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Monday, June 4, 2018


Le Monde Afrique| The World Africa In Cameroon, the calls for dialogue are multiplying at the same time as the images of violence coming from the English-speaking regions. Yes, we must dialogue. Except that in civil wars and other armed conflicts, dialogue is never a coincidence. He intervenes in particular conditions. The only calls for dialogue, even if well-intentioned, will therefore have no effect if we do not understand the dynamics that lead to the negotiating table.

In a research article titled "How civil wars end", political scientists David Mason and Patrick Fett of the University of Memphis, Massachusetts, attempt to answer this question. According to their model, four fundamental parameters determine the choice of the actors of an armed conflict to continue the war or to opt for the dialogue.

Military superiority First, the probability of success. The more likely the military victory of one of the parties is, the less the chances of dialogue are strong. In the case of Cameroon, as long as the regime of Paul Biya is certain of his military superiority, he will not be encouraged to sit down at the table. Paradoxically, the strengthening of the separatist militias, and thus the hardening of the war, could allow this dialogue.

Second, the expected benefit. A few months away from a delicate presidential election for Cameroonian power, an imposed dialogue would appear as an admission of weakness. Other foci of tension could arise.

On the other hand, a military victory could yield important political dividends. Third, the cost of the conflict. The higher the cost for one or both parties, the more attractive the dialogue option becomes. For the moment, even if it is far from negligible (death of soldiers, bad publicity, financial cost, etc.), the cost of the war is tolerable for Yaoundé. The equation is different for the separatists, who were unprepared for a war situation and whose resources are relatively small.

Finally, the duration of the conflict. The longer the war continues, the more the option of dialogue will appear preferable to a continuation of military operations. Following the Mason and Fett model, the strongest probability at this stage is that the war in the English-speaking zone will continue until one of the forces abandons and negotiates a cease-fire. But this way would be too expensive in human lives.

And no matter the winner, Cameroon would come out a big loser. Prosecution of interference Of course, there remains the option of mediation. It is the most reasonable. However, no internal mediation will convince a regime sure of its superiority over his opponent to lay down his arms. On the other hand, the Western powers have innumerable levers to move the Cameroonian power. But they risk a charge of interference by a regime that, although dependent on all sorts of international aid (military, financial, etc.), would not hesitate to play the card of sovereignty flouted to consolidate its position. There is no doubt that discreet pressure is being exercised behind the scenes, but only strong action (international sanctions, embargo, threat of arrest warrants, etc.) could force the Cameroonian authorities to appease them. This would be risky because it could radicalize the regime and make it uncontrollable. But given the importance of Cameroon in the region, Western interests on the spot and the lack of a credible alternative to Paul Biya, for these powers, the cost of the status quo could appear preferable to the cost of the unknown. .

For Cameroonians, however, the status quo has a taste of death sentence. The situation demands to be pragmatic. In the short term, we should aim for a cease-fire, which would bring calm to the English-speaking regions and save lives. It would already be a victory. To achieve this, a team of consensual mediators, mandated by the African Union and supported by the UN and Cameroon's partners, should be put on the table.

By Yann Gwet (columnist Le Monde Afrique)