On Thursday, December 21, the US Embassy in Yaoundé announced new travel restrictions for personnel traveling to the Southwest Region. Specifically, US Embassy personnel are prohibited from non-essential travel to Manyu division (Southwest Region) and within 16 km (10 mi) of the Nigerian border in Southwest Region. The new restrictions come amid heightened tensions and violence between Anglophone separatists and Cameroonian government forces in the region. Additional violent clashes are possible between Anglophone separatists and government forces in the coming weeks.
Anglophone separatists have launched several attacks on Cameroonian soldiers in recent weeks. Most recently, suspected Anglophone separatists clashed with security forces in the town of Kembong (Southwest Region) on December 18. Four police officers and several assailants were killed in the attack. President Paul Biya declared war on Anglophone separatists over the weekend of December 2-3. Locals have accused the military of engaging in human rights abuses as part of the government's crackdown in recent months, leading to thousands of refugees fleeing into the forest and neighboring Nigeria. Furthermore, reports say numerous checkpoints have disrupted commerce within the regions and have caused significant transportation disruptions.
Simmering resentment that dates back to the period of independence has resurfaced within the minority Anglophone community in Cameroon's Northwest and Southwest regions over the past year. The period since November 2016 has been marked by the closure of all English-speaking schools, strikes, unrest, and sporadic violence. Tensions between English- and French-speaking communities have escalated considerably since October, when secessionists unilaterally proclaimed independence in the region. The ongoing unrest has previously prompted the US Embassy in Yaoundé to issue an advisory to its citizens and embassy staff to exercise caution when traveling to the two regions. Similarly, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has released a travel warning advising against all travel to the Southwest Region's Bakassi Peninsula, and all nonessential travel to Bamenda (Northwest Region).
Individuals in Cameroon are advised to closely monitor the situation, adhere to advice issued by local authorities and their home governments, and avoid protests or large gatherings due to the risk of associated violence.
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