Cameroon: Situation of Anglophones, including returnees, in Bamenda, Yaoundé and Douala; treatment by society and by the authorities (2016-August 2018) [CMR106141.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

According to sources, Anglophones represent approximately 20 percent of the population in Cameroon (MRG [2017]; Human Rights Watch 19 July 2018, 12; International Crisis Group 27 July 2018). Sources report that the Anglophone regions are located in the northwest and southwest of Cameroon (MRG [2017]; Human Rights Watch 19 July 2018, 12; US 20 Apr. 2018, 2). The constitution of Cameroon of 1972, amended in 1996, provides the following:

The official languages of the, [sic] Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status. The State shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavour to protect and promote national languages. (Cameroon 1972, Art. 1(3))

According to a 2018 statement submitted to the UN Secretary General by First Modern Agro. Tools-Common Initiative Group (FIMOAT-CIG), an NGO in Cameroon "in special consultative status," and which was distributed to the UN Human Rights Council,

Anglophones are marginalized and discriminated [against] by the majority francophone government officials at the public service and military. Anglophone names are easily identified and then treated like second class citizens in recruitments, treatment of official documents, nominations to good positions in government[,] etc. (FIMOAT-CIG 18 May 2018, 2)

In a joint submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the Southern Cameroons Public Affairs Committee (SCAPAC), which works "to promote the rights of the Anglophone minority group in … Cameroon," and four members of the Southern Cameroons diaspora in the US, it is stated that Anglophone Cameroonians are subjected to a "a policy of ongoing discrimination," by authorities, and are "denied the right to community, including the use of their own language," in public office, education, employment and access to justice (SCAPAC and Diaspora Apr.-May 2018, para. 33). Similarly, CNN reports that there is an "imposition of French legal and education systems upon [Anglophones in Cameroon]" (CNN 2 Jan. 2018). A January 2017 article by Sahara Reporters, a news website focusing on Africa, indicates that "[m]ost government and military officials are Francophones, while government documents are issued primarily in French, despite English being one of the country's two official languages" (Sahara Reporters 31 Jan. 2017). Other sources note that Anglophones also express grievances over the lack of basic state services in the Anglophone regions (IRIN 12 June 2018; ACCORD 21 July 2017) and over economic problems (IRIN 12 June 2018).

2. Situation of Anglophones in English-Speaking Regions, Including Bamenda

According to sources, a crisis began in Cameroon's Anglophone regions in late 2016 (International Crisis Group 25 Apr. 2018, 1; Reuters 18 May 2018; Amnesty International 12 June 2018, 5). Sources report that protests against the perceived marginalization of and discrimination against the Anglophone community were organized by lawyers, teachers (CHRI 25 May 2018, 2; NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018; ACCORD 21 July 2017), students (CHRI 25 May 2018, 2; NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018) and members of civil society (CHRI 25 May 2018, 2). According to Sahara Reporters, the protests "evolved into a broader social movement pushing for greater autonomy for the Anglophone regions. The demands range from a return to federalism to complete independence from Cameroon" (Sahara Reports 31 Jan. 2017). Sources similarly indicate that activists symbolically declared independence of the English-speaking regions in October 2017 (IRIN 12 June 2018; Al Jazeera 1 Oct. 2017).

2.1 Treatment by Authorities

Sources report that Cameroonian authorities responded to the protests with force (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018; Reuters 26 May 2018; CHRI 25 May 2018, 2), leading to arrests, injuries and deaths (CHRI 25 May 2018, 2). Similarly, according to the UK government, in September and October 2017, "violent and deadly clashes between demonstrators and Cameroonian security forces" occurred in Cameroon's English-speaking regions (UK 12 July 2018). According to sources, Cameroonian authorities imposed restrictions in the Anglophone regions, including curfews, a ban on public meetings and other restrictive measures (UK 12 July 2018; UN 17 Nov. 2017). Sources report that the authorities shut down the Internet in the Anglophone regions in early 2017 in response to protests (MRG [2017]; DW 25 Jan. 2017; CHRI 25 May 2018, 3), a measure that lasted for more than 150 days (CHRI 25 May 2018, 3). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 indicates that the Cameroonian authorities "claimed the shutdown was an attempt to limit the propagation of images and misinformation about the crisis in the Anglophone regions, which the government perceived as a threat to peace and national unity" (US 20 Apr. 2018, 16).

A joint statement by a group of UN Independent Experts expresses concerns over reports of "violence in the south-west and north-west [at the end of 2017], where the country's Anglophone minority was reportedly suffering worsening human rights violations," including "[e]xcessive use of force by the security services, injuries, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, torture and other ill-treatment" (UN 17 Nov. 2017). According to US Country Reports 2017, "[t]here continued to be reports of arrests and disappearances of individuals by security forces … in [Cameroon's] Anglophone regions" (US 20 Apr. 2018, 2). A report by Amnesty International documents "unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, destruction of private property, arbitrary arrests and torture committed by the Cameroonian security forces during military operations" in the Anglophone regions, including the burning down of villages (Amnesty International 12 June 2018, 6). Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a researcher in transnational African migration [1] indicated that "more than 78 localities in Anglophone Cameroon have been burnt down by the Cameroon military" and that "civilians are killed on a daily basis" (Researcher 9 Aug. 2018). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative from International Crisis Group indicated that

[i]n Bamenda (regional capital of the predominantly Anglophone Northwest region), the security of Anglophones (and Francophones too) is not guaranteed. This is because violence has been rising as a result of confrontations between security forces and armed separatists, as well as several abuses on the population committed by both the military and armed groups. Security (and military) officers brutalize inhabitants, carry out arbitrary arrests, extort money from the populations, intimidate girls and boys with guns, and even rape girls.

The above [information] on Bamenda [also] applies to Buea, Kumba, Menji, Mamfe, Mbongue and other Anglophone localities, especially rural areas. (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018)

Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative at Nouveaux droits de l'homme Cameroun (NDH-Cameroun), a Yaoundé-based NGO, indicated, in a document she prepared on the situation of Anglophones in Cameroon, that armed forces in Bamenda, [translation] "fire live ammunition, sometimes occupy houses at night … for searches, carry out arbitrary arrests, [and] use excessive force in all circumstances against individuals" and Anglophone residents are "caught in the crossfire" of separatist and government forces (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018).

According to sources, people have fled the violence in Anglophone regions (Journal du Cameroun 29 May 2018; Caritas 15 May 2018). The UN reports that "Anglophone Cameroonians began fleeing violence in October 2017 and continue to pour into Nigeria's Cross River, Taraba, Benue and Akwa-Ibom states. In total, over 20,000 refugees have been registered in the area" (UN 20 Mar. 2018). Amnesty International similarly reports that, as a result of the security operations conducted in Cameroon's Anglophone regions and "the consequent violence[,] … more than 20,000 [people] fled to Nigeria" and "over 150,000 people became internally displaced" (Amnesty International 12 June 2018, 6). Similarly, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that "at least 160,000 people have been internally displaced" in Cameroon's Anglophone regions (UN 29 May 2018). In an emergency response plan for these regions, OCHA further explains that "[c]lashes between non-state armed groups and defense and security forces have displaced the civilian population into the surrounding forests and villages" and that 80 percent of the displaced population "have found refuge in the forest" (UN May 2018, 3).

2.2 Treatment by Armed Separatist Groups

According to Human Rights Watch, armed separatist groups in Cameroon "emerged following the government's suppression of the 2016 demonstrations" and these groups gained support following the government response to protests in September and October 2017 [2] (Human Rights Watch 19 July 2018, 19). IRIN similarly notes that "violence" against demonstrators in October 2017 "led to the birth of several separatist armed groups" in Cameroon's English-speaking regions (IRIN 12 June 2018). The International Crisis Group representative said that

armed separatists are hard on people who disobey their instructions or side with the government. Recently, separatists burnt down several taxis in Bamenda because the owners worked on [a] Monday, which is a day they have set aside for ''ghost town'' (general strike intended to make the town look empty). … As concerns Francophones, armed separatists have asked them to leave the region. (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018)

Similarly, the NDH-Cameroun representative indicated that separatist militias sometimes ordered that "ghost town" be observed for two or three days, during which everyone has to stay at home or they could be [translation] "chased, or even killed" (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018). The International Crisis Group representative added that armed separatists "killed several people whom they suspect of siding with the government (blacklegs)" (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). Human Rights Watch similarly states that according to witnesses interviewed in Bamenda and Douala in April 2018, there is "strong evidence that civilians perceived to collaborate with the government have also been targeted by [armed separatist] groups for extortion, torture, and murder" (Human Rights Watch 19 July 2018, 21-22).

3. Situation of Anglophones in Yaoundé and Douala

The International Crisis Group representative said that the Anglophone population is "dominant in several neighbourhoods" in Douala and in Yaoundé (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). Other sources similarly indicate that there are Anglophone communities in Douala (RFI 1 July 2018; NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018) and Yaoundé (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018). A July 2018 commentary published by International Crisis Group [3] notes that

many Douala natives are fluent in Pidgin English and some barely speak French. A lot of people here are bilingual in English and French, sometimes due to marriages between Anglophones and Francophones. Bilingualism is also enhanced by education. Children of Francophone homes are a majority in many Anglophone schools. (International Crisis Group 27 July 2018)

Similarly, NDH-Cameroun noted that there are [translation] "numerous" bilingual and Anglophone schools in Yaoundé and Douala (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018).

3.1 Treatment by Society

The International Crisis Group representative explained that "[m]ost people escaping violence in the predominantly Anglophone regions" find refuge with their relatives in Anglophone-dominant neighbourhoods, for example in Bonaberi in Douala and in Obili in Yaoundé (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). Other sources similarly indicate that displaced people escaping violence between separatist and security forces in Cameroon's Anglophone regions have fled to Douala (RFI 1 July 2018; NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018) and Yaoundé (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018). An International Crisis Group report on the Anglophone crisis indicates that "some tradespeople and business owners are moving to Douala" due to the crisis (International Crisis Group 19 Oct. 2017, 4).

NDH-Cameroun indicated that displaced people who arrived in Douala and Yaoundé are [translation] "overall well received" by the population (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018). According to the same source, as it was the case in the past, [translation] "cohabitation between Cameroonians, whether they are Anglophones or Francophones, remains friendly and fraternal"; interactions have always been "peaceful, except in exceptional cases" (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018). The International Crisis Group representative said that Anglophones in Yaoundé or Douala currently "live without any major security threat from Francophones" (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). The same source further explained that "people treat Anglophones based on their understanding of the Anglophone crisis. Many Francophones support the cause, while many do not. People are generally very afraid to talk about it, so as to avoid military brutality, especially with presidential elections approaching [in October 2018]" (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). NDH-Cameroun noted that for the majority of Francophones [translation] "the Anglophone problem is a reflection of national problems: centralism, bad governance and the generation gap" and that, at the national level, tribal identification plays a "more important" role than language (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018).

However, according to the International Crisis Group report, in Francophone parts of the country, "a number of Anglophones have reported being insulted by Francophones in the markets" (International Crisis Group 19 Oct. 2017, 8). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3.2 Treatment by Authorities

The International Crisis Group report states that after September 2017,

Anglophones living in the Francophone parts of the country, particularly in Yaoundé and Douala, have been targeted: arbitrary arrests in taxis, house searches without warrants, and mass detentions of Anglophones have taken place in Yaoundé neighbourhoods with large English-speaking communities such as Biyem-Assi, Melen, Obili, Biscuiterie, Centre administrative and Etoug-Ebe. Many of these arrests were made by police officers and gendarmes on 30 September [2017]. (International Crisis Group 19 Oct. 2017, 8)

However, in August 2018 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the International Crisis Group representative stated that

in Yaoundé and Douala, Anglophones live without any major security threat from … the government (for now). They are under the same conditions like Francophones who find it difficult to exercise certain rights. … However, during these few past days, security checks have been intensified in Yaoundé and Douala, with security forces checking several vehicles in the two cities. During their patrols, when they meet someone they identify as an Anglophone, the check is more intense (without any reported abuse). (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018, emphasis in original)

According to a July 2018 article by CamerounWeb, sources confirmed that [translation] "mass arrests" occurred in the Bonaberie neighbourhood of Douala, where 68 Anglophones, including 9 pregnant women, were arrested "without any crime being committed" and sent to detention camps (CamerounWeb 10 July 2018). The same source further states that additional arrests were planned for the following days, including in Yaoundé (CamerounWeb 10 July 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to BaretaNews, a pro-separatist website "that believes in the restoration of Southern Cameroons Statehood" (BaretaNews n.d.), an Anglophone was arrested by the police at the end of June 2018 in Bonamoussadi in Douala "after his Francophone neighbors allegedly reported him to the police as [a] suspected secessionist" because he was "always speaking [the] English [l]anguage in his interactions with neighbors and family and ha[d] never been heard speaking in French" (BaretaNews 3 July 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Situation of Anglophone Returnees

The researcher stated that "authorities in Yaoundé say that those in the diaspora are the ones spearheading the war," most notably in Canada, Belgium, South Africa and the US (Researcher 7 Aug. 2018). Similarly, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), "a South Africa-based civil society organisation working throughout Africa" (ACCORD n.d.), notes that some state officials asserted that the protests in Cameroon's Anglophone regions were "fomented from abroad" (ACCORD 21 July 2017).

According to NDH-Cameroun, Anglophone Cameroonians who live abroad and have a link with the crisis will be [translation] "tracked down and arrested, wherever they are," as "officially" stated by the Ministry of Administration (ministère de l'Administration) (NDH-Cameroun Aug. 2018). The researcher said that "[a]nyone in the diaspora who is vocal against the authorities faces death or torture and imprisonment if they go to Cameroon" (Researcher 9 Aug. 2018). Regarding the "exile of Anglophone activists," International Crisis Group reports that "[m]any want to return home but are understandably frightened by the government's continued imprisonment of Anglophone militants" (International Crisis Group 26 Apr. 2018, 7). The International Crisis Group representative indicated that the Cameroonian authorities have issued arrest warrants against a number of known separatists who have fled the country, although "[t]hey are not many" (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). According to the same source, this "implies that they would be arrested if they return [to Cameroon]" (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). Similarly, the news website Journal du Cameroun reports that the Cameroonian government requested the arrest and deportation of separatist activists in the diaspora (in Belgium, Norway, the US, Austria, Nigeria and South Africa) (Journal du Cameroun 23 June 2018). The BBC also indicates that the authorities issued international arrest warrants for separatist leaders (BBC 9 Nov. 2017). Sources note that Cameroonian separatist leaders have been deported back to Cameroon by Nigerian authorities (African Courier 30 Jan. 2018; Daily Post 30 Jan. 2018). According to a summary of statements made by a UNHCR representative during a press briefing, there are reports of "arrests of Cameroonian nationals in Nigeria, including at least one asylum seeker at the beginning of March [2018]" (UN 20 Mar. 2018).

The International Crisis Group representative said that "most of those who advocate for federalism or [who] have not been tagged as sponsors or supporters of armed separatists, move in and out of Cameroon as they wish" (International Crisis Group 3 Aug. 2018). However, according to the researcher, since October 2016, "there is danger across the national territory" for all Anglophones (Researcher 7 Aug. 2018).

According to sources, Patrice Nganang, a [Francophone] Cameroonian writer [living in New York (Reuters 8 Dec. 2017)], was arrested at Douala airport and imprisoned in Yaoundé for "speaking in defence of the Anglophones" (Researcher 7 Aug. 2018) or after writing "a piece critical of the government's handling of [the] separatist crisis in its Anglophone region"; his lawyer said that he was accused of insulting the president (Reuters 8 Dec. 2017). He was released after being detained for [a few] weeks (Researcher 7 Aug. 2018; BBC 27 Dec. 2017). A January 2018 article by Reuters indicates that a [Cameroonian] former businessman "seen as a moderate voice in the separatist movement and [who] has in the past promoted dialogue over violence" has been "target[ed]" by the Cameroonian authorities; from Nigeria, he told Reuters that in December 2017, "his family home in Anglophone Cameroon was surrounded by government troops" (Reuters 29 Jan. 2018).

The researcher indicated that Anglophone Cameroonians returning to Yaoundé or Douala are "not safe," as they "might be taken from the airport to prison to an unknown destination" (Researcher 7 Aug. 2018). According to the same source, Anglophone deportees, including failed asylum seekers, "can be imprisoned and fined, unless [they] brib[e] [their] way out" (Researcher 7 Aug. 2018). A 2015 Sciences Po Paris academic paper on post-deportation risks reports that returnees from Europe face threats of detention or imprisonment in Cameroon, and that failed asylum seekers can be submitted to violence upon their return (Blondel et al. May 2015, 5-6).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] The researcher completed her PhD thesis at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland; it focuses on gender and family dynamics in transnational migration and remittances from Cameroon (Researcher 9 Aug. 2018). The researcher is also the author of a book that focuses on the same topic and that was published in 2017 (Researcher 9 Aug. 2018). She previously worked as a research consultant with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in migration and conflict in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger (Researcher 9 Aug. 2018).

[2] An independent Cameroonian journalist, who investigated the groups, told Human Rights Watch that there are between 5 and 20 groups in the Anglophone regions (Human Rights Watch 19 July 2018, 20). Human Rights Watch, based on information from various sources, indicates that the "most militant and well-known groups" are the following: the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF), the Southern Cameroons Defense Forces (SOCADEF), the Lebialem Red Dragons and the Ambazonia Self-Defence Council (Human Rights Watch 19 July 2018, 20).

[3] The commentary is written by Tanda Theophilus, who travelled for four weeks to the cities of Buea and Douala in March 2018 (International Crisis Group 27 July 2018).

References

African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). 21 July 2017. Ateki Seta Caxton. "The Anglophone Dilemma in Cameroon - The Need for Comprehensive Dialogue and Reform." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). N.d. "About ACCORD." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2018]

African Courier. 30 January 2018. Kola Tella. "Nigeria Criticized for Handing Over Cameroonian Separatist Leaders to Paul Biya." [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018]

Al Jazeera. 1 October 2017. Azad Essa. "Cameroon's English-Speakers Call for Independence." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]

Amnesty International. 12 June 2018. A Turn for the Worse: Violence and Human Rights Violations in Anglophone Cameroon. [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]

BaretaNews. 3 July 2018. James Agbor. "Ambazonians Arrested in Douala & Dschang - La Republique for Speaking English." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

BaretaNews. N.d. "About." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

Blondel, Charlotte, et al. May 2015. Post-Deportation Risks: Criminalized Departure and Risks for Returnees in Countries of Origin. Sciences Po Paris. [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 27 December 2017. "Cameroon to Deport US-Based Author Patrice Nganang." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 9 November 2017. "Cameroon Issues Arrest Warrants for Separatist Leaders." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]

Cable News Network (CNN). 2 January 2018. Kieron Monks. "Cameroon Goes Offline After Anglophone Revolt." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2018]

Cameroon. 1972 (amended 1996). Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon. [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018]

CamerounWeb. 10 July 2018. "Les sécessionnistes débarquent à Douala : la police rafle 68 anglophones." [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

Caritas Internationalis (Caritas). 15 May 2018. Harriet Paterson. They Are Hunting Us. [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]

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Researcher in transnational African migration. 9 August 2018. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

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Southern Cameroons Public Affairs Committee (SCAPAC) and Southern Cameroons Diaspora in the United States (Diaspora). April-May 2018. Human Rights Council. Joint Submission of Members of the Southern Cameroons Diaspora in the United States and the Southern Cameroons Public Affairs Committee. [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]

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United Nations (UN). 20 March 2018. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "Anglophone Cameroonians in Nigeria Pass 20,000 Mark." [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]

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Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Assistant professor of history who has traveled and worked in Douala and Yaoundé for ten years; associate professor of political history in Yaoundé; Cameroonian journalist; Caritas Cameroun; professor of social anthropology whose research interests include Anglophones in Cameroon; researcher who has published on migration in West Africa, including Cameroon.

Internet sites, including: Africanews; Armed Conflict Location & Data Project; Cameroon – National Institute of Statistics; The Conversation Canada; Daily Nation; ecoi.net; European Union – European Asylum Support Office; The Guardian; News24; University of Oxford – Faculty of Law; UN – Refworld.