By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Over the years the relics of the federation have been wiped out and the identity of the people of Southern Cameroon diluted by the regime of President Biya, who has been in power for more than 38 years. In the wake of these atrocities, neglect and assimilation, the people of former British Southern Cameroon are today demanding a return to the status quo or a separation.
Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa and Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for International Affairs speaking recently on Canada’s Sub-Committee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development said Canada needs to leverage its position in bringing about a solution to the ongoing Anglophone crisis.
One of such actions that can be undertaken by Canada according to the political scientist is that the country should adopt targeted sanctions against perpetrators of mass killings, torture and other atrocities being carried out by individuals.
“Sanctions should be placed. It sends a strong signal that the world is watching and impunity will not be accepted,” Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, Adjunct Faculty at the African Center for Strategic Studies stated.
“Canada should use its position on the World Bank, IMF, and NATO to ensure that resources granted to Cameroon are not diverted to fight a war against its people. Canada should also call for an immediate ceasefire and a public commitment (both the Cameroon government and the non-state armed groups) to negotiation with Canada assuming the role of third party negotiator.
Canada is known as a big advocate in the respect for Human Rights and equality but the country like other major world powers like USA, Britain, France and international organizations have all ended in speech making with no meaningful action taken to bring both the state and the armed groups on the dialogue table.
The country has a unique position to end the crisis as it is with Cameroon the only two countries that have a sit at both the Commonwealth and Francophonie.
“There has been a bad faith of the Francophone majority to assimilate the Anglophone minority into the Francophone majority. Since 1969 Cameroon has had just two presidents, all Francophone and there has been dissatisfaction on the part of Anglophone,” Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, adjunct professor of African politics and government at Georgetown University said in his opening remarks at the subcommittee.
The ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions has led tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in search of shelter. Some have migrated to other safe areas in the country; others are in the bushes, while some have sought refuge in neighbouring Nigeria.
Both government and separatist fighters have been accused of committing gross human rights violations against civilians. Children, mothers, girls have faced the brunt of the crisis with the young girls raped and others have gone into prostitution. The actual data in Cameroon on the number of those killed, displaced cannot be ascertained as limited materials are available.
“Canada should lead calls for a fact-finding mission to let the world know some specific data on the crisis such as lives lost; those in detention, and others. There is a lot of propaganda going on now as no one opens up to the crimes that they have committed,” Dr Fomunyoh said.
“In 2020, the UN SG called for a ceasefire as a result of the COVID-19. If nothing is done to bring about a ceasefire, the conflict might explode looking at the second wave of the pandemic.
The USC Clinic has documented serious violations that are ongoing in Cameroon. It is an atrocious act with some analysts warning of an impending genocide in the country.
“Cameroon is facing a humanitarian catastrophe in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rampant killings are taking place, rape and other violence meted on the population,” Hannah Garry, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of International Human Rights Clinic, Gould School of Law said.
“The violence must stop and for years now, the international community has taken limited actions to the crisis. There needs to be the accountability with targeted sanctions brought to persons fuelling the crisis. Canada should act as a third party in bringing the two sides to the dialogue table.”