The 2019 edition of the Cameroon International Film Festival (CAMIFF) has been cancelled due to the escalating conflict in the two English speaking regions, organisers announced.
This year's edition was due to run from April 22-27 in Buea, chief town of Southwest, one of the regions torn by an armed conflict. A statement from the organisers said access to the city would be be difficult.
"Upon consultation with the local government authorities, the police and embassies, it became clear that the ongoing crisis affecting the Anglophone part of Cameroon would make access to the city of Buea for screening virtually impossible for festival participants and the local communities," Mr Agbor Gilbert Ebot, the CEO and founder of the festival said. He added that international celebrities have been advised by their governments and security teams to avoid visiting Cameroon at this time.
Mr Agbor explained that organisers tried in vain to come up with an alternative date, "but sadly we were advised that this would be too impractical for both sponsors and partners as we cannot foresee a break or an end" to the conflict. He said this year's edition has now been moved to April 2020 "with the hope that peace maybe restored by then" and that all movies submitted this year would be reconsidered for submission then.
"On behalf of the committee, I would like to apologise for the cancellation, especially to those who have already made travel and accommodation plans. Unfortunately, these circumstances were beyond our control and while we are committed to our festival, securing human lives is paramount," Mr Agbor said.
Government forces have been clashing with separatist forces in the two English speaking regions of the Central African country since late 2017 when separatists symbolically declared the independence of the hypothetical state of Ambazonia.
Despite calls by 86-year-old President Paul Biya for the separatists to drop their arms, the conflict has worsened since the beginning of 2019 with attacks on the education and health facilities.
Formerly administered as part of Nigeria as a UN trust territory under British control, Southern Cameroon (today's Northwest and Southwest regions) was incorporated into Francophone Cameroon in 1961.