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Cameroon: US Congressmen visit to discuss anglophone crisis

05.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The crisis rocking the two English speaking regions of the Republic of Cameroon has been making waves and has drawn attention from the international community in recent times. Several states in the west and elsewhere have been calling on the Cameroonian government to seek an end to the crisis, mostly through dialogue.

Although most African states have been silent about the situation in the Central West African state, the Anglophone Crisis from 2018, drew increasing international attention that has become a hindrance to the country’s foreign relations.

Just recently, a seven-man US Congressional Delegation paid a visit to Cameroon to seek a roadmap to ending the almost 3-year old conflict in the North West and South-West Regions.  Led by Congresswoman Karen Bass, the delegation arrived Cameroon on Monday, July 1, 2019. They met Tuesday morning with the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Joseph Dion Ngute, an encounter during which they discussed the crisis in the North West and South-West regions, the fight against Boko Haram amongst other things.

The main aim of this visit by the US Congressmen is to obtain first-hand facts on the Anglophone crisis so as to make the right decisions. They have called for unconditional talks between the government and pro-independence fighters to seek a lasting solution to the crisis ravaging the largely English Speaking regions of Cameroon. However,  the government says it will not engage in any talks with the pro-independence fighters that includes the issue of separation from Cameroon. According to Cameroon’s Minister of Communication, who also doubles as the government spokesperson, the government is not against talks in principle. Rene Emmanuel Sadi stressed that President Paul Biya has made it clear that splitting the country is out of the question.  Speaking to journalists late on Monday, California Congresswoman Karen Bass told journalists that both the government and separatists should respect human rights, end all violence, and begin talks on the conflict. The US delegation on Tuesday met with Cameroonian activists and rights groups.  Karen Bass is leading the seven-member Congressional delegation to Cameroon with a focus on health and human rights issues.  The United States, United Nations, and rights groups have been calling for sincere dialogue between authorities and the pro-independence fighters to try to resolve the deadly conflict.  The US Congress in a May resolution condemned abuses by Cameroon’s security forces and armed groups.  The Resolution called on Cameroon’s military and pro-independence fighters to cease the abuse, use of child soldiers, torture and kidnapping and attacks on schools and teachers. Education has been hijacked in the restive regions by the Separatists or pro independent fighters, casting doubt on the future of young Cameroonians.

International observers and rights groups have pointed out that the conflict is getting worse by the day. According to the United Nations, at least 1,800 people have been killed and more than half a million displaced in the two years since fighting began.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time US officials are visiting Cameroon in relation to the Anglophone Crisis. In May, The United States Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy was in Cameroon. During his visit, Tibor Nagy said the government of Cameroon has done nothing to resolve the conflict in the North West and South-West regions of the country.

Besides the US, other countries from the west and international organisations have thrown their weight behind understanding the situation on the ground and seeking a lasting solution to Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis. In early May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet paid a visit to Cameroon, during which she held discussions with the authorities on the Anglophone crisis and the humanitarian situation plaguing the two English speaking regions of Cameroon. At the end of her visit, Bachelet noted that there was still a window of opportunity to end the crisis, and that the Cameroonian government had to take decisive action to win the trust of the population in Southern Cameroons. She also welcomed the Government’s openness to work with the UN Human Rights Office, and the rest of the UN, to seek effective solutions to the major human rights and humanitarian crises caused by the serious unrest and violence taking place in the South West and North West of the country.

The UK’s House of Commons has also shown interest in the Anglophone crisis, as the precarious situation in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon was in May 2018 raised with a request from the government as to what it is doing over the situation. Member of Parliament Jessica Morden of the Labour Party for Newport East raised the issue and wanted answers over the security crisis and the resultant refugee crisis in the Central African country. Her question directed to the British Minister for Africa, Harriet Baldwin also demanded ‘a meaningful process to address the issue and to end the violence.’

Some African states have also shown interest in seeing the crisis come to an end. Equatorial Guinea has in its own way tried to intervene in solving the crisis as In January 2018, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo called for dialogue as the best way to end the Anglophone crisis.

Taking a look at the intervention of these various states and bodies in trying to solve the Anglophone crisis, one will note that the common denominator is that the Cameroon government is said to be open for dialogue and ready to solve the crisis. But as the days go by, the crisis seems to be rather deteriorating with loss of lives on almost a daily basis. What started out as a lawyers’ and teachers’ strike in late 2016 has now become a near civil war, with the loss of thousands of lives and thousands more displaced. It is hoped that this visit by the US Congress delegation will play a positive impact in trying to solve the Anglophone crisis once and for all.

Article from AFRIC editorial

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