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Friday, April 5, 2019

Anglophone Crisis: Why is Paul Biya afraid to talk?


For two years, the crisis in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon has degenerated into open conflict with Yaoundé. Beyond the denunciation of the alleged abuses of forces by HRW, one thing is clear: no political solution has emerged, no attempt at dialogue has succeeded. Sputnik tries to understand why.

The Cameroonian Government "considers, in fact, that it is absolutely inconsistent or even unhealthy, to want to put on an equal footing or to house the same sign, on the one hand, those who, incarnating the public power, make use of legitimate, thoughtful and measured force, and on the other, outlaws, who illegally use force for destructive, malicious and harmful purposes, "said René Emmanuel Sadi, Minister of Communication of Cameroon at a press conference on April 2nd.

Should we see in this attitude a beginning of explanation to the failure of all the attempts of negotiations between Cameroon and the separatists of the English-speaking regions of this country?We will come back to it. What is certain is that this scathing statement is part of the response to the press of a government directly implicated by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW).

While the populations of the north-west and south-west regions of Cameroon continue to live under the yoke of daily violence, despite the strong deployment of security forces in this part of the country and that the situation is bogged down on the ground HRW sounded the alarm in a report released on March 28. The human rights organization denounces repeated attacks against Cameroonian civilians, carried out by both English-speaking separatists and the police. According to HRW, 170 civilians and 31 members of the security forces have been killed and hundreds of homes burned in the past six months. And in this report, the NGO does not take the twinge about the alleged abuses of government forces.

"Government forces have killed dozens of civilians, indiscriminately used force and burned hundreds of homes in the last six months in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon," Human Rights Watch said.

Serious accusations, a pill hard to swallow for the government of Yaounde who, through the voice of his spokesperson, so sharply retorted to the NGO during a press briefing:

"The Cameroonian Government categorically rejects these accusations, blatantly against the Republican Forces, engaged in a fight for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the State and the protection of persons and property, in the North-West regions and the South West, and this in accordance with their sovereign obligations, in strict compliance with international conventions on human rights, and fully aware of their responsibility, "said René Emmanuel Sadi, Minister of Communication.

Although the NGO does not spare the English-speaking separatists in this report also denouncing the abuses committed by the latter, the Cameroonian Government refuses to be put in the same bag as the separatists. In this report, the NGO says to rely on information relayed in the media and field surveys. For the Minister of Communication, "the NGO Human Rights Watch betrays a bias towards the armed gangs, relativizing or even diminishing the responsibility of these groups in the atrocities perpetrated in the North West and Southwest. "

Even if the government tries to relativize the situation described by HRW, arguing a" progressive recovery in hand by the National Forces of Defense and Security ", Richard Makon, academic and political scientist Cameroon interviewed by Sputnik specifies that" This However, the report is extremely serious because it shows, if it were still needed, that, far from fading, the crisis in the so-called English-speaking regions is endangering the risk of worsening and becoming bogged down forever. little more. However, this report does not bring anything new in terms of both information and the analysis of the consequences and the political and strategic perspectives of this crisis. Every day, on the initiative of the local press, whether traditional (television, radio, print) or cybernetic, fresh news from the front floods Cameroonian daily life. "

In its document, the organization in defense of human rights also calls for intervention by the UN Security Council: "The members of the UN Security Council should formally add the question of Cameroon to the agenda of the Council, ask to the Secretary-General of the United Nations to hold a briefing on this situation, and to state unequivocally that those responsible for serious violations of human rights risk being subjected to sanctions ". The intervention of the UN, an option analyzed by Cameroonian economist Dieudonne Essomba:

"We must not forget that English-speaking Cameroon was linked to French-speaking Cameroon under the auspices of the United Nations [in 1961]. How could we believe that from the moment the team no longer worked, the United Nations would not come back? They will come, which is certain and certain, to intervene and unfortunately, perhaps, to impose a confederation in Cameroon, the UN will invite the government and the secessionists with the means of constraint. We will no longer ask the opinion of one another. "

Would the international community alone be able to unblock the situation of the English-speaking regions? It is true that ways out of the crisis have been explored, even if the results are still pending.Between the heavy militarization of the English-speaking regions and attempts to reach out, Paul Biya is handling carrots and sticks against the separatists, in the context of this crisis that has shaken these regions of the country for more than two years. In his address of November 6, 2018, the day of his oath for a 7th term, Paul Biya already asked the English-speaking separatists to stop the fighting: "I call on them to lay down their arms and find the right path. I appeal especially to young people who have become embroiled in an adventure without tomorrow. "

As if to materialize this call, Paul Biya created in November 2018 a "national committee of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration" (CNDDR) for the combatants of the zones in conflict in Cameroon. A hand extended by Paul Biya at the start of his new mandate whose results are long in coming. In the absence of any dialogue with these groups, Cameroonians remain skeptical about the chances of success of this committee. And yet, after a series of political negotiations that resulted in some technical concessions, the government has tightened its tone, for example by imprisoning some separatist leaders, undermining its opportunities for dialogue:

"The government is is deprived of interlocutors. Before the crisis, some 10% of English-speaking populations were for secession; but when the government started to arrest the leaders, it helped to further radicalize the people. Now, 80% want secession, maybe 20% want the federation. The approach of the government has constantly radicalized the populations: there are many English speakers who say every day that they are no longer part of Cameroon, they are "Ambazonniens" [Ambazonie, name given to the state that want create the separatists, note]. The army can not collaborate with people who have this mindset in order to get their hands on the secessionists, "said Wanah Immanuel Bumakor, international relations specialist.

In his end-of-year speech on 31 December, Paul Biya spoke of the Yaoundé government's many outstretched hands "to avoid the use of extreme measures", without excluding, however, the intensification of the military option. "If the call to lay down the weapons that I launched to war contractors remains unanswered, the defense and security forces will be instructed to neutralize them," said Paul Biya.

The strong militarization of the area did not allow the separatists to retreat.

"It's a political crisis that does not need weapons. This crisis should be resolved through dialogue. While Anglophones had legitimate demands, the government simply imposed its way of doing things, which radicalized the English-speaking side and the secessionists seized this opportunity to win the hearts of English speakers. That's why we are where we are.There will always be rights violations, because the army uses its means to maintain itself. The government claims a clear victory of 71% in the last elections, but why is it afraid to talk to its people? "Wonders Wanah Immanuel Bumakor.

Dialogue, a solution put on the table by many actors, like the religious of the English-speaking regions, led by Cardinal Christian Tumi, initiators of the General Conference of Anglophones. A meeting that would aim to discuss solutions to bring to an end the current crisis in these regions of Cameroon, in a context where the options explored so far have proven to be ineffective.

This religious initiative was to be a preparatory step between Anglophones, aimed at defining the questions that should be examined during a national dialogue and at nominating the persons who would represent the English-speaking regions on this occasion. Expected last year, she was never able to stand.Contacted by Sputnik, Elie Smith, spokesman of the conference said: "We wanted the government gives us a written authorization so that the event has a safe supervision, Buéa being plunged into insecurity since the beginning of this crisis. The government no longer has absolute control in these areas. "A written authorization that the organizers never got, which did not stop them.

"The project is still going on. We decided to carry out consultations to have the opinion of our compatriots. In this initiative, we give the floor to both francophones and anglophones. We consulted Cameroonians (both languages) from the diaspora of North America and Europe. We will go to the political parties represented in the National Assembly and civil society.

We have been labeled as radical, and some say that our goal when we organize this foundation is to declare our independence. It's archifal. We want to show them that this is an Anglophone problem, which stems from the fundamental infidelity that created modern Cameroon in 1961. "Elie Smith continues.

To encourage the holding of this conference in the presence of all, religious leaders had asked Yaoundé for the release of Anglophones detained in the context of the crisis and the facilitation of the return of exiles and refugees. They also called on armed separatists and Cameroonian security forces to cease hostilities. The spokesman of the government of Yaounde had not been favorable to the announcement of prerequisites posed by the prelate, including the idea of ​​freeing all prisoners and that of having to treat as an equal with the separatists.

"If, however, it seems inappropriate to treat representatives of the State on an equal footing (who has the obligation to guarantee and maintain peace and security, and who enjoys the privilege of legitimate or legitimized) and separatist militia (who have only the legitimacy of their weapons to claim a place around the table), as Human Rights Watch does without hindrance, it must be emphasized that it is not possible to 'consider a return to peace in the regions shaken by this violence without a negotiation to take into account all the sensibilities in equation and all the interests at stake,' said political scientist Richard Makon, before continuing:

'We have however the weakness to think that "the war always ends and obligatorily where it should never have begun, around a table". Whatever the formula adopted, with or without internal mediations (by moral authorities of Cameroonian nationality) and / or foreign (African or foreign moralities, dedicated institutions, African or foreign), this negotiation (or whatever the the name given to it) is a vital condition for a return to peace and a decisive imperative for lasting peace and security in this part of the country. "

Between the solutions proposed by the governmental authorities and the unsuccessful initiatives of the civil society, many observers also preach for a consideration, by the government of Yaoundé of all the stakeholders.

"Let [the government, ed] stop being arrogant, stop making its own conception of things; he sees things in the face! He must know that there is a problem whose cause is the non-respect of the 1961 constitution and that he also has the courage to reunite the Cameroonians and the political actors who are at the origin or who are in the process to carry out this operation, to discuss this problem. That's why we decided in the "All Anglophone Conference" to meet the separatists, discuss with them and understand their proposals, "insists Elie Smith.

In spite of these discordant bell-sounds between different parties, the Yaoundé power tries to reassure:

"The Government will continue to work resolutely and determinedly for a definitive return to peace in the North-West and South-West regions, while emphasizing the virtues of dialogue, tolerance and forgiveness, as evidenced, moreover, the multiple measures of appeasement, absolution and direct involvement of the people in the management of affairs concerning them. " concluded the spokesman of the government during his press briefing of April 2.

For more than two years, the socio-political crisis that has rocked the northwest and southwest, the two English-speaking regions of the country (which represent about 20% of the population), has turned into an armed clash between defense forces and Cameroonian security and separatist militants. Tensions began with strikes by English teachers and lawyers. The English-speaking separatists chose October 1, 2017, the day of official reunification of the English and French speaking parts of Cameroon, in 1961, to unilaterally proclaim their independence.The crisis then turned into an armed conflict with hundreds of deaths. The UN has 30,000 English-speaking refugees in Nigeria and 437,000 internally displaced persons in Cameroon.


Reporter: Anicet Simo