Monday, July 8, 2019

Geneva Negotiations: This is What International Crisis Group Offers Biya

Read the summary of his report of 2 May 2019 in Brussels on the socio-political situation in Cameroon.

"If some separatists are uncompromising, others could accept a dialogue with the Cameroonian state in the presence of an international mediator, on federalism or effective decentralization, which would confer autonomy and adequate funding to the regions, and guarantee respect for the specificities of English in judicial and educational matters. Similarly, if the Cameroonian government seems to exclude federalism, it could perhaps consent to regionalism or effective decentralization, which would require a modification of the legislative framework.

To open the way for talks, belligerents must make reciprocal concessions to restore a minimum of confidence and stop the spiral of violence. The government should support the Anglophone General Conference, which should allow Anglophones to agree on their representatives to a possible national dialogue while giving a voice to non-separatist Anglophones. In the context of a reconciling speech, the Cameroonian president should recognize the existence of the Anglophone problem and the legitimacy of the claims expressed by the English-speaking population; order investigations into the abuses of the security forces; provide compensation for the victims and commit to rebuilding the destroyed communities;and free the hundreds of currently detained Anglophone activists, including prominent figures in the separatist movement. The separatists should abandon their strategy of dead cities on Monday and boycott the school, and exclude from their ranks fighters who have committed abuses against civilians.

The combination of internal and international pressures could bring the government and the separatists to such concessions. At the international level, the idea would be to reward the parties who agree to moderate their positions and punish those who maintain a more uncompromising line. The European Union and the United States, in particular, should consider targeted sanctions against power brokers and high-ranking officials who continue to impede dialogue (travel bans, freezing of assets), and separatists who advocate or organize the violence (prosecution). The Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Court should open preliminary investigations into the abuses of both parties, to emphasize that the continuation of the violence will have legal consequences. But the international actors, divided on the position to adopt and the measures to be taken, must first agree on a common position, at least among Western countries.

Internally, Francophones and Anglophones in Cameroon who advocate compromise solutions must mobilize to pressure the separatists and the government. In particular, federalists must work together to influence the discussions. They should continue the dialogue with the separatists to encourage them to moderate their positions, and to increase the pressure on the public authorities to open up to compromise separatists. They must finally lead an international campaign for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Once confidence has been established, preparatory discussions will be necessary between emissaries of the government, federalists and separatists; they should take place abroad. During this process, international actors, notably the United States, Switzerland, the Vatican, the United Nations, the European Union (in particular France, Germany and the United Kingdom) and the African Union, must continue to encourage the government to dialogue, including offering to fund and support preparatory meetings.

They could also, in the event of a dialogue, help fund compensation for victims of abuse, reconstruction in English-speaking areas, the return of refugees and displaced persons, and the disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants.Given the level of acrimony between the parties, the presence of an international mediator will be necessary during the preparatory discussions and during the national dialogue. Several countries, institutions and international organizations have offered mediation since the beginning of the conflict. The United Nations, the African Union, the Catholic Church and Switzerland seem best placed to play this role, as the parties to the conflict perceive them as less partisan.

The substantive discussions between the three parties should take place in Cameroon, which would require guarantees of non-arrest of separatist representatives. The government should, during these negotiations, be willing to revise the Constitution to give greater autonomy to the regions or substantially deepen the legal framework of decentralization. These improvements could include the election of regional presidents and regional councils by direct universal suffrage; the establishment of regional administrations with considerable financial and administrative autonomy; and increasing the skills and resources of the communes. The government could also undertake institutional and governance reforms to better take into account the specificities of the education and judicial systems of the English-speaking regions.

More broadly, the ongoing conflict highlights the shortcomings of Cameroon's centralist governance model and challenges government authorities on two key concerns: the need for better consideration of minorities, colonial legacies and cultural specificities; and the need for a more just and equitable redistribution of the country's wealth. The long-term solution lies in the dialogue and consensus that are essential to carry out the institutional and governance reforms that Cameroon needs "