By Boris Esono Nwenfor
An upsurge in violence witnessed by various regions in Cameroon seems to put the country at crossroads in its history. The consequences of these conflicts are so devastating that it appears urgent to propose solid strategies for peacebuilding and democracy in the country.
The Nkafu Policy Institute at the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation, one of Cameroon’s leading think tanks organized a webinar on Thursday, June 25, 2020, under the theme “Promoting Peace and Democracy in Cameroon.” Leading discussions during the webinar was Viban Jude, CAMASEJ National President, Chia Patran Fien, Humanitarian and a peace builder, and Sulamithe Mbonda, protection assistant at NDH. It was moderated by Barrister Doris.
The event was to engage scholars, youth leaders and the public in the search for sustainable solutions to the major conflicts in Cameroon, such as the Boko Haram crisis in the Far North, the refugee situation in the East, and the Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Regions.
The key thematic areas focused on overview of current conflict in Cameroon, the role of democratic institutions such as the media and civil society organizations in conflict management and resolution, and citizens proposed solutions to the current conflicts in Cameroon.
The Boko Haram crisis has led many to abandon their homes and become refugees in Nigeria. The armed conflict between the government and separatists had killed more than 3,000 and displaced close to 600,000. The two sides have stalled in bringing an end to the violence. Despite the stalled progress, there have been further steps undertaking by the Nkafu Policy Institute to facilitate a peaceful transition through its webinars and public events.
Speaking on the role of the media, Viban Jude, CAMASEJ National President said the media has the duty to make the opinion of everybody be heard. He added there is a tendency to underreport certain issues due to various barriers faced by journalists in the country.
He went on to caution media practitioners to be watchful in the words the use. According to him, the language used by media professionals may cause more harm than good in the ongoing crises in the country.
On the aspect of democracy Jude Viban made it clear that the media is the watchdog of the society. “The media holds power to account, something which is lacking in the country,” He said. “Many (journalists) cannot do that because of the environment they find themselves in…. There is equally need for an information act in the country like what happens in other countries.”
Chia Patran, Humanitarian and a peace builder on her part said the government has to create an enabling environment for peace to be brought.
To Gilbert Ajebe Akame the lack of culture that inculcates youth is very troubling. He added that the youths themselves do not get involve in governance and development. To address this issue, the youths must be engaged in the peace efforts and join various platforms that are seeking solutions to Cameroon’s numerous problems.
Bernard Nkenglefac on the issue on the unwillingness or lack of youth’s enthusiasm to take action on security matters said government and security forces exercise a lot of oppression through intimidation, arrests, and detention of activists without motive, of which many die in torture and others are forgotten in one of the hell prisons in Kondengui.
He went on to add that when youths start growing nationalistic ideas that can foster peace and development they become enemies of the nation Cameroon. “So I strongly believe there is a strong blame on government policies that could foster youth implication in peace and leadership aspect, though there is still some kid of lack of youth’s implication in a country where youths are on “pension” and the old in ’service,’ Bernard Nkenglefac said.
“I think a solution to more youth implication into leadership and peace matters in Cameroon is the liberalization of human rights and ’true’ freedom of speech where every youth can give his or her opinion on country matters.”
According to a recent UNICEF report, at least 650.000 children have dropped out of school since the crisis in the North West and South West regions broke out. On its part, the Norwegian Refugee Council describes the conflict as one of the most neglected in the world, and has called for International community to show more attention.
In the face of these insecurities, citizens must be actively involved in the peace-building process. Cooperation, inclusion, and non-violence lie at the heart of democracy. While conflict is present in all societies, resilient democracies are capable of managing conflict in peaceful ways.