“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty”. A borrowed statement used by Hon Wirba Joseph, in addressing the Cameroon Parliament in the December 2016 parliamentary session. The statement, which originates from an article, courtesy of the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia of the USA, recorded a high number of its usage among Anglophones as peaceful street demonstrations had just begun and were about to take a violent turn.
The prophetic-like message of the parliamentarian was waived by the government, paving the way for the Anglophone Crisis which has brought upon Anglophone Cameroonians misery. Denials, disdain, bad faith, self-centeredness of the government, are some of the vices that fueled the flames of the Crisis, in the restive North West and South West Regions. The crisis has manifested itself in the highest degree of negativity in the socio-economic domain. The humanitarian ramification of the crisis records the worst manifestation, with the most heinous and gruesome acts committed on civilians and their property.
Background to the Anglophone Crisis
The Anglophone Crisis owes its root to: colonial legacy, and to the failure of a state centralised model of government. The latter can be modified to suit the aspirations of the Anglophone Cameroonians by providing solutions that respect the rights and freedoms of all Anglophone Cameroon.
On October 6th 2016, began the protest as a sit-down strike initiated by the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, an organization consisting of Lawyers and Teacher Trade Unions from the Anglophone regions of Cameroon took effect. It started with apolitical demands which later increased in number and type to political demands emanating from the passive and evasive attitude of the government. Doing very little about it, it later morphed to a totally political and bloody affair, with Secessionists, Federalist, Separatist and many other schools of thought, taking advantage of the strike action to press for their individual and group demands. The government suppressed the protesters in a bid to quell the demonstrations by; repression, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and extra judicial killings. Separatist fighters in response to the suppression of the 2016 – 2017 protest launched a guerilla campaign against the government’s security forces and later unilaterally proclaimed the restoration of independence. By the end of November 2017, the Cameroon
government declared war on the separatist and sent its army into the Anglophone Regions, which till today are still heavily militarized. This has been followed by a chronicle of atrocities perpetrated by separatist fighters and government soldiers on innocent civilians and their property, causing most of them to flee from their homes for safety elsewhere.
Government Attempts to Solve the Anglophone Crisis.
Major National Dialogue, September 30th– October 4th 2019
In an extraordinary appearance on national television (CRTV), the head of state H.E. Paul Biya on 10th September 2019 announced the convening of a Major National Dialogue, with the Prime Minister H.E. Joseph Dion Ngute tasked to chair the event.
The dialogue which was officially referred to as the Major National Dialogue (GND) was the dialogue between the government of Cameroon and various opposition parties, aimed at resolving the Anglophone Crisis.
Note should be taken that the Anglophone Crisis is not a product of differences between opposition parties and the ruling party, but a manifestation of disapproval and frustration of a particular people (Anglophones) who have been marginalized, poorly treated and refused in their home.
The main actors in the GND showed an aberration in finding long lasting solutions as negotiations were made mainly between political parties instead of the real actors involved in the Anglophone crisis. This alone explains why the GND and the resolutions of the GND itself all ended in a fiasco.
Bad faith, ingenuity and lack of good will on the part of the government accounts for the failure of the GND and therefore cannot be underrated. This is seen in the preconditions given by government to those who partook in the dialogue, no meetings with the Anglophone stakeholders before the national dialogue, dialogue took place in absentia of key separatist leaders such as Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and co, as they were either in jail or exile.
It’s not an overstatement to say that the GND was irrelevant, a waste of resources and an insult to the Anglophones as it resolved to grant the Anglophone regions a special status. A clause that was enshrined in the amendment of the nation’s constitution in 1996, but has never been implemented. Worse atrocities have occurred in the Anglophone Regions since the GND.
The barbaric Ngarbu debacle of 14th February 2020, the calamitous outing in Ebam village of 1st March 2020, the gruesome Kumba School Massacre of October 24th 2020, Matau Killing of January
10th 2021. It should be understood that all these ills persist because the Anglophone Regions are in a deadlock as there is no dialogue currently going on between the Yaoundé government and the separatist, who are both refusing to give grounds. The government is counting on a military victory which is apparently not working, and has also refused to discuss the form of the state which should be the main topic on the discussion table. The Head of State has on several occasions reiterated government’s stance on conquering the separatist with military force. E.g. on September 10th 2019, the Head of State on CRTV said “Surrender and be forgiven or be met with military force”. This partly explains why the government is not letting go easily. The separatist on their part demand for independence and nothing less. These differences only prolong the crisis.
In the last four years, the conflict has left death more than 3000, and 675000 IDPs and tens of thousands of refugees. The intransigence of the belligerence threatens to generate further violence. Thus there is urgent need for a genuine dialogue between the belligerents considering how much.
Prelude to a genuine Dialogue (National Conversation)
The separatist leaders and fighters are on exile, jail or in the bushes and have all lost trust in the government. They cannot therefore risk coming out to meet government officials in the country’s public places, without a guarantee of their security. So it’s imperative for a team comprised of dominantly international members to facilitate talks and meetings.
⮚ A team set up for the protection of separatist fighters from government soldiers during pre dialogue meetings. NB It should be a police task force. Let’s call it (ASPTF Team) for purpose of this work.
⮚ When the team above is set up, there is need for another team, with the task of sensitizing separatist of the need for a genuine dialogue. This team should equally be dominated by international members for trust issues. The team should be accompanied by the (ASPTF team) for security purposes. This is because they need protection and if they go with government soldiers, these soldiers can likely clash with separatist fighters.
These meetings should go on for some time so that there is a possibility of greater participation in the dialogue process. The meetings should be held at sub divisional, divisional and regional levels (local dialogue) before the major dialogue.
Dialogue with the separatist leaders in the diaspora is primordial. This is because they give orders which are executed by separatist fighters on ground. These leaders are all on political
exile and have zero trust in the Yaoundé government. It is therefore important that the sensitization team going to meet them for talks should include government and international members.
Experts should be sent to the ground (North West and South West) to do an analysis, collect data from the populace (civilians inclusive) on their opinion of solutions to the crisis. ⮚ The President of the Republic should adapt a conciliatory stance, acknowledging the existence of the Anglophone problem and that the security forces have committed abuses and agree to take into account Anglophone demands for
⮚ The government should not place conditions on a dialogue with the separatists about the form of the state, even if they believe the form of the state is not negotiable.
⮚ The president should undertake a major reshuffle of the government and senior levels of the administration and defense and security forces in order to purge those who fuel the conflict with hate speech and to integrate non-separatist Anglophone who are seen credible by the Anglophone population.
⮚ The government should support the holding of the Anglophone general conference to pave the way for a genuine dialogue.
Breaking the Deadlock (National Conversation)
A deadlock is a state of inaction or neutralization resulting from the opposition of equally powerful uncompromising persons or factions. The separatist and government make up the factions in this context.
Cameroonians and international actors have the responsibility of encouraging the two factions to make concessions, by threatening to sanction those who stand in the way of dialogue and rewarding the less intransigent. Ending the conflict will eventually require changes in the legal framework for federalization to grant greater autonomy to the Anglophone regions. This can be achieved through a national dialogue.
Key principles that should guide the National Conversation
⮚ Inclusion: For the dialogue to be effective it should convene a broad set of stakeholders for a deliberative process to maximize the dialogue’s potential to address the real drivers of conflict, all key interest groups should be invited to participate. These groups include: ∙ ADF: Ambazonia Defense Forces
∙ AGC: Ambazonia Governing Council
∙ APLM: Ambazonia People’s Liberation Movement
∙ ARCC: Ambazonia Recognition Collaboration Council
∙ ASC: Ambazonia Security Council
∙ IG: Interim Government of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia
∙ MORISC: Movement for Independence and Restoration of Southern Cameroons ∙ SCACUF: Southern Cameroons Consortium
∙ SCARM: Southern Cameroons Restoration Movement
∙ SCCOP: Southern Cameroons Congress of People
∙ SCNC: Southern Cameroons National Council
∙ SOCADEF: Southern Cameroons Defense Forces
Women, youths, traditional rulers and stakeholders should be represented as well. By doing this, the public’s legitimacy of the dialogue cannot be compromised. For this principle of inclusion to be effective in this context, there should first of all be an unconditional release of prisoners in connection to the ongoing crisis, especially key players such as Ayuk Sisiku Tabe and Co, Mancho Bibixy, before the dialogue commences. A presidential pardon should also be given to those on exile connected to the crisis. This will send a strong signal to the separatist that the government intends to create a favorable environment for talks.
⮚ Transparency and Public Participation
There must make available sufficient opportunities for the public to remain informed about and feed into the dialogue. The dialogue should have mechanisms to include the broader population, beyond the delegates in the room. This can be done through linking local dialogue processes as well through public consultations, regular outreach, and coverage in the media. Delegates should be mandated to hold consultations with the groups that they represent.
⮚ A Credible Convener
A credible convenor secures the participation of a wide variety of stakeholder groups and therefore is of good importance. A credible convener suitable for mediating in this case are the UN, AU, Switzerland, Catholic Church (Episcopal Conference, Saint Edigo or even the Vatican) who have already offered to mediate.
The agenda of the dialogue should address the root causes of the Anglophone Crisis. It should also have a clear mandate, and appropriately tailored rules, structures and procedures, which are transparent and carefully tailored to the composition of the Anglophone stakeholders and the crisis.
⮚ An Agreed Mechanism for Implementation of Outcomes
Without a clear implementation plan, a national dialogue risks consuming extensive time and resources without providing any intangible results, just like the September – October Major National Dialogue. Therefore there should be agreed implementation plans to ensure that the resulting recommendations are implemented. It can be through laws, policies or other programs.
There is no doubt that if the content of this essay is taken into consideration it could be a means to bring solutions to the Anglophone Crisis. As it is often said, “Better late than never”.
By Nkesa Ankiambom Nkesa