Exploring unarmed civilian self-protection in Cameroon's Anglophone conflict
This work was supported by the Network Plus “Creating Safer Space”, financed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)
Coventry University, African Leadership Centre, Nairobi (Co-I), Big Steps Outreach Network, Cameroon (Co-I), Authentic Memorial Empowerment Foundation, Cameroon (Co-I), Women for a Change, Cameroon (Co-I), Cameroon Anglophone Crisis Database of Atrocities, Canada (Partner)
PI: Prof Gordon Crawford, CTPSR, UK
Co-I: Nancy Annan, CTPSR, UK
Co-I: Dr Bernard Sakah, Big Steps Outreach Network (BONET), Cameroon
This research investigates community-led initiatives of unarmed civilian protection in the ongoing ‘Anglophone conflict’ in Cameroon. Subjected to violence from both the military and armed separatist groups, civilians have been pro-active and resourceful in devising ways to protect each other and stay safe, inclusive of coded language, non-verbal communication, direct negotiation with the warring parties, early warning networks and information sharing through local associations and social media. The creation of a culture where ‘everybody is one another’s keeper’ has been crucial in enabling citizens to sustain their lives within the conflict zones since 2016. The role of women and women’s organisations is especially significant. Thus, this research explores bottom-up approaches to UCP, inclusive of their strengthening, and provides an important contribution to knowledge about informal and innovative grassroots efforts of civilian self-protection that involve vulnerable civilians’ own agency. Research methods include arts-based and creative approaches (participatory storytelling, poetry, and drawing) that enable conflict-affected communities to co-create knowledge. The research project is conducted by a team of UK-based and Cameroon-based researchers and practitioners that has previously undertaken successful research on this neglected conflict.
This research investigates the approaches to, and types of unarmed self-protection undertaken by local civilians in the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon. It aims to:
- identify and examine the complexity of different kinds of vulnerabilities related to identity (e.g. age, gender), context and positionality;
- examine the various unarmed protection measures taken by conflict-affected communities in response to different types of vulnerabilities, inclusive of the agency of vulnerable groups;
- analyse which factors influence the relative success of protection measures in particular contexts, as assessed by the affected civilians, and explore how measures can be strengthened;
- share positive experiences of unarmed protection strategies with communities and grassroots organisations, and explore ways in which local, national, and international NGOs can strengthen community-led initiatives and scale-up such efforts within and across countries.
The project’s impact will be through its contribution to civilian agency in protecting citizens and peacebuilding in Cameroon. This will be achieved through the production of new knowledge that highlights bottom-up/grassroots experiences and approaches of unarmed civilian self-protection. This will be captured through the authentic voices of affected citizens in the conflict, inclusive of women and youth.
The outputs are intended to foster greater reflection on and understanding of civilian vulnerabilities in the conflict as well as bottom up unarmed civilian protection (UCP) strategies.
- Mapping of conflict zones in the Anglophone regions
- Project report
- Policy brief
- Journal article in peer reviewed journal
- Booklet of poems, stories and drawing