U.S. Increases Warning on Travel to Cameroon

On March 27, the U.S. State Department warned U.S. nationals not to travel to the following regions of Cameroon:

  • North, Far North, Northwest and Southwest Regions, and Parts of East and Adamawa Regions due to crime.
  • Far North Region due to terrorism.
  • Northwest and Southwest Regions due to armed conflict. [1]

For the North, Far North, Northwest and Southwest Regions, and Parts of East and Adamawa Regions, the Advisory states: “In the Adamawa Region north of the capital, Ngaoundere, and East Regions, there is a heightened criminal threat within 20 kilometers of the border with the Central African Republic.. . . Violent crime, including kidnapping by terrorists and/or kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, assault, and carjacking are serious concerns in Cameroon, especially in all these regions.”

For the “Far North Region, the Advisory states, “terrorists may attack with no warning, targeting local facilities and places frequented by Westerners.”

For the Northwest and Southwest Regions (the Anglophone regions), the Advisory states, “a separatist movement has led to increased levels of violence. Armed clashes between separatists and government forces, and other acts of violence, including kidnapping for ransom and arson, have occurred. Ongoing conflict has led to a breakdown in order, crimes of opportunity, and a significant decline in medical resources in large areas of both regions.”

Moreover, Cameroon as a whole is rated by the State Department as “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution due to crime.” It adds, “violent crime, such as armed robbery and carjacking, is common throughout Cameroon. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”

If a U.S. citizen nevertheless decides to go to Cameroon, the State Department adds these specific suggestions:

  • “Do not display signs of wealth, such as expensive watches, handbags, or jewelry.
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP) to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, help the Embassy contact you in an emergency, and help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Cameroon.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.”

As noted in a previous post, on January 10, 2018, the State Department announced a new system of travel advisories for every country in the world with the same “four-level ranking system, starting with a Level 1, which is ‘Exercise normal precautions’ (e.g., Aruba);  Level 2, ‘Exercise increased caution’ (e.g., Jamaica); Level 3, ‘Reconsider travel’ (e.g., Cuba); and level 4, ‘Do not travel’” (e.g., Mexican states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas due to crime).” [2]

===============================

[1] U.S. State Dep’t, Travel Advisory: Cameroon (March 27, 2019).

[2] State Department’s New Travel Advisory System for Cuba and Other Countries, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 11, 2018).

Cameroonian President Biya Wins Re-election by a Landslide

On October 22, the Cameroonian government finally released the official results of the October 7th  presidential election. President Paul Biya won re-election with 71% of the vote while his closest rival, Maurice Kamto, won 14%. Biya, now 85 years old, thereby extended his 36-rule and becomes the oldest leader in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the continent’s longest-serving rulers. [1]

The voter turnout, however, was only 54% because of a secessionist uprising in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions, where less than 100,000 of the 5 million citizens voted. Indeed, on election day there was gunfire in those regions largest towns and separatists were scaring people from voting in what they deemed an illegal election.

There also were charges of election fraud from the losers. This was after a Cameroonian court had rejected their challenges to the election and after there were major troop deployments in major cities and banning of opposition rallies.[2]

The U.S. State Department immediately congratulated “the people of Cameroon for largely peaceful elections on October 7. We urge all parties – including the government – to respect the rule of law, resolve peacefully any disputes through established legal channels, and avoid hate speech.”

The State Department, however, added, “there were a number of irregularities prior to, during, and after the October 7 election. These irregularities may not have affected the outcome but created an impression that the election was not credible or genuinely free and fair.”In conclusion, the U.S. “strongly encourages both sides involved in the conflict affecting the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon to focus on resolving differences through peaceful dialogue and to allow unhindered access to humanitarian aid workers.”[3]

Immediately after the announcement of the election results heavy fighting broke out between the Cameroon army and separatist rebels with “many” people killed.[4]

These developments–the country’s Francophone-Anglophone and Boko Haram conflicts, the concerns about possible fraud in this last election and the post-election violence–were reviewed by a Washington Post foreign-affairs commentator, Siobhán O’Grady. She concludes that the post-election violence “may be a harbinger of what’s to come: At least 160,000 people are displaced within the country and tens of thousands of others have fled into neighboring Nigeria. Frustrations are now mounting across the country, and the International Crisis Group warned in a report that ‘ordinary people’s opinions are increasingly radical.’” Those “challenges “could soon become larger than . . .[the 85-year old Biya who spends much of his time in luxury residences in Europe] will be able to tackle.”[5]

===================================

[1] Reuters, Biya Wins Cameroon Election to Extend 36-Year Rule, N.Y. Times (Oct. 22, 2018); Assoc. Press, Cameroon’s Biya Easily Wins 7th Term; Low Anglophone Turnout, N.Y. Times (Oct. 22, 2018); Kamto Declaration, YouTube (circa Oct. 23, 2018)

[2] Maclean, Gunfire in Cameroon’s anglophone regions deters voters on polling day, Guardian (Oct. 7, 2018); Reuters, Cameroon Court Rejects All Petitions Calling for Re-Run of Elections, N.Y. Times (Oct. 19, 2018).

[3] U.S. State Dep’t, Cameroon’s Presidential Election Results (Oct. 22, 2018).

[4] Reuters, Renewed Fighting Kills at Least 10 in Cameroon’s Anglophone Region, N.Y. Times (Oct. 24, 2018); Assoc. Press, Fighting Between Cameroon Military, Separatists Kills ‘Many,” N.Y. Times (Oct. 25, 2018).

[5] O’Grady. Cameroon is spiraling further into violence, Wash. Post (Oct. 26, 2018).