The Only Way to End The Cameroon conflict After Fiango Massacre:

When it becomes obvious that parties to a conflict are either too weak, divided, dishonest or simply unprepared to find a permanent solution to a deteriorating conflict, it presents an indirect invitation for the population to rise and compel all parties to seek a permanent solution — after all, a conflict does not exist in a vacuum without the tacit or direct support of the people. But as long as the population remain divided in the same pattern as the parties to the conflict, the majority of the population will continue to suffer disproportionately from the battlefield excesses perpetrated by all sides to the conflict - it’s no different to the ongoing dirty war in Cameroon. 

The 4 years violent independent seeking conflict situated in the predominantly English speaking North West and South West (NOSO) regions of Cameroon has slowly metamorphosed into an ugly on and off battlefield trajectory. The government of Cameroon and various Ambazonia Armed Separatist groups operating on ‘ground zero’ and in the diaspora have on several occasions overtly expressed interest to resolve the conflict permanently , but the in-group disorganisation and multi-directional stance to resolve the conflict are at best pretentious and counterproductive.

In a united front, all the people of Cameroon (Not only Ambazonians, or La Republic) must organise themselves and rise up to pave the way for a permanent end to this dirty conflict.

Why Must The People Rise:

Any determined state with a fairly good counter-insurgency strategy, security personnel and financial resources can overpower a non-state group in the battlefield- even in asymmetric warfare environment but to win permanent peace, the affected people who experience real or perceived injustice from the state must be convinced that the underlying causation factors have been effectively and justly resolved or a genuine framework has been set aside by the state authorities to resolve the key issues once and for all. Cameroon is not yet at this stage in the conflict since a peaceful protest turned violent in the NOSO regions in 2017 – the grand-National Dialogue (dubbed the permanent solution) was badly designed, hence was more or less dead on arrival. It has been unable to stop the conflict in any shape or form. It needs a new life to have any impact on reaching a permanent solution to the conflict but I doubt its structural flexibility.

The Ngarbuh & Fiango Massacre:

What happened in Ngarbuh - Kumbo North West region of Cameroon in May 2020 has repeated itself in Fiango Kumba Town - South West region in less than 6 months. After Ngarbuh, there was a tsunami of local , national, regional and international STRONGLY worded condemnations and harsh tags – then silence fell.

In the early hours (11:30am local time ) of Saturday 24th October 2020, unidentified armed gun men ridding on several motorbikes through Bamilike street, stormed straight into Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy situated in the ‘Green City’ of Kumba - Fiango - South West Region of Cameroon.


It was a weekend, a non-schooling day, but students who have missed school for more than 4 years as a result of the ongoing crisis were attending a catch up class. Without any warning, the worse happened again. 6 vulnerable children (5 girls and a boy) were massacred in cold blood, 13 others survived ( at the time of writing) with varying gunshot wounds and are currently receiving medical care in different regional hospitals- some are in critical state, others stable. This means the death toll could likely rise.

As expected, local , national ,regional and international led online and offline condemnation upon condemnation continue to flood the airwaves and social and print media platforms. Just like the Ngarbuh massacre of May 2020, these strong condemnations have no real impact in an entrenched conflict - as long as both sides are determined to continue relying on the barrel of the gun as the final decider – while the people pay heavy blood price.

It Is All Statecraft:

The massacre of innocent young and vulnerable kids while studying in school is devastatingly painful to parents and loved ones. Unfortunately, these type of incidents in horizontal warfare environment presents the perfect timing for political spinning by either side to a conflict or their representatives or support network at home and abroad. Each narrative is carefully crafted and deployed to various mediums against the image of the opposite party/ies to the conflict.

Statecraft by misinformation and disinformation is a normal psychological behaviour trend in conflicts of this nature - targeted to influence community support for winning hearts and minds however biased the outcome is to one party or another -ALL asymmetric conflicts of this typology with no exceptions, rely on such tactics - as long as the population remains dormant.

The Blame Game - Who Did It :

In asymmetric warfare – especially urban warfare where control of Territory is highly contested by state and non-state actors, the question of ascertaining responsibility to an incident of this nature is very challenging, particularly when it is not immediately claimed by any party – to not lose face. In reality, it can be a spontaneous or planned activity by any state or non-state or networks directly or indirectly linked to state or separatist groups – Only an independent investigation can determine the actual culprits but there are logistical challenges to such endeavours.

It is normal practice for parties in conflict to quickly deny any involvement in a condemnable incident that involves the killing of vulnerable children or women or a huge number of innocent civilians in a public place or home. It is unsurprising for all Ambazonia separatist groups to deny any involvement in the Fiango incident and issue strong statement to back it up while pointing accusations to state forces. The state of Cameroon will also deny any involvement and will point responsibility on the separatist groups. In internal conflicts , Non state armed groups do NOT account to any national authority or international laws as recognised states are obliged to. Individual accountability is the most a state can hold actors of non-state group culpable if the label of a terrorist organisation is insufficient or in addition.

What happens Next :

Like many other gruesome extrajudicial killings; assassinations; wrongful detention; kidnappings; and incidents of torture before now, the massacre of these vulnerable young kids risk being forgotten very soon - perhaps in two (2) weeks or a month at most. Not for the parents and close family members left behind. But for others outside the blood circle, the memories will soon disappear – It will be forgotten history, only recaptured once in a while – maybe , maybe not.

Strong condemnation statements have no meaningful impact to end this entrenched crisis in the regions of NOSO. Whether by; the UN , AU , Pope etc. Harsh Tags, press releases and statements of condemnation are known standard responses to incidents of this gravity. In fact, organisations and States have a standard template reserved for this kind of incidents - they tweak it to look original and publish – its bare bones.

How to End The Conflict:

I have observed that the ongoing conflict in NOSO will NOT be resolved by expressions of sympathy and issuance of strong statements advising all parties to see reason. Cameroonians who truly care MUST rise up together peacefully and force a solution. Until All Cameroonians both ‘English and French’ or Anglophones and Francophones ( Since Cameroon is one and indivisible), at home and in the diaspora, rise up together (not Separately) and compel the government of Cameroon – as the only state authority ( and the ONLY responsible party) to reach out for a permanent solution with the Separatist, this crisis will only get worse.

For Emphasis, until the people of Cameroon ( Not UN , not AU , not Swiss, not USA or UK) organise and rise up TOGETHER to demand for a solution, nothing will change in NOSO until one side or the other is defeated on the battlefield. For this to happen, it may take about 20-30 years before war fatigue kicks in – just like the Sri-Lanka Tamil Tiger case study albeit peculiar historical differences .

Day before yesterday, it was Ngarbuh, yesterday it was the innocent Fiango school children, tomorrow it could be me, or my children or you and yours. Whoever is left behind will surely issue the same strong condemnation statements very similar to what we see in every social media and press platform on against this incident- it is a vicious knee jerk reaction pattern. No conflict is resolved by mere condemnation from stakeholders. Neither will this one in Cameroon NOSO regions.

Unfortunately, the conflict in Cameroon may likely deteriorate even further as thousands of dangerous prisoners successfully escaped from maximum security prisons in South East – South South State of Nigeria in the wake of the EndSaRS protest - by demographics (porous border links ) it is likely that most of these prisoners would have gained access to the NOSO conflict zones - with arms looted from several police stations.

The ongoing conflict in NOSO is deepening and getting more complex - perhaps a clear indicator that both the strategic leadership of the government and various separatist groups do not have the right mix to end the war on their own - or if they do, there is a conscious choice to take the wrong cause of action for the benefit of a few against the interest of the many. Either way, the onus rest on the most important party to the conflict - the people of Cameroon – and no one else.

This is the people’s war , rise up to win permanent peace in Cameroon.

About The Author

David Otto is an International Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert. The Director for Counter Terrorism Programme Design- Stepped In Step Out UK Ltd - He is a Certified Anti -Terrorism Specialist (CAS), a Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CMAS) and a programme trainer with the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB).


Twitter @ottotgs


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