially in rural areas in particular where health conditions are deplorable.
This only helps to heighten the grievance and social tension that already reigns
in Cameroon. The above mentioned issues and grievances, if instigated and well
coordinated, could become a springboard for an eventual mass violence and
crisis in Cameroon.

B) Personal Security Dimension

The porosity of the borders in Central Africa and the proliferation and trade of
small arms and light weapons constitute a serious source of insecurity and
instability for Cameroon. Cameroon’s borders are such that arms easily and
illegally penetrate, either through the north region from Chad and the CAR or
through the south west region from Nigeria. Given that state control around the
border areas does not match the perceived dangers, organised criminal groups
which are usually known as “coupeurs de routes” (highway burglars) have been
able to easily penetrate the country and carried out their criminal activities;
sometimes with the complicity and weapon assistance from some unruly
personnel of the Cameroonian arm force and police. Though government has
stepped up measures to combat this phenomenon in the border regions by
creating a special battalion called BIR (Bataillon d’Intervention Rapid-Rapid
Intervention Batallion), the threats still persist, and the criminals’ ranks grow
larger every day due to economic discrepancies such as unemployment. A lot of
aggressions and killings, usually at gun points have witnessed a stack rise. With
the slow response from the civilian police in charge of their security, the mood
has been transformed into mistrust and many Cameroonians have questioned the
state’s capacity and ability to govern and guarantee their security.

Moreover, the inability of national security forces to curb growing crime waves
in Cameroon has led to the emergence of over 10 private security companies
which ensure night vigil in important estates and companies as well as private
house security for important state and diplomatic corps personnel. Examples of
these companies are: DAK security, Champion security, Ninja security,
Wackenhut, G4Security, Tiger security and Essoka security. Young recruits
from these security groups engage in seemingly military styled-trainings and
combat tactics. With such strategic trainings and the dangers and the delicacies
of their jobs, one would expect that they receive good salaries to spur greater
vigilance and loyalty in the exercise of their duties. On the contrary, the salaries
they earn are meagre and this has pushed many (who have ample knowledge of
the weaknesses in their service locations) to connive with other criminals to rob
their employers.
An even greater threat which can probably contribute in undermining
Cameroon’s political stability is the hypothesis that; blinded by the desire to
improve their economic status, these trained private security workers could
become strategic recruits in the event of an armed rebellion against the regime
which many have come to regard as the main cause of their frustration and
suffering. Thus, the militarization of such groups could become an enabling
factor for a possible conflict in Cameroon.

The Anglophone Problem (A Cycle of relegation and exploitation)

There is a protracted problem of neglect of the needs and demands of minority

groups in Cameroon. The country is divided between the minority southern
Cameroonians (English speaking) and the majority French Cameroonians
(French speaking).The perennial Anglophone problem has been making
headlines in the local and sometimes international media; although the ruling
party and the regime have thrown the problem to irrelevance. The Anglophone
community in Cameroon has long been very critical of the governance system
and management of the natural resources of the State in general and the
resources found in the Anglophone regions in particular. They decried inter alia,
the regime’s neglect in terms of development. This led to repeated attempts of
secession from the Republic, sarcastically called by avant-gardes of the
movement as la Republique (Francophone Cameroon). Personal rule,
patrimonialism, clientelism and electoral manipulation that characterises the
regime has made democratic transition very difficult. Following the
constitutional amendment, there is growing fear that Biya could possibly stand
for re-election after 2010; period which marks the end of his present mandate.
The regime’s neglect of the existence of an Anglophone problem is a political
tactic not to fan the flames of the problem, meanwhile Anglophones keep
complaining about the injustices of the regime against their region – for
example: poor or no roads, the absence of a university in the North West region,
the inadequacy of development programmes for the region meanwhile its
resources (for example, the oil of SONARA in Limbe) are exploitation for the
development of the south (Yaoundé and Douala). Many individuals who have
tried to raise the problem or rally the Anglophone group to a secession have
become targets and victims of the regime’s oppression and brutality; sometimes
leading to loss of lives. The unequal or unfair distribution of power and
resources in Cameroon, at the disfavour of the Anglophone community
accommodates a form of structural violence. There is a thin line that separates
the incompatible position held by the Anglophones and the underlying interest
with respect to the regime. The position held by Anglophones is that of
economic /developmental neglect by the regime but the underlying interest point
is that of fatigue from incompatible French dominated system of government
and the desire to be separated from such a system where they feel marginalised
and treated as sub /second class citizens. Anglophone are also victims of cultural
violence as they are often mocked and referred to as “Anglos” “Anglofou”, “les
gens de Bamenda”, “les gens de gauche” “les Biafras”; thereby making many
to feel dehumanised and less important than their francophone counterparts. The
Anglophones desire to recoup the lost autonomy they enjoyed during the post
independence federal system before the reunification of the English and French
Cameroons. These grievances springing from such exclusion and frustration
could be a springboard for a generation of conflict if policies are not reformed to
accommodate every faction into the society.

Game and Rent Seeking as a Conflict Incentive in Cameroon

There are two very powerful theories to back up the incentive variable. These
are the theories of game and rent seeking (Sandler, 2008). The game theory
according to Sandler, “…involves how one agent (e.g., person, nation, ruler,
firm, government, or institution) behaves when its choice is interdependent with
that of others”. In the game theory, opposing camps are lost in a bitter struggle
over property and lives and these opponents according to Sandler may include:
government forces versus rebels, ruler and subjects, a legal government and
terrorists, opposing alliances, or countries at conflict (Sandler, 2008). Rent
seeking on its part is concerned with efforts towards controlling or maintaining
dominance over a particular resource or resource–rich area in order to tap gains
for personal or group benefits. There has been a steady rise in the frequency and
occurrence or the risk of occurrence of conflicts in resource-rich countries
between 1960 and 2002 as well as did the number of conflicts in which rebel
groups raised funds by selling contraband resources such as petroleum,
diamond and gas (Ross, 2006). With the end of the Cold War and
the end of super-power support, many groups in order to
sustain their movements sought to control, exploit and sell
contraband resources to finance their movements and achieve
political ambitions.
As far as incentives are concerned, it is no secret that Cameroon is abundantly
blessed with human, natural and mineral resources ranging from the vast forest
on the lands of the south (Forest in Cameroon covers a total area of 20 million
hectares, about 42 % of total national area and the exploitable forest which
covers 17, 5 million hectars forms 37 % of the national area) 11 ( Neba,
1999:189) to the copper, petrol (in Limbe and recently in Bakassi), cobalt,
bauxite and oil in the East and the Anglophone regions . As if this was not
enough, there was the recent discovery in 2009 of massive diamond depots in
the Eastern region. According to the Korean company (C&K Mining Company)
that made the discovery in the localities of Mobilong and Limokoali, situated
not far from Yokadouma, the diamond reserve could be the largest in the world
with its value estimated at 500 Billion CFA Franc, which is a quarter of
Cameroon’s budget for the year 2009. The reserve is also estimated to be five
times the world’s present annual production. The Minister of Mines in an
interview granted to the press posited that diamond exploitation cannot begin
because Cameroon has not yet adhered to the Kimberley Process. 12 This is very
true as far as government is concerned, but, it does not take adherence to the
Process for other power-thirsty and ambitious groups to exploit the mineral. The
DRC, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone which have adhered to the Process
are still victims of illegal diamond exploitation by rebel groups. This recent
discovery of this resource is of particular interest to our analysis. The
connections between diamonds and conflicts are enormous and rebels have
seized diamond-rich areas, sold the precious stones in order to obtain arms and
other war supplies. Looking back in history, diamond constitutes one of the
reasons for the present dilemma in many countries in the region such as the DR
Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Angola. The illegal trade of these precious
stones has been a serious concern for the international community which has
been struggling against unregistered diamonds that help to cause conflicts, often
known as “conflict diamond”.13
The conflict in the DRC (a neighbouring country to Cameroon) which according
to some sources stands out to be the world’s fourth largest diamond producer,
pitched the government against rebel forces supported by neighbouring
countries such as Uganda and Rwanda. These third parties have hidden interest
in sharing the wealth from diamond mining in case the rebellion succeeds.
Charles Ghankay Taylor, the former president of Liberia gave strategic and
determining support to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group in
neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds. The ensuing risk of conflict
is the same in Cameroon as in the DRC and Liberia. All it needs is a catalyst or
a spark for attitudes to be transformed negatively. It takes a charismatic leader to
rise up in Cameroon and promise the masses some milk and honey that the
present Biya regime has not been able to offer. If such meets the aspirations of
the different groups and sectors in the Cameroon society, this leader will gain
their full and unflinching support in the event of a rebellion. This is where the
game theory comes to play, as the diamonds and other rich minerals will become
incentives to sustain and prolong the fighting. Such a rebellion might receive
strong support from private and multinational companies, and other partners and
actors in order to have a share of the revenues to be produced from the
exploitation of these resources (rent seeking).This support might not be attracted
to diamond alone, but to other resources. We know that Cameroon has abundant
unexploited gas reserves of about 110 billion cubic metres and her oil reserve
in 2004 was estimated at 400 million barrels meanwhile the 2007 - 2008
production amounted to 20 432 and 10 814 million following revelations from
SNH, the national oil company (Ayangafac, 2008: 51). Rebellion in Cameroon
could also benefit from the support of some neighboring countries that are in a
silent cold war with Cameroon. For example, the cold war that existed between
Biya and late Omar Bongo of Gabon, and between Biya and Obiang Nguema of
Equatorial Guinea. Moreover, though the Bakassi crisis is settled between
Cameroon and Nigeria, the perpetual attacks from Niger Delta rebels reveal the
discontentment of the Nigerian public to this deal. These different countries
could possibly provide valuable support to any rebellion movement in
Cameroon against Biya’s regime. Rebel exploitation of this resource to finance
their power thirsty projects could transform Cameroon into another number in
the statistics of conflict-torn countries if care is not taken and if the right politics
and policies are not carried out to calm the growing grievances that are
gradually chopping every region and facet of the country.

Perception as an Indicator of Division

Finally, perception can be a potential cause of conflict in Cameroon. Fears, most

often not based on rationality may be a potential detonator. This was the case in
Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutu took to ethnic cleansing to prevent a possible
Tutsi domination after the death of President Habyarimana (Hutu and Tutsi are
the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda). The situation in Cameroon is even more
complex than that of Rwanda given that Cameroon has more than 230 ethnic
groups with three dominating political regions namely: The South, the North and
the Anglophone regions (North West and South West regions). While one might
be tempted to think that, in case of any outburst in Cameroon, the result will be a
real ethnic catastrophe, greater than the Rwanda case; Collier and Hoeffler
(2004) using econometric analytical frameworks demonstrated that the
possibilities of an ethnic motivated conflict occurring like in Rwanda does not
depend on the ethno-linguistic fractionalisation but on the degree of the
fractionalisation which either facilitates or complicates rebel coordination. In
the case of complication, it will rather lead to peace than war. The problem of
ethnicity in Cameroon should therefore be seen at the level of political power
possession between the three main political regions (North, South and
Anglophone regions) than at the tribe or ethnic group level. Questions such as:
who owns power and how is power been managed and shared are typical in an
atmosphere of fear, prudence and mistrust. The fears could come from three
major fronts.

Firstly from the Francophones of the South. Haven ruled for more than 25 years
under president Biya, many southerners may fear a possible Anglophone
minority take-over (like the hutus). This could be exacerbated by the fear of
persecution and prosecution of all supporters of the ruling CPDM party in
particular and the Biya regime in general who carried out unjust and criminal
actions with impunity under the regime. The second front concerns the
Anglophone community who, tired of 27 years of oppression under the Biya
regime, may nurse fears of a potential re-presentation of president Biya in the
2010 elections and possible re-election through the normal fraudulent ways,
leading to more years of suffering, neglect and underdevelopment.
The third front concerns the Muslim dominated North, who, tired of the South’s
27 years of power possession may want to see power change hands and get back
to Garoua where it all started. The anger of the Northerners against Biya’s
regime in the past abound. An example in point as revealed in Jeune Afrique
was in 2001 when, anonymous tracts were circulated containing serious threats
and promises of hell for the regime (Talla, 2001). These came after the arrest of
a son of the North, Colonel Bobbo Ousmanou following an investigation
concerning the affair of the “neuf disparu de Bépanda” (the nine who
disappeared in Bepanda, a town in Douala, the economic capital). This affair
revolved around some nine youths who were arrested by the Operational
Command (Commandement Opérationnel) created in February 2000 to fight the
high crime wave in Cameroon, particularly in Douala. These nine youths,
presumed to be criminals were arrested by the forces of this Command in
Bepanda and news about their where-about was never heard again by their
families. It was presumed that they were killed summarily in January
2001(Talla, 2001). Following this arrest, the tracts hailed threats such as :

Le président Paul Biya a compris…qu’il pouvait user et abuser des fils du

Nord et cela sans aucun risque…leur retirer à sa guise…, en faire tuer
plus de 1000 en 1984 sans aucune problème…le Nord va agir.
Maintenant. (Talla, 2001: 71)14

Another circulating tract promised: “de mettre fin à la gabegie de ce régime,

même au prix de nos vies” (Talla, 2001: 71); - meaning “to put an end to the
squandering of this regime, even at the expense of our lives”. These sentiments
are still real and we have seen recently the attempts made by Biya to appease the
North by appointing many of its sons and daughters to positions of influence.

There could even be a fourth front, which will be a joint Anglophone –

Northerners’ front to oust the Southerners from power. However, this will
demand a lot of tact and understanding on how the power will be shared upon
victory. We talk here of tact because, history has shown to us that one should
not underestimate the political savvy of Biya and his CPDM party. We have
seen him at work in the 1990s how he sponsored the creation of what Wiseman
called “vanity parties” (Wiseman, 1996: 107 cited by Mukum, Ihonvbere
&Takougang, 2003: 389), in order to weaken the main opposition party SDF
during the 1992 presidential elections by providing financial incentives to the
tune of 500 million francs CFA to be divided amongst the over 160 opposition
parties in Cameroon. Even within the Coalition that was formed to stand as a
powerful opposition party to the CPDM during the last presidential elections in
Cameroon, the regime was able to cause confusion and division between Fru
Ndi, the leader of the SDF (Social Democratic Front) party and Adamou Ndam
Njoya of the UDC party. If these fears become real, things could get nasty in
Cameroon before or most probably after 2010.

The Power Factor

Structurally, the Clingendael Institute considers the lack of institutional capacity

in the political and military sense, as well as relative economic deprivation as
key triggering factors or structural conditions for a potential conflict to occur
(Musifiky, 2006). Earlier in this paper, we talked about the institutional
deficiencies in the regime in terms of governance, dealing with corruption and
other malpractices committed by Biya’s elected elites, the lack of the much
needed oversight institutions such as the senate and institutional courts that will
guarantee some transparency and checks in Cameroon as stipulated by the
Constitution. In Cameroon, we have noticed lately that an atmosphere of
mistrust and mutual suspicion reigns between the political leadership and the
military. It may be due to disagreements over some policies relating to
recruitment or promotion of ethnic kins, creation or functioning of intelligence
services, the setting up of special brigades or treatment of rivalry amongst
different security branches, or even on the leadership’s policies relating to the
military (Musifiky, 2006). These amongst other reasons may justify the recent
talks about multiple attempts of putsch against the Biya regime by the military.
Though the present situation may seem calm and alright in the eyes of the
general public, an analysis of this atmosphere reveals some unsettled dust
between the presidency and the ministry of defence under Remy Ze Meka. The
example of the failed 6th April 1984 and 20th May 2001 coups can best confirm
this assertion. Moreover, recent rumours that made media headlines talked of
another military coup attempt between 2007 and 2008. Thus, possibilities of a
military led coup should not be excluded from the list of potential causes of
conflict occurrence in Cameroon. The recent successes that military coups have
registered in Guinea and Mauritania in December 2008 and August 2008
respectively could be a further spur to precipitate the planning of a new one,
correct mistakes from the failed ones (1984, 2001), copy the strategies and
tactics used in Guinea and Mauritania if they fit the context in order to achieve
better and successful results.

Modes or Trends of Possible Occurrence

From the above analysis of the variables, we have identified two major modes or
trends in which a possible political instability in Cameroon could take. The first
being through a civil war has been further divided into two dimensions - civil
war triggered by the youths and civil war triggered by the Anglophones. The
second trend could possibly be through a military – led coup.

1) Civil War (Asymmetric nature)

a) Youth- led Revolutionary/Ideological Civil War

By revolutionary /ideological civil war here, we mean an action to change the

entire nature of the institution, such as changing from dictatorship to true
transparency and democracy. Despite Cameroon’s abundant natural
endowments, there is perpetual rise in youth unemployment meanwhile they
constitute the dominant group in the country’s population. Students in particular
and youths in general in Cameroon face challenges of integration into the system
and securing their future in terms of employment. They have been advocating
for better study environments as well as living conditions but this has often
fallen on insensitive and deaf ears of the government; leading to growing
frustration amongst the youths. This frustration is aggravated by the
malpractices of the elites of the Biya regime. It is equally exacerbated by the
high rate of poverty, repeated cases of embezzlement of public funds by
government officials; corruption at all levels of the society, most especially in
the job sector and in public competitive exams where meritocracy is inexistent.
Youths in Cameroon have expressed their disdain against the system in many
ways. Besides using the medium of arts and culture, in 2005 for example, there
was a nationwide non violent student strike in all the six State universities of
Cameroon. This came as a strong signal to alert the government that students
were tired of administrative apathy, neglect and bad politics that characterises
the educational system in Cameroon. The regime gave the strike a political tag -
“manipulation” and instead of concrete dialogue, the police force was deployed
to bring students to order without meeting the interests and demands of the
students. The youth-led in February 2008 led a nationwide hunger strike
manifestation against the high cost of living. The strike which almost crippled
the economic apparatus was an expression of youth anger against the Biya’s
modification of the Constitution of January 1996; worst still, suppressing the
clause that limited his term of office thereby giving him an unlimited mandate
and a chance to stand for re-election after 2010. The euphoria that reigned in
Cameroon and the entire continent at the announcement of Obama’s victory in
America has given new hope to many youths that a change is possible - “yes
Cameroon can”. Many youths so desire to see another figure at the helm of the
country. The youths are highly excluded from the decision-making processes
and this to an extend is because , young people are most often viewed by
politicians and decision-makers as immature, inexperienced, politically not
astute enough to take part in the running of the affairs of the nation. Historically
speaking, the world has seen what youths are capable of doing to effect changes
in their communities, societies and countries. Young people have played vital
roles in fostering democratic transitions, spearheading movements in countries
such as China, Colombia, Burma and South Africa. It was high school students
from Soweto who rose up against the apartheid regime on 16 July 1976 and
marked a turning point in the fight against the system. In Colombia, university
students rallied the country to fight against corruption and the drug cartel after
the assassination of Populist leader Luis Carlos Galan in 1989. Their movement
helped to re-establish real democracy in Colombia.
Youths in Cameroon are also capable of braving fire and brimstone if the system
keeps pushing them to the wall. If proper measures to counter these stereotypes
and the feeling of frustration amongst youths are not put in place, such as the
provision of enabling environments for them to develop economically within the
society, there may not be the need for another “hunger excuse” for them to take
to the streets like in February 2008 and engage in an open civil unrest against
the regime. If this occurs, it could consume the entire nation and grow into a
civil war when other groups get involved. The situation today in Cameroon is
such that, it takes a simple spark to see the emergence or escalation of long
standing social conflict.

b) Anglophone - led Identity/Secession Civil War (ethnopolitical rebellion


Bitter and tired of the regime’s neglect, deprivation, oppression, corrupt, unjust,
patrimonial, clientelist and autocratic personal rule, the Anglophone community
could be led to perceive direct violence as the only and last resort to rectify the
ill and gain freedom, recognition and progress. The power relation between the
regime and the Anglophones has been characterised by threat power instead of
integrative power; and the mode of resolution of differences in the past by the
government has been conflict suppression, where the state used its repressive
coercive power apparatus - military /police to deal with the Anglophone
people’s grievances, leading to unresolved and protracted social conflicts.
The desire to see a regime change and the difficulties in seizing power through
the ballot boxes may push them to use force by staging a revolt in order to
materialise their long time secession drives. Led by the Southern Cameroon
National Council (SCNC) they could mobilise support from the Anglophone
youth at home and abroad. Collier and Hoeffler (2004) in their analysis of
possibilities of rebellions identified some variables to take into consideration.
These are per capita income, extent of ethno-linguistic fractionalisation, the
natural resource endowment and the size of population. According to them,
secession might be motivated by a region’s rich endowment in terms of
resources (Collier & Hoeffler, 2004). The Anglophone regions are well endowed
in terms of resources. For example, although agriculture remains the backbone
of the two Anglophone region’s economy and strength, there are other very
important resources. The Limbe area in the South West has a rich deposit of oil;
and the North West is richly endowed with forest for timber. In Cameroon, over
80% of the population is involved in agricultural activities and agricultural
products account for 40% of the gross domestic product and for 70% of
Cameroon’s total exports in terms of value according to 1976 figures (Neba,
1999:133). As far as agricultural produce is concerned, the Anglophone regions
are the bread baskets of the nation. Rice is grown in Ndop , the Mbo plains, and
the Menchum valleys; plantains is cultivated in Bambili, Bambui, Kom and
Bafmen (fertile grounds); beans in the western and northern parts of Cameroon,
oil palm in Manyu, Ndian divisions, Widikum and Bafang. Cocao is cultivated
mostly in the forest regions ( Centre, South and South West, especially in the
Muyngo-Mbongo) ; arabica coffee in the western highlands – Foumbot,
Bafoussam, Dschang, Santa, Bui, Kom, Bafmen; massive rubber plantations in
the Ndian Basin and in the Meme division (Kumba, Tombel), and Dizangue.
This is proof of the fact that the Anglophone regions can autonomously sustain
their economy in case of secession.
The size of their population is quite impressive given that the Anglophone
community is made up of the entire North West and South West regions joint
together. This size will be necessary in order to maintain a minimum duration in
a given warfare. The extent of ethno-linguistic fractionalisation is very minimal
and the link between the two Anglophone groups is their common language and
colonial history. Coordination at this level will not be too complicated since they
share a common goal which is to be cut off from the Francophone dominated
group. As far as per capita income is concerned, given that it is a low income
group, the cost of the rebellion will not be great. Moreover, faced with a much
more superior military arsenal of the State, the rebellion will not have to rely
solely on its domestic economic capacity. It might seek external support from its
diaspora or from neighbouring enemy-states of the regime. Considering the fact
that most Nigerians particularly those in the Niger Delta, have still not settled
with the idea that Bakassi has been given to Cameroon justified by the
insecurity they have been perpetrating around the area as a form of protest; and
considering the fact that they share a common language with the Anglophone
community; both groups could reach an agreement whereby the Anglophones
obtain Nigerian support in terms of human and material resources against having
a share of the revenues from the oil rich Bakassi. Moreover, as seen above,
personalised regimes always depends on the capacity of the leader to stay in
power. In the event of the demise of Biya, the rest of the political apparatus may
disintegrates since oppositions and marginalised groups may seize the
opportunity to set new rules and standards in order to bring in the much awaited
changes to meet their aspirations. Hence, an attempt to set new standards by the
different interest groups in a post-Biya regime period could lead to political
instability (Nguendi, 2008).

B) Military-led Coup

This lack of understanding between the political leadership and the military in
Cameroon (Presidency versus Ministry of Defence or army generals) could be
an easy stepping stone for a coup to occur in Cameroon. The country has so far
witnessed repeated failed coup attempts against President Biya. The hidden
tensions that reigns between the ministry of defence and the presidency was
recently made clearer when Biya replaced the head of the military, Remy Ze
Meka by appointing Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o (the former Delegate General in
Charge for National Security) during the last government reshuffling on 30 June
2009. This only helps to heighten the tension and Cameroon might be
witnessing another coup attempt if these tensions avail to be real and nothing is
done about it.

Proposed Recommendations for Conflict Prevention in Cameroon

Far from being exhaustive, the following points below have been identified as
factors and actions that need to be considered in order to safe Cameroon from a
possible conflict situation whose repercussions can be greater than our

- There is the need for an unofficial/official mission to be sent by the

international community to carry out fact finding and problem solving
ground work, taking into account the level of the crisis. In May 2000, the
Secretary General of the United Nations Koffi Annan in a visit to
Cameroon acknowledged the existence of the Anglophone problem and
called for dialogue between the two groups (Anglophone –Francophone).
He further raised the issue with Biya during their meeting,15 but no
concrete actions have been taken by the Biya regime as a follow-up to
these recommendations.

- There is the pressing need to build peace where it is lacking and to

strengthen existing peace constituencies at local levels particularly in the
Anglophone regions. Any conflict prevention attempt should focus greatly
on positions, interests and needs of groups that are most affected by the
deficiencies of the existing institution. To understand the underlying
needs of the Anglophones, one can bring to the light, the 1993 All
Anglophone Conference (AAC I) which took place in Buea and produced
the Buea Declaration. This declaration demanded amongst other things
the restoration of the 1961 federal status of Cameroon where the
Anglophone regions were autonomous. It also called for greater regards
for the “historical, cultural, and linguistic specificity of the Anglophone
region within the Republic of Cameroon”.16 Unless we understand the
underlying needs, wants and positions of these groups, there will always
be a problem and at any time T, it might degenerate. Government needs to
take a critical look at these root cause if it desires to prevent any future
Anglophone – Francophone conflict. In this respect, both government ,
regional or international actions for conflict prevention should engage in
a contingency-complementarity style of intervention (negotiation,
problem-solving, etc), dealing with both the objective and subjective
issues that exist in Cameroon as identified above; and using the multi-
track approach – tracks I, II, III. Most preferably, it should start from
track III (bottom-up). This will make the intervention more effective in
addressing the core and root issues in Cameroon’s latent conflict.

- In asymmetric conflicts like this forthcoming one, mediation should use

both the soft and hard power (carrots and sticks or mediation with
muscles).Given that the majority or dominating party (Government) may
not want to make concessions in order to accommodate the needs and
interests of the minority or weaker party (most often the
victimised).Third party should strengthen and empower the weak party in
order to move towards a more balanced relationship and change the
negative attitudes (perceptions) and behaviours (sporadic violence,
secession moves and revolts against the system).

- Respect for the laws of the country and the constitution, better governance
policies and respect for the general will of the governed. This will
promote reconciliation and restore confidence and trust by the minority
groups for the governing elite in Cameroon; thereby moving the country
from this situation of silent negative peace to that of positive peace.
- Inspiring from Edward Gurr, the authoritarian rule of the Biya regime
should be replaced by legitimacy and true democracy. In regionally
distinctive societies like in Cameroon, conflict prevention strategies
should include politics of consociation, autonomies or federations.

- The Biya regime’s exclusionist and discriminatory policies need to be

reformed and made more accommodating. External powerful states such
as the USA (State Department and country embassy), UN (Financial
Bodies) and UK (Commonwealth), France (Francophonie) need to use
their influence in the country to cause the government to engage in
forward-looking, conflict prevention and peace building policies. For
example, a reform of governance system and structures as a precondition
for obtaining financial aid can be a negative inducement strategy used to
obtain positive results.

- Conflict prevention programmes via community and group peace and

problem-solving empowerment seminars, workshops, conferences and
economic development support projects should be initiated or
strengthened at local levels. Youth NGOs in particular, religious bodies
and the wider Civil Society that are engaged in conflict prevention and
peace building at grassroots, community , regional and national levels in
Cameroon need to be supported.

- One of the first and outmost steps to conflict prevention in Cameroon

should the Government recognition of the existence of an Anglophone
problem and acceptance to come to a discussion table with the leaders of
the Anglophone movement to negotiate on interests and needs. This will
add more esteem and dignity to the Anglophone identity, as well as
greatly improve on their relationship.


We have learned from past experiences that bad policies and mismanagement
begets oppositions, insurgencies and war. The idea that relative peace exist in
Cameroon is intuitively appealing and inspiring. Peace is being defiled on daily
basis in Cameroon due to political greed and power mongering; meanwhile
many are being dehumanized-tortured and /or abused for daring to raise a voice
at the reigning injustice. These victims cannot be said to be living in peace
despite the lack of physical war in the country. Most Cameroonians live in a
state of psychological (internal) conflict. From the above analysis, we noticed
that the failure of democracy and effective policies to satisfy the needs of the
Cameroonian population has often led to protests, riots and street manifestations.
These revolts collided with political repression, maltreatment or extinction of
opposition leaders, torture and mass imprisonment (February 2008).It is
doubtless that the regime of Biya has failed in many aspects to meet the needs of
the masses, leading to the different demonstrations. Cameroonians have
generally been referred to as docile and non violent. When they take to the
streets, it means things have really gone out of hand. The system of government
in Cameroon marked by personalized rule, clientelism, patrimonialism, the
carefree attitude of government officials with respect to state funds,
mismanagement, corruption and impunity has led to growing discontent
amongst the poor minority. Despite the massive wealth on and under
Cameroon’s soil, health care, education, social security and employment are still
a challenge to many. The youths have been left out of the decision-making
mechanism and the feeling of frustration is increasing, exacerbated by high
unemployment rate and abject poverty. The rest of the population particularly
the minority Anglophones feel betrayed by the regime and its unfulfilled
promises, especially that of balanced development.

Indeed, structural deficiencies, monopoly of power, assassination of democracy

and the lack of renovations at policy level to meet growing needs have only
helped to entrench bitterness and the feeling of exploitation and violence in
Cameroonians. This has fostered a desire to see change occur whether
peacefully or thorough force. A merger of all these pulled from the above
analysis gives a high probability of conflict and therefore transform Cameroon
into vulnerable target. What is considered to be political stability in Cameroon is
actually regime stability and not systems stability (Nguendi, 2008).The
probability of conflict occurrence in Cameroon could be averted if Paul Biya
steps down at the end of his mandate in 2010. The February 2008 hunger strike
in reality was a smokescreen in protest against Biya’s Constitutional changes,
meaning that Cameroonians are tired of monotony and desire change. If like in
February, Biya decides to present his candidacy after 2010, we are afraid that
the same causes might produce the same effects, maybe even more violent ones
which would mark a great turning point in Cameroon’s history. There is a
popular opinion amongst the scholarship that Biya held strongly to power
because of fears of being prosecuted for crimes committed under his regime
against Cameroonians, particularly in the Anglophone regions during the SCNC
secession attempts and struggles; as well as during the Ghost town and the state
of emergency period. Rumours hold that a big file of recorded events has been
deposited at the UN waiting for Biya to step down before prosecution begins.
Thus, because of fears of prosecution like Taylor of Liberia or Hissène Habre of
Chad Biya may have decided to eternalize himself in power.

Many analysts who held this view before expect Biya to take a different course
today, given that the constitutional reform he made in April 2008 guarantees
him immunity of acts committed as well as freedom from prosecution after the
exercise of his functions. This is enough reason for him to step down and avoid
a future bloodbath that analysis predicts for Cameroon if he hangs on to power
after 2010. The same root causes of the civil war that destroyed lives in Liberia
as identified by the United Nations in 2006 ( poor leadership and misuse of
power , poverty and food insecurity, mismanagement of natural resources,
regional dimension (small arms) and youth unemployment inter alia ) are also
present in Cameroon looking at the above analysis. The persistence of the
plight of the above mentioned relegated factions of the society is leading to a
gradual conflict formation, which begins to grow by feeding on these
grievances and which may contain other parties or groups (widen) in the long
run. When the cup finally gets full and the conflict escalates, it will become even
deeper and protracted, thereby requiring a more complex approach in resolution.
Violence does exist at various levels in Cameroon, making an open conflict
latent .To dovetail, it would be plausible for our policy makers and the regime in
general to take greater caution in its administration. Government has to effect
emergency reforms and put in place the proper institutions that will guarantee
transparency, checks and balances and above all accountability. The needs of the
masses, most especially the minority need to be taken in to greatly consideration
and open dialogue with the different groups identified in this paper must be
fostered. It these corrective actions and more are not taken quickly to support
Cameroon’s artificially-based peace, the perceptible changes that have been
taking place underpinned by political, economic and social dysfunctions in the
Biya regime may be translated in to a direct and open civil war that would leave
behind cycles of repercussions.
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It is worth mentioning here that the Kimberley Process is a joint government, the international diamond industry and civil
society initiative (it has 49 members representing 75 countries and entered into force in 2003) to reduce if possible stop the
flow of diamonds – rough diamonds (technically called ‘conflict diamonds’) used by rebel movements to finance wars
against governments in power otherwise called ‘legitimate governments’.

Conflict diamonds are products whose trading financial benefits are immorally used to fuel the civil wars taking place in
many countries in Africa.

This is translated as : “President Paul Biya has understood that he can use and abuse the sons of the North without any
risk; fire them at will; kill more than 1000 in 1984 without any problem; the north will act. Now.” The translation is mine.

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About the Author
Mbuli Rene is a Cameroonian; he holds a Masters Degree in International Relations and is currently
working on his PhD in International Relations, with a special focus on peace and conflict

Affiliation: He is the President of the Association of Young Peacekeepers for Peace and
Development (ASSOYOPPED).