Home Africa Cameroon parties call on France to recognize colonial “crimes”

Cameroon parties call on France to recognize colonial “crimes”

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In view of the atrocities being committed in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions Hugo Jombwe, a Cameroonian jurist specialized in international criminal law, hopes that all available legal avenues – national justice, International Criminal Court and universal jurisdiction – will be mobilized.

The conflict has left nearly two thousand people dead in just over a year and a half.

On May 20, 2019, Cameroon celebrates the 47th edition of its “Unity Festival”, commemorating when the country went from a federal state to a unitary state. However, this celebration is taking place in a deep state of national upheaval. What is now known as the “Anglophone crisis” has so far caused more than 1,850 deaths in 20 months of conflict, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group.

Now saying they want the dialogue they have so far opposed, Cameroon’s political powers are trying to brush under the carpet international crimes that have been and are still being committed in this conflict.

 And so it is important to stress that there can be no impunity – the crime of the future — for the atrocities committed in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

The Anglophone crisis was born of a series of demands from teachers, lawyers, magistrates and other professional bodies in the two Anglophone regions of the country, calling for better consideration of bilingualism and the legal tradition of these regions in particular.

The ultra-repressive response of the central government, as well as kidnappings and detentions of the leaders of this protest, eventually paved the way for an armed conflict between the Cameroonian armed forces and secessionist groups that had hitherto been marginal. Since October 2017, it has been a disaster.

Burned villages have transformed inhabitants, including elderly people unable to flee, into human torches, there have been abductions, massacres of civilians, decapitations, dismemberment of bodies and mass rapes.

There are hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, tens of thousands of refugees in neighboring Nigeria, frightened and disoriented populations, refugees in the forests and survivors living in inhuman conditions. Photos and videos of the horror abound to the point of nausea on social networks.


So far, Cameroonian armed forces and separatist groups have committed these crimes with absolute impunity. No legal proceedings on these heinous acts have been opened in Cameroon or elsewhere.

 The scale of the crimes and their insufferable nature have only recently decided the European Parliament and the United Nations Security Council to take an interest in the situation in these regions of northwest and southwest Cameroon.

Our purpose here is therefore to warn those responsible for international crimes that they will sooner or later be held accountable for their crimes before the Cameroonian courts or international criminal justice. Under no circumstances will dialogue and national reconciliation be to the detriment of justice. There will be no impunity!

The crimes that have been committed since October 2017 in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon are international crimes. The government uses the euphemism “crisis”, rather than admit it is a war.

Yet the Cameroonian head of state himself declared war on those he called “terrorist gangs”. It is in the same vein that he created, on 30 November last, a National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration.

We are indeed in the presence of belligerent forces in an asymmetric war. Cameroon is, at a minimum, in a non-international armed conflict.


The crimes committed in Cameroon can be analyzed as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Persons responsible for these crimes, regardless of their position, are liable to prosecution before the Cameroonian courts and, failing that, within the international criminal justice system.

Cameroonian justice would do itself an honor if it investigated the international crimes committed and sought the perpetrators. However, this justice system under the government’s thumb has not shown any willingness to take an interest in what is happening in this conflict.

 On the contrary, it was used to arrest Anglophone protest leaders and send them to Yaoundé for detention. It therefore seems that it is either unwilling or unable to act in the face of the crimes committed.

The inaction of Cameroon’s national justice system paves the way for international criminal justice, in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and complementarity.

These principles ensure that a country’s inaction does not lead to impunity and that those responsible for crimes do not find a safe haven anywhere.


Two mechanisms of international criminal justice can be envisaged immediately for the crimes being committed in Cameroon. The first is the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

Some people say the ICC cannot intervene in Cameroon because Cameroon has not ratified the Treaty of Rome, but it should be remembered that the ICC can and must initiate proceedings against Cameroon without delay. Several courses of action exist when the country is not a member of the ICC.


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