Thursday, July 4, 2019

Anglophone Crisis: 'Washington is more worried'

Mediation from Switzerland to solve the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon? It's possible. Cameroonian Chris Fomunyoh is the Africa director of the National Democratic Institute in Washington. For him, the crisis in Cameroon raises serious concern in the United States.

Very discreet discussions in Switzerland, does this surprise you? 

It does not surprise me. But I also believe, at the same time, that it is an approach to encourage and support, because because of the mistrust that has settled between Cameroonians, because of the confidence that is crumbling on the day of day, any attempt internally between Cameroonians is difficult. And it would be nice for a country like Switzerland to be able to play the role of mediator.

Discussions led by the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, is it a little the Sant'Egidio of the Swiss? 

Yes, it is a center with some experience in other circumstances.

Since 2016, the situation has continued to worsen. What does the Yaoundé regime do today to undertake possible negotiations? Is this the situation on the ground or is it international pressure? 

I believe that if, indeed, it is confirmed that the power of Yaoundé has opted for dialogue and mediation by Switzerland, I think we must understand in this a combination of these two factors. Because the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. There are still killings and deaths every day and this is untenable. And at the same time, the international opinion is becoming more and more vocal about the situation in Cameroon, because it's overflowing, and it's approaching the massacres and genocide, which would be really unacceptable.

Two months ago, on May 13, the United States sparked a meeting of the UN Security Council on the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon. Is it the trigger that may have pushed Yaoundé to make an opening? 

Yes, I think that even before this step, there were some humanitarian missions by the head of the United Nations. Everyone, according to the reports that have been established, finds that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating day by day. So it was important that people could talk about it at the level of the Security Council. I believe that this meeting of May 13 really put the problematic of the English-speaking crisis in Cameroon in the public spot and this must have called on both sides that the world can no longer stay away, while after Rwanda, everyone has never said this kind of genocide in the 21st century.

Then Tibor Nagy, the "Mr. Africa" ​​Donald Trump, is quite muscular. He speaks of a civil war unfolding in fact in Cameroon, he regrets that the Cameroonian government does not respond in a way that soothes the fears of Cameroonians. Is this a personal view of this American diplomat or does he have the support of the White House and especially Donald Trump?

I believe that the diplomat Tibor Nagy not only expresses a personal point of view, it is a generalized point of view in Washington. This is explained by the fact that members of the US Congress who are not necessarily Republicans are also pronouncing on the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. A few days ago, a senator intervened in the US Senate to challenge the Cameroonian government and Cameroonians to make peace. Just a few days ago, Karen Bass, who is the chair of the House of Representatives Africa Subcommittee, also released a very strong statement on the crisis in Cameroon. I tell you that as we speak, there is a delegation from the American Congress that is on the ground in Yaoundé to try to find out more about this crisis. So, I think that people are worried about the deterioration of the situation in Cameroon and are wondering if this crisis will not be an existential crisis for the country as we know it at the moment.

On the European side, the Strasbourg Parliament deplores "violence and discrimination" against the English-speaking community in Cameroon. On the other hand, on the French side, one notices an extreme discretion. How do you judge Emmanuel Macron's attitude? 

I think that somewhere, this silence is a little disconcerting. People can not understand why it is not publicly pronounced, even if we know that, from behind, France is trying to make known its concerns about the coming of Cameroon. And at the same time, I say to myself that if the European Union, to which France belongs, comes out of the declarations unanimously, that would mean that somewhere also France has agreed that this position of the Union communicated in the public arena.

Through the Prime Minister's voice, the Cameroonian authorities say they are ready to discuss everything except separation and secession. On what basis could start such discussions? 

It is important that the axes are laid on the ground to reassure the English speakers. There is a real desire to dialogue. So we have to liberate the political prisoners, we have to free the political spaces so that the anglophones can even get together to harmonize their point of view with a view to this possible dialogue.

You talk about the release of political detainees, but is it not dangerous for the Cameroonian authorities to release the independence leader Sisiku Ayuk Tabe? 

You know that in addition to Ayuk Tabe and those who have been arrested in Nigeria, there are thousands of young Anglophones who are being held in different cities across the country, they are scattered all over the place. And that causes frustrations, so you have to release them. We need to create a climate of trust so that people are reassured that, indeed, there is a negotiated way.

So, for you, we must release the independence activists, but must we release the leader Sisiku Ayuk Tabe himself? 

I believe that if at least those who were caught like that by chance are released, they and their families will be reassured. And the case of Ayuk Tabe can be examined in the implementation of this negotiation process. Because at the moment, to detain him with the dozens of members of his cabinet who had been arrested in Nigeria, to detain the thousands of young Anglophones everywhere throughout the Republic of Cameroon, that reassures nobody.

What do you think of the latest Human Rights Watch statement accusing the separatists of torturing civilians?

We saw, a few days ago, that the archbishop of Bamenda was taken hostage for 24 hours, that the president of the opposition party, the SDF, John Fru Ndi was taken for 24 hours. So there is a crime that mixes in there and that is really regrettable. So I think that organizations like Human Rights Watch should be encouraged to work harder and the Cameroonian government should even favor the presence of such a structure. Because it is through their investigations that we come to know who are responsible for the criminal acts that are on the ground, who are responsible for the killings that continue to take place in the English-speaking area of ​​Cameroon.