By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons (Canada) Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (the Subcommittee) has noted that there have been human rights violations in the country perpetrated by the Cameroonian government.
In a press release dated March 1, 2021, the Subcommittee heard from witnesses on 16 February 2021 who gave members an update on the conflict between the Government of Cameroon and the English speaking regions of the Republic of Cameroon that has been escalating since 2016. This was the second meeting of the committee since June 13, 2019.
The Subcommittee concluded that since the root causes of the crisis continue to be ignored, “there is no end to hostilities in sight.”
Tragically, the situation in Cameroon has not improved as noted by Dr Christopher Fomunyoh: “In the North West and South West Regions, it is nothing short of an atrocity situation, consisting of widespread and systematic crimes against humanity against the civilian population and serious violations of international humanitarian law or the laws of war against civilians as protected persons, amounting to war crimes.”
Witnesses during the meeting shared horrific stories of mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, burning and the worst forms of sexual violence. According to the Subcommittee since 2017, more than 700,000 civilians have been forcibly displaced from their homes, with over 60,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring Nigeria.
The Subcommittee noted that the ongoing violence is having untold suffering on children. The witnesses said not only are they (children) witnessing the violence, but they are subject to it and concerns were raised that they are being recruited as child soldiers. Witnesses reported that between 800,000 and 1.1 million children have been out of school since 2017.
According to the various witnesses, the Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Regions is a neglected crisis. The witnesses noted that the international community cannot just stand and watch while atrocities are being committed in the country.
“The Subcommittee shares the view of witnesses that the situation needs urgent attention – with no end to the conflict in sight, Cameroon’s divisions are becoming increasingly entrenched,” the press release said in part.
The Subcommittee shares the view that “the Government of Canada should rally allies through multilateral organizations to call for an immediate ceasefire and end to hostilities. It should mount an international campaign pressuring the Government of Cameroon to allow the establishment of an independent fact-finding commission of inquiry to investigate the conflict, including the atrocities and its root causes. The Government of Canada should also consider, alongside international allies, sanctioning those responsible for atrocities and severe human rights violations through the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.”