Country Report on Terrorism 2016 - Chapter 2 - Cameroon

Overview: Countering terrorist threats, particularly Boko Haram (BH), remained a top security priority for the Government of Cameroon, and the government continued to work with the United States to improve the capacity of its security forces. Cameroon has contributed significantly to the growth and evolution of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

2016 Terrorist Incidents: Boko Haram continued to take advantage of weaknesses in Cameroon’s border security to conduct a number of terrorist attacks in the country’s Far North Region, including targeted killings and kidnappings of Cameroonians, and raids on villages, fields, and livestock. A representative sampling of incidents over a two-month period follows:

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The December 2014 law on terrorism and certain provisions of the penal code, the Criminal Procedure Code, and the Military Justice Code were used to prosecute acts of terrorism. These include sanctions for efforts to undermine state authority, threats to public and individual safety, destruction of property, threats to the safety of civil aviation and maritime navigation, hostage taking, and the use of firearms and explosive substances.

The Law for the Fight Against Terrorism, adopted in 2014, confers the death penalty for those found guilty of carrying out, abetting, or sponsoring acts of terrorism, including any activity likely to incite revolt in the population or disturb the normal functioning of state institutions. The bill was controversial, and members of the political opposition claimed that the definition of terrorism was too broad and could be used as a tool for political repression. Such criticisms have continued, but have become more muted in the face of increased terrorist attacks in the Far North of the country.

Faced with BH’s shift towards suicide bombings and security challenges at its borders with Nigeria and the Central African Republic, the Cameroonian government increased coordination and information sharing among law enforcement, military, and intelligence entities, including the General Delegation for External Research, the National Army, the Rapid Intervention Unit, and the National Gendarmerie.

In 2016, Cameroon continued to receive U.S. capacity-building training to improve its counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts, including programs on the civil–military response to terrorism and the legal aspects of defense. The United States sent military personnel to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations as part of the fight against BH. These measures supported improvements in Cameroon’s ability to detect and respond to BH in general and terrorist attacks specifically.

Cameroonian forces have become decisively more effective at combatting BH and have seen significant battlefield successes. Combined security forces, including civilian vigilance committees, blunted the sustained suicide bombing campaign that BH began in 2015, although occasional bombing incidents occurred. Security forces have secured some areas of the Far North Region to the extent that a limited number of internally displaced persons are returning to their places of origin. Despite progress, BH still conducts sometimes weekly attacks on villages, primarily in search of supplies.

In 2016, Cameroon installed a U.S.-provided Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) biometric screening system to cover all entering and departing travels at the international airports in Yaounde and Douala. Cameroon continued to issue regional biometric passports aimed at providing enhanced security for residents of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States zone. In response to terrorist incidents, Cameroon reinforced its border security by establishing more control posts and deploying additional military units, including the Rapid Intervention Battalion, to the Far North Region of the country. Out of concern for instability and the security vacuum along its eastern border created by the redeployment of troops to the northern front, Cameroon recruited new border security personnel and deployed them along the border with the Central African Republic. The government significantly improved screening procedures at maritime ports and saw a corresponding increase in arrests of criminals and seizure of illicit goods. The capacity of security forces to patrol and control all land and maritime borders remained limited, however, due to inadequate staffing and resources, leading to some uncontrolled border crossings.

Cameroonian security forces continued to receive training via the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance and Counterterrorism Partnership Fund programs. Trainings included courses on community policing, intelligence-led policing, countering IEDs, and crime scene investigation.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Cameroon is a member of the Central African Action Group Against Money Laundering (GABAC), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Through its membership in GABAC, Cameroon has adopted a legislative architecture to implement anti-money laundering and financial supervision actions. Although the government has no existing legislation or procedures to domestically designate terrorists, Cameroonian law allows for the automatic adoption of relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, including the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Cameroon’s financial intelligence unit, the National Financial Investigation Agency, processes suspicious transaction reports, initiates investigations, and is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. There were no reports, however, of prosecutions or convictions for money laundering in 2016. Under existing legislation, any person convicted of financing or using financial proceeds from terrorist activities would be sentenced to death.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Cameroon does not have a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) National Action Plan, as recommended by the UN Secretary-General’s Preventing Violent Extremism Plan of Action, but officials at all levels acknowledge radicalization to violence as a significant concern and potential threat and say they integrate CVE concepts into their work and planning. Officials from a variety of agencies and ministries have attended U.S.-funded CVE training, and the government has requested additional training. Cameroonian authorities have taken a series of measures to counter violent extremism, including forming partnerships with local, traditional, and religious leaders to monitor preaching in mosques. The Government of Cameroon partnered with faith-based organizations, such as the Council of Imams and Religious Dignitaries of Cameroon (CIDIMUC) to educate citizens on the dangers of radicalization to violence and violent extremism and to promote religious tolerance and present religion as a factor for peace. This objective was furthered through targeted messaging in mosques, special prayer sessions, and press releases, as well as through roundtable discussions and conferences bringing together people from various religious backgrounds. One of CIDIMUC’s strategies has been to work to improve the living conditions of imams.

Government officials and other interlocutors point to historically poor or limited governance in the Far North region, deteriorating infrastructure, and perceptions of limited or decreasing opportunity as key drivers of violent extremism. Cameroon has a tradition of coexistence, although there are some sectarian tensions. Resource pressures in the Far North arising from large numbers of internally displaced peoples moving into areas with already limited resources, closure of cattle markets as a result of fighting, and restriction of traditional trade routes is placing increasing pressure on communities, leading to some fracturing of traditional bonds of tolerance and coexistence.

International and Regional Cooperation: Cameroon is a contributing and active member of the Lake Chad Basin’s MNJTF, and it contributes forces to this effort. A Cameroonian general commands the MNJTF’s sector one, and Cameroonian security forces are active participants in unilateral internal and regional joint combat operations against BH and ISIS. Cameroon is active in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

Cameroon actively participates in African Union and United Nations counterterrorism-related activities, and its military schools train soldiers and gendarmes from neighboring countries.