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Boko Haram Violence against Civilians Spiking in Northern Cameroon

Northern Cameroon has experienced the sharpest spike of Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad Basin over the past 12 months, namely in the form of attacks on civilians.

Violent Events Linked to Militant Islamist Groups in the Lake Chad Basin

Data source: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, year ending September 30, 2020.

  • The number of violent incidents linked to militant Islamist groups in Cameroon’s Far North Region jumped 90 percent, to roughly 400 events, over the past 12 months. This compares to a 52-percent increase in Nigeria, the epicenter of the insurgency.
  • The spike of violence in the Far North coincides with an increase in battles between militant Islamist groups and Nigerian security forces on the Nigerian side of the border. The increased pressure in Nigeria has most likely forced these militants into Cameroon, underscoring the regional dimensions of this security threat.
  • Boko Haram has been moving through the Mandara Mountain range into the area surrounding Mora. Further north, the Boko Haram splinter group, the Islamic State of West Africa, is simultaneously moving into the area around the Chadian border near Fotokol.

Violent Events Linked to Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa in Cameroon

  • Most of the violence reported in Cameroon has been in the form of attacks against civilians (over 59 percent). The number of attacks against civilians in Cameroon over the last 12 months (234) is higher than in Nigeria (100), Niger (92), and Chad (12) combined. These attacks consist of Boko Haram raids, kidnapping for recruitment and ransom, and looting of villages and displaced persons camps.
Events Reported by Type as a Percentage in Each Country

Data source: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, year ending September 30, 2020.

  • These attacks have led to new population displacements within Cameroon, bringing the total number of internally displaced Cameroonians in the Far North region to 321,900. Since the militant Islamist violence began, Cameroon has suffered more than 5,000 fatalities in this region.
  • Cameroon’s military has been primarily focused on the Anglophone separatist movement in the West, treating the Boko Haram insurgency as a “cross-border menace.” Though the government has committed some troops to protect the Far North Region, it relies on vigilance committees and civilians as the first line of defense for the affected villages. This has made these communities soft targets for Boko Haram.
  • Without better and sustained coordination among the governments in the region and through the Multinational Joint Task Force, Cameroon will likely see the Boko Haram threat continue to expand.

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