The moral economy of violence among Amba Boys (separatist ﬁghters) in Cameroon
Armed rebellion has grown in the anglophone regions of Cameroon since civilian protests were suppressed in 2016/17 by the majority francophone state. What began as largely peaceful dissent against the marginalization of anglophone institutions and cultural practices has developed into a widespread movement for independence of the self-declared state of Ambazonia.
This paper examines how the use of force, and the ethical limits of violence, are understood by armed Amba fighters, drawing on remote conversations with 30 anglophone fighters in the battlefields of Cameroon and 32 interviews with civilians in the minority anglophone regions. The moral economy of violence concept helps to explain when, how, and why certain elements of the Amba forces employ violence. In the process, this explanation discourages a theoretical presupposition that what motivates actors is inherent self-interest.
Rather, this paper explores how the moral economy of violence makes intelligible a different motivational structure: one where people act first-and-foremost for the interest of a collective cause that ensures group survival. The authors argue that when actors contravene this collectivist logic, their acts occur outside of the moral economy of violence.