By Boris Esono Nwenfor
With the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon already in its fifth year with no sign of its being resolved any time soon, the Department of State and the Biden Administration have been called upon to lead efforts to bring this conflict to an immediate end.
In an Open Letter to United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the “Anglophone Crisis” in Cameroon, the human rights, civil liberties, social justice, and faith leaders, experts, scholars, and organizations, say attempts by the government of Cameroon to resolve the crisis have failed because of its unwillingness to address head-on the root causes and its resort to military force to address otherwise political grievances of citizens.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Situation Report No. 25 of 30 November 2020, three million people are affected, which is approximately 50 per cent of the entire Anglophone population of the country; and 1.4 million are in need immediate humanitarian assistance. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported over 70,000 refugees has fled to neighbouring Nigeria, and over 711,000 IDPs now live in other regions of the country as of November 2020.
“Thousands of civilians have been killed, and more than 300 villages have been burnt. As a result of the ongoing conflict, Anglophone Cameroonians have become the leading asylum seekers from Africa at the U.S. Southern border with Mexico,” the letter read in part.
The armed conflict is stressing a region already facing violent extremism in the Lake Chad basin and, if allowed to fester, would seriously jeopardize ongoing international efforts to curtail cross-border terrorism and combat Boko Haram and ISWAP. It also has the potential of threatening regional peace and security in the Gulf of Guinea
The letter was signed by the Cameroon Humanitarian Relief Initiative; Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations; Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations; JuventudesXLaPaz; Nuestra Agenda/Our Agenda; Presbyterian Church (USA); Refugee Council of Australia; Sam Soya Center for Democracy and Human Rights; The Global Campaign for Peace & Justice in Cameroon; Torture Abolition And Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC International) and World Council of Churches (WCC)
In a historic show of bipartisanship, the US Senate recently adopted Resolution 684 on January 1, 2021, calling on the government of Cameroon and the armed separatist groups to end all violence; respect the human rights of all Cameroonians and pursue inclusive dialogue to end the conflict. The Resolution further stipulates that “attempts at conflict resolution have failed to bring all parties to the table, as high levels of deaths, brutality, and suffering continue”.
According to the organizations, Peace can be achieved if the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken put in place the nine (9) measures that they are suggesting which involve:
1. Name a Special Envoy to facilitate the State Department’s lead within the inter-agency process and its efforts to engage all international and local stakeholders whose contributions are needed to bring an end to the conflict, as laid out in Resolution 684.
2. Impress upon the warring parties to negotiate, without any preconditions, for an end to the conflict and engage allies of the United States, notably France, to play a more constructive role in ending the conflict.
3. Engage more firmly the African Union and agencies of the United Nations system to assist Cameroon to address the root causes of the conflict and to uphold freedoms and universal rights.
4. Initiate an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow unfettered access for humanitarian assistance, and protect humanitarian workers and the Anglophone civilian population who desperately need assistance. We ask that the US lead efforts by the international donor community to increase humanitarian support to meet the urgent and growing needs of IDPs and refugees.
5. Demand an independent international investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council of massacres, atrocities and gross human rights abuses in Anglophone Cameroon to account for and hold perpetrators of rights abuse accountable, and to prevent a culture of impunity that breeds more abuses to the civilian population.
6. Champion an interagency response to sanction perpetrators of gross human rights abuses to curb impunity and curtail ongoing atrocities by both sides.
7. End arms sale and military assistance to the Government of Cameroon, as there is ample evidence that military equipment provided by the US has been used to commit atrocities to the civilian population in Anglophone Cameroon.
8. Grant Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Anglophone Cameroonians currently resident in the US. This community represents the highest number of Africans fleeing violence, torture and persecution from a majority Francophone government and reliable information confirms that many of the individuals deported by the previous Administration are currently in detention and facing abuses.
9. Capitalize on the provisions of Senate Resolution 684 of January 1, 2021, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018 and other tools at your disposal to bring the civil war in Anglophone Cameroon to a negotiated end.