By Boris Esono Nwenfor
In their quest to bring solutions to the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions, The Nkafu Policy Institute a think-tank at the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation has organized a public dialogue with discussions centred on restoring peace in the country.
The Webinar was organized under the theme: “Searching for a Negotiated Settlement to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon: Possibilities and Potential.”
The event aimed at engaging the Cameroonian public in frank dialogue on the possibilities and challenges of getting to a negotiated settlement between the main conflict parties (government and separatists) while examining the opportunities, possibilities and potential challenges.
Speaking during the webinar, Guy Tam Bikoi said what we have in Cameroon is a governance crisis and a cultural crisis as the crisis started on legitimate causes that the Anglophone had and measures were taken by the government.
“The reason why we are in the fifth year is that neither party is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get to that settlement. The principle of a settlement is not to have everything you requested for; but to sacrifice a little bit so the other party can get in. now we have what is called an asymmetric war and that is why we are here,” Guy Tam Bikoi stated.
He went further to indicate that there have been some positives steps taken by the government to solve the crisis and highlighted the creation of the Regional Councils. To him, “if there is real regionalism, there is an opportunity there.” “There is a standstill at the moment as there is no dialogue going on between the warring parties. The issue is to try to find a platform where the government will sit and talk with the other parties.”
These various public dialogues are in line with the mission of the Nkafu Policy Institute which centres on carrying out independent research to provide in-depth and insightful evidence-based recommendations that advance the development of Cameroon and other Sub-Saharan African countries.
Ndifor Roland pointing out the causes of the crisis indicated that these issues were stated before but fell on deaf ears. “The six issues centred on hyper centralized state, failure of decision-makers to equitable involve different cultures and traditions, failure to keep promises made during the referendum, change of name from the United Republic to La Republic de Cameroun, the non-respect of the two official languages as being equal status,” Mr Ndifor Roland said.
“Those are the causes of the Anglophone crisis and whatever comes after that are just the effects. This has to be addressed through the force of argument and not the argument of force.”
According to a release by the Nkafu Policy Institute, various attempts by the Cameroon government have proven largely inadequate in resolving the crisis sustainably. The government of Cameroon opted for a military strategy from the very beginning of the peaceful protest that quickly metamorphosed into an armed conflict. The thematic areas centred on strategies, opportunities and potentials of a negotiated settlement. Participants noticed that despite government efforts through the organization of the Major National Dialogue, the conflict has rather escalated, thereby highlighting the pitfalls of the said dialogue.
Responding to a question from the moderator Mr Ndifor Roland wondered who is bringing the negotiated settlement. He went on to Identify the various stakeholders to bring a negotiated settlement as the general public; CSOs, the entire Francophone community, the international community, media and communication professionals and lastly the government of Cameroon.
“The government of Cameroon is last because they have the power to end the ongoing crisis. The government organized the Major National Dialogue but who were those that were there for it. There is a necessity to identify the stakeholders who are looking for the solution,” Mr Roland Ndifor added.
“When we identify them each of them has a role to play and above all communication is important. You cannot solve a problem that does not exist and up till now, the problem does not seem to exist. When we create the reality that the problem exists then we will know what to do.”
The Anglophone crisis that is in its fifth year has claimed around 3,000 lives, displaced half a million people within Cameroon, compelled another 40,000 to flee to Nigeria, deprived 700,000 children of schooling in their home areas and left one in three people in the Anglophone regions in need of humanitarian aid, according to the International Crisis Group.