Cameroon: Country’s Features and Security Challenges

Overview
Cameroon ranks 150 out of 186 in the Human Development Index and the country’s GDP is expected to grow by 5% in 2014, driven by the oil sector and strong domestic demand. However, oil revenues have failed to be efficiently channelled in to other productive sectors, such as agriculture, which has recently suffered from floods in the north of the country. Agriculture employs the majority of the population and is the largest contributor to the country’s GDP. Conversely, the oil sector contributes only 6% to GDP and comprises around 40% of export earnings.

Origins of insecurity
President Paul Biya has recently strengthened his 31-year hold on the leadership by winning parliamentary and presidential elections by a landslide. Political opposition has proven to be too
weak and fragmented to pose a real threat at the ballot box. Although the political environment seems to be favourable to Biya, there are various foci of insecurity. Violence in neighbouring countries, such as Nigeria and the Central Africa Republic (CAR), has resulted in the inflow of insurgent groups and refugees, destabilising the region. In addition, the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula has been a source of instability since the transfer of sovereignty from Nigeria to Cameroon.

Major protagonists and recent developments
Leader of the Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais’ (RDPC), Biya has also been President of Cameroon since 1982. In October 2011, he won the presidential elections with 78% of the vote, while his main rival, John Fru Ndi, leader of the Social Democratic Front, won 10.7%. The RDPC won 56 out of 70 seats in the senate and 148 of 180 seats in the national assembly. The military crackdown in northeastern Nigeria has had two major effects: heavy fighting along the border has caused villages in northern Cameroon to become deserted; and insurgents have crossed the border into Cameroon in search for a safe haven where they can reorganise.

Furthermore, on Cameroon’s east lies the violence-ravaged CAR. In addition to a massive inflow of refugees, CAR rebels have moved towards Cameroon, due to a French-backed military crackdown. In November 2013, CAR rebel forces crossed into Cameroon to try to release a rebel leader arrested for establishing a base in the country. Rebels also often raid villages across the border in search of food. In order to counter these two fronts, security and surveillance was reinforced along the borders. Trade and people’s livelihoods have been severely affected by the insecurity.

In 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula, claimed by both Cameroon and Nigeria since the 1960s, would be handed over to Cameroon. The peninsula was formally handed over in August 2013. However, since Nigerian security forces left, Cameroonian authorities have targeted Nigerians – who comprise the majority of the population – by attacking civilians, imposing heavy taxes, disrupting fishing activities and renaming localities. Small militias that oppose the decision to hand over the peninsula have clashed with the Cameroonian security forces.

The country’s security is highly dependent on events in the Central African Republic and northeast Nigeria.

Scenarios for 2014
Baseline:
Biya remains unchallenged in the short to medium term; the opposition is still too divided to pose a challenge and Cameroon is one of the most stable countries in the region. However, the disparity between development in urban centres and rural areas threatens long-term stability. The country’s security is highly dependent on events in CAR and northeast Nigeria. Insurgent groups attempt to base themselves in Cameroon and the inflow of refugees adversely affects the people’s livelihoods in the region, as resources are scarce.

Plausible alternative:
Biya abdicates or dies in 2014 (he is 80 years old). This leads to profound political instability around the issue of succession.

Wildcard:
Cameroon encourages international investors to exploit the vast wealth of the Bakassi peninsula, with little regard for the well-being of the majority-Nigerian population, which results in clashes with security forces. In response, Nigeria launches a military action for the protection of its citizens in the region or for access to natural resources.

Taken from: West Africa: Forecasts for insecurity and conflict in 2014 in Open Briefing – the civil society intelligence agency

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