By: Eva English
The small African country of Cameroon is currently on the brink of a civil war. Also known as the Anglophone Crisis, the conflict began with demonstrations and protests that date back to 2016 at the appointment of Francophone judges in English speaking regions now known as Ambazionia. Members of those regions organized mostly peaceful protests that demanded increased autonomy. However, those demonstrations led the Cameroon government to use excessive force with their largely American and Israel trained private military. Throughout 2016 and 2017, the government has used live ammunition, injuring and killing both protestors and bystanders. Some have also been detained and subjected to inhumane treatment and torture.A recent report from the International Crisis Group estimated 3,000 people have been killed.
The issue’s origin can be traced to a complicated colonial past. Protests stemmed from large dissatisfaction with President Biya’s concentration of resources and power in the French-speaking regions of Cameroon. The English speaking or Anglophone regions have experienced discrimination and marginalization, despite the fact that the Anglophone comprise one fifth of the population. Anglophone regions have a lack of infrastructure, along with assigned teachers and judges who speak poor English.
In October 2017, separatist leaders declared independence and formed a new nation known as Ambazonia. Ambazonian fighters, known locally as the “Amba boys,” are estimated to be 2,000 in number and arming themselves with homemade guns.
A month after the declaration of separation, President Biya of Cameroon announced the separatists were terrorists and that the country was under attack. Since then, the scale and frequency of the attacks led by separatist groups against security forces, government workers, and state institutions have only increased. The government crackdown on the separatists has been ruthless; residents and local officials report regularly of troops burning homes, detaining civilians, and executing sometimes innocent young men in hopes of rooting out the separatists.
The Cameroon government isn’t the only side guilty of violating human rights though. To enforce boycotts following the protests, separatist groups have attacked and burned schools, while also threatening, attacking, and kidnapping students, principals, and teachers.
Amnesty International estimates tens of thousands of people have fled the English speaking parts of Cameroon. Those who have escaped live in unsuitable homes, and live with the knowledge that those they left behind were killed.
More recently, Cameroon’s leaders are starting a national dialogue to end the conflict. The talks are to be led by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, and are scheduled to occur from September 30 to October 4. Nevertheless, key separatist leaders have refused to participate, which has many activists and experts voicing their skepticism on whether the efforts will produce tangible results.
Despite this, the United States has continued to send military aid to Cameroon. This is because the country is a vital partner to the U.S. in battling Islamist extremism in Africa.
By: Ophelia Bentley
Most people know that plastic is creating a massive problem for our environment and is wreaking havoc on oceans and wildlife. It is estimated that on average the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute. Statistics like these have sparked a global movement to save our seas and reduce plastic. We have been told to ditch the plastic straw, use reusable bags, and stop drinking bottled water, however, plastic is woven into our lives on a much more micro level than any of us realized.
Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than five mm in width. Since plastic has been under so much scrutiny, scientists have found that microplastics are practically everywhere, in our soil, water, even the air! In a recent study that made international headlines, it was found that they are even in tea. Plastic tea bags leach tiny microplastics into the water. In a single cup of tea, 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nano plastics can be released.
Microplastics are not only found in tea but also in 93% of the water in plastic bottles. Microplastics are also released when polyester fabrics are washed in a washing machine, the plastic draining through the machine and into our oceans. They can also be found in cosmetic products and as a result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down. There are also many undergoing studies about the possibility of plastic in drinking water. It is estimated that humans eat a credit card’s worth of plastic every single day.
Plastic is not always directly consumed by humans. Often times fish eat these microplastics or plastic of any size. These are the same fish that people are eating as well. In fact, two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks are said to have ingested plastic. Even though we are not eating the plastic directly, it is still an issue due to biomagnification, meaning the fact that we eat lots of fish/seafood, toxins levels rise as each of those fish may have eaten plastic.
While scientists have yet to discover the implications of consuming so much plastic, it does not look hopeful. Plastic is like a toxin sponge. A singular piece of plastic can be one million times more toxic than the water around it. The toxins in plastic are the same ones that have been known to cause cancer, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruptors, and other diseases.
Though they are small, microplastics are causing a huge problem.
Out-of-Town (informally called MUNdays) is a publication run by students in Exeter's Model UN club. Currently, the amazing Sophie Fernandez '22 maintains the publication, curates its articles, and edits them. We do accept outside submissions! If you have an article or reflection on foreign policy, email firstname.lastname@example.org!