Cameroon : Social Cohesion Analysis, Oct. 2016
Cameroon : Social Cohesion Analysis, Oct. 2016
The methodology of this analysis was based upon the USAID Conflict Assessment Framework and its application process document. The CAF provides a “rigorous framework for collecting and analyzing data in an objective manner that can be applied uniformly across conflict settings” in order to evaluate the risks of violent conflict and simultaneously to assist development and humanitarian actors to support local efforts to manage conflict and build peace. The CAF starts with the context, and then an analysis of conflict dynamics (grievances, identities, institutional performance, social patterns, resilience, and key actors), and finally examines the trajectories involved (trends and triggers). Based on these conflict dynamics, response options are developed.
Based on a desk study, key issues that could lead to violent conflict were identified, then key informant interviews conducted in Yaoundé and eastern Cameroon. The targeted locations for this assessment included areas in the East Region of Cameroon bordering CAR, where CRS’ upcoming UNHCR project is focused: Batouri, Bertoua, and Garoua‑Boulai. In addition, the SCA addressed general national‑level issues, through information collected in interviews in the East as well as Yaoundé. CRS cooperated with two local partners for this SCA (with whom they work on various other projects): Comité Diocésain d’Activités Socio‑Caritatives (CODASCaritas or CODASC) in Batouri, and Commission Diocésaine Justice et Paix (CDJP) in Bertoua and Garoua‑Boulai. The local partners identified nine local participant researchers who, along with three CRS staff members, brought important local knowledge (some had specific peacebuilding or trauma‑healing knowledge) to deepen the analysis. At the same time, these participant researchers would benefit from the capacity‑building provided by the training and could be called upon to assist in future updates of the social cohesion assessment both for their own organizations and for CRS.
Interviewees were selected based upon the identification of key issues that could potentially cause conflict, and then key actors for peace and for conflict were targeted. Interviewees included government authorities, traditional chiefs, teachers, security forces, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, women’s and youth groups, agro/pastoralists, refugees, and host communities (See Appendix 2 for the list of interviewees). Interview questions were based on sample questions in the CAF, and those used in the West Africa Conflict Assessment, subsequently revised by the research teams to fit the local context. The teams conducted 135 interviews with 165 people in the east, and 12 interviews with 14 people in Yaoundé. There were 34 women and 145 men, with ages ranging from 13 to 80. Among the interviewees were 6 expatriates (from Germany, Ethiopia, France, the Philippines, and the United States), 15 local authorities, 22 traditional leaders, 14 religious leaders, 17 refugee leaders, 19 NGO staff, 14 youth association representatives, 7 women’s association representatives, 13 civil society organization representatives, 10 members of the security sector, and 4 unknown. Among the Cameroonian and CAR interviewees, there were 41 of Gbaya ethnicity, 12 Mbororo, 9 Kako’o, 5 Haoussa, 16 Foulbé/Fulfuldé, and a few others. Of the CAR interviewees, 44 were refugees. We were not able to ask the ethnic identity of 56 interviewees.
Religious identities included 24 Catholic, 84 other Christian, 58 Muslim, and 12 unknown. Due to the selection criteria of key actors such as religious leaders and security forces, and the necessity to meet first with local authorities and traditional leaders in each research site, many more men than women were interviewed. There were also only 3 women among the 14 study team members, and only one of the 14 was Muslim.
Three teams of 4 people (see Appendix 1 for list of team members) underwent 3 days of training, then each team spent 10 to 12 days in the field, with the consultant conducting additional interviews in the East Region and Yaoundé. Interviews were 30 to 90 minutes long and conducted most often by two people – each site team of four people separated into two groups of two, one person to ask questions and one to take notes – though initial interviews with local authorities and traditional chiefs were usually held with the entire team. Each team then discussed the interview and filled out an interview summary sheet for each interview with categories based on the CAF (key mobilizers, institutional performance, etc.).
Questions for major categories of interviewees (religious leaders, local authorities, women’s groups, etc.) were developed during the training, and were used as a guideline during interviews. Interviews were semi‑structured and data collected was qualitative except for the demographic information on each interviewee. At the end of the data collection period, each team finalized all their data and prepared a presentation that was discussed in a two‑day debrief session. During the debrief, response options were developed by each team, and were then discussed in the larger group. Based on the team presentations and knowledge of the management team (two co‑trainers and a CRS focal point), the consultant developed a PowerPoint presentation that was presented to the two key partner organization directors (who were both key actors in social cohesion activities and in promoting peace and dialogue) in the East (CDJP and CODASC). After minor revisions, the summary was presented to key staff in CRS and additional response options generated. The results were transferred to an Excel chart and reviewed by the consultant. This report is the expanded version of those validated results, supplemented by a review of the literature and another
review of the data.
As this social cohesion assessment is based upon the CAF, this report follows that structure: context, conflict dynamics (key actors, grievances, identities, institutional performance, social patterns, resilience), conclusions, and response options.
Cameroon is a generally understudied country, due to its relative success at maintaining peace and stability, and this SCA has provided a rare opportunity for in‑depth research focusing on its eastern border with CAR. While the risk of widespread violent conflict does not seem high, there are still some areas of concern, especially due to the incursions and pressure from conflicts in CAR, Chad, and Nigeria. The presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees has taxed the institutions and infrastructure of the country, especially in the more vulnerable border areas in the North and East. In the East, risk of violence has been identified in this SCA around local‑level conflict over resources, agro‑pastoral conflicts, and insecurity and crime, and at a national level around national leadership, terrorism, and youth disenfranchisement.
Although the purpose of this assessment was not specifically to assess the desire of refugees to return, in the context of interviews, it was clear that the majority of CAR refugees were not ready to return, particularly in the near or medium term. As a traditional Mboboro leader said: “[in CAR] I had many heads of cattle and a home, now I have nothing there and I lost many family members. But here, at least I have a small home and small place to farm – why would I go back to nothing?” Some of the wealthier refugees may be more willing to return (a few of whom have been reported to have already gone back), as some see business opportunities arising if the recent election results in greater stability for the country.
We asked interviewees what their vision of the future was in five years. Most of the refugees , as well as some rural Cameroonians, were unable to think that far ahead. The years of conflict and the resulting trauma, and the upcoming elections in CAR contributed to feelings of uncertainty. However, some refugees, along with other Cameroonian interviewees, spoke of hopes for economic and social development of the East, if it reached both the host communities and the refugees. There were also fears expressed of terrorism (particularly of Boko Haram), but these were mainly for the North and the national level. Most of the fears for the future expressed by Cameroonian interviewees were around a potential sudden change of government and a resulting struggle for power. These fears of transition have also been pointed out by various observers such as the International Crisis Group over the past years, but have not yet come to fruition. In spite of the fears, many still hope for a smooth transition.