By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Experts have noted that the crisis ensuing in the country’s two English-speaking Regions can be solved if all parties (government, separatists, federalists and others) to the conflict sit together and talk.
The 90-minute webinar session organized by the Nkafu Policy Institute – a think tank at the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation and moderated by Mr Francis Tazoacha had as theme “Can the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon be solved through a State-Centric Approach?”
For the past four years, the two English-speaking regions have been witnessing violence. This has led to thousands of being killed, maimed, kidnapped for ransom and others are now leaving as refugees in neighbouring Nigeria.
Despite attempts made by the government to resolve the on-going armed conflict, the guns have still not been silenced. The situation has even taken a critical twist with the mass killings of separatists by the Cameroonian military and counter killings with unarmed civilians, particularly women and children bearing the brunt of the price.
Speaking on the Anglophone Question and the Form of the State in the History of Cameroon, Mr Ndifor Richard Mandjong, Educator/Community Organizer/ Advocate for Quality Equitable Education for all, on the issue of the Anglophone crisis said it is embedded in the history of Cameroon. “We will need to address this by going back into the basic facts, look at them, see where we went wrong and try to correct them,” He said.
Prof Ngouyamsa Mefire, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Ngaoundere, speaking on the topic Decentralized unitary state, federalism or secession? said the present crisis has with it three groups who are doing everything possible to defend their standpoints. These groups include; the decentralized-unitary state, federalism and secession.
“It will be essential if these groups sit together and bring out decisions agreed together. We should focus on and work to better the form of the constitution, notably the decentralized-unitary state not because it is the best to save the present situation in the North West and South West Regions but going back to history will not favour us,” He said.
The decentralized form of state can help if and only if it is appropriately, honestly and equitably implemented. It is the form that will reconcile all the diverse positions and address the root causes of the present problem.
With the deepening of the crisis, the government has also made several peaceful concessions and top-down institutional responses, including the Major National Dialogue convened by the President and chaired by Prime Minister Chief Dr Dion Ngute, from September 30 to October 4, 2019.
On the special status that has been accorded to the two English-speaking regions of the country, Prof Ngouyamsa thinks that the special status could have been the solution if two major mistakes were not done. These mistakes stem from the origin of the status (came out due to the Major National Dialogue which brought together top-rank citizens only) and content (the council has but deliberative powers and cannot make laws).
Responding to the question can the state alone solve the crisis? Mrs Arrey Hernica Besong, PhD candidate, Program director CHAMEG said the state alone cannot solve the Anglophone crisis, and that there is need for other stakeholders to join in the peace process.
“If those from the grassroots can bring up possible solution or local organizations working with them to the top, it will be better and it will be achieved rather than imposing on the communities. The National Dialogue is all a fiasco because people fill their views was not represented,” Mrs Arrey Hernica Besong said.
“If the state wants to solve the problem there is need for all hands on deck; there is a need for everyone to be taking into consideration, both their views and opinions put into effective practice. The youths, women, minorities, those who have been imprisoned, the international communities need to come together to solve the crisis and the state alone cannot solve it.”
The government has also carried out several measures aimed at ending the crisis. These involve Setting up an English division of the Supreme Court and creating a Common Law Section at the National School of Administration and Magistracy; Translating the OHADA Act to English; and more.
The fundamental question that was answered during the session was why is the crisis so difficult to be resolved despite all governmental and international initiatives? There are many discerning voices from many stakeholders in the conflict both from national and international communities who believed that if the government had not adopted a state-centric approach in resolving the crisis, the conflict should have long been sustainably resolved.
It should be recalled that this is not the first time that the Nkafu Policy Institute is holding sessions (both onsite and online) geared towards bringing a meaningful solution to the crisis. Last year, a series of sessions were organized in Yaounde, Bamenda, and Buea and when the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, there went online.
These public dialogues are in line with the mission of the Nkafu Policy Institute – a Think Tank (research institute) of the Denis and Lenora FORETIA Foundation – centred around carrying out independent research to provide comprehensive and incisive evidenced-based policy recommendations that will precipitate a succinct pathway in resolving the crisis in the North West and South West regions in particular and Cameroon in general.