January 18, 2016 | Suicide bombing at mosque in Cameroon

Many nations have to deal with their own forms of violence: having terrorism spill over from a neighbouring state just makes things worse.

A few months ago I spent the better part of a week in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde while I provided some training to that country’s government on radicalisation. I did not get to see much of the place but what I did see was fairly illustrative. Cameroon is a desperately poor nation. It ranks 150th on the Human Development Index and almost half the population lives in ‘multidimensional poverty’.

Cameroon also suffers from systemic violence of a militant/terrorist nature. Some of this derives from the quirky history of the West African nation. Cameroon used to be a German colony but reverted to joint UK/France overlords when Germany was forced to give up all its overseas territories when in lost WWI.

The new arrangement resulted in two nations in one. When Cameroon attained independence in 1960 the anglophone parts (in the north- and southwest) were offered the option of joining Nigeria but elected to stay with their francophone neighbours. That led to a widely disparate and unequal divide: 80% of the population speaks French and that part of the country fares better economically and in government.

This sense of unfairness led a few years ago to the rise of an independence movement to carve out an anglophone homeland known as ‘Ambazonia’. The conflict has turned violent: up to 100 people have been killed, 1,000 detained and as many as 500,000 forced to flee their homes.

Suicide bombing at mosque in Cameroon

And if that was not enough Cameroon has also suffered terrorist attacks originating in its western neighbour, Nigeria. The main group operating there, Boko Haram, has been carrying out attacks in the northwestern part of Cameroon since at least 2013. On this day in 2016, four worshipers were killed in a suicide bombing at a mosque, five days after a similar attack left 12 people dead.

In this incident the attacker was a young boy who exhibited ‘suspicious behaviour’ before running towards the mosque where he set off the explosives he was carrying with him. Boko Haram is known to use children as suicide bombers, including young girls.

This wave of terrorist violence cannot be contributing to good Nigeria-Cameroon relations. Nigeria is at a loss with what to do about Boko Haram as well as an Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Cameroon too is struggling to deal with terrorism, both domestic and regional. With all the problems that nation has this one is only making matters worse.

Phil Gurski
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