Cameroon: Dialogue is Paramount in any conflict Situation – Dr Roelf Meyer
During the visit, Roelf Meyer was nominated as the Yaoundé International Business School Ambassador to South Africa
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The chief negotiator in 1990 for the former South African government believes that for any country that is seeking a peaceful solution to any conflict, like the case in Cameroon, the will and intent to get to a meaningful solution must be present, if not, such a process will not bear any fruit.
Roelf Meyer who is on an intellectual discourse in the country was speaking to students of the Yaoundé International Business School, YIBS, this Tuesday, April 19, 2022, under the theme “Peace and Reconciliation” using the South African experience. To him, all conflicts are different and no one is unique but certain principles will need to be looked upon for a peaceful resolution of a crisis.
At a time that Cameroon is presently witnessing what has become known as the Anglophone crisis in the country’s North West and South West Regions for the past five years now, there have been calls made for both sides to seat at the dialogue table for a meaningful solution to be gotten. According to UN statistics, the crisis in the two English-speaking regions has seen 4,000 plus civilians killed with 700,000 internally displaced and a further 63,800 as refugees in neighbouring Nigeria.
There have been several dialogues held over the past years with the major one being the Major National Dialogue that ran from September 30 to October 4, 2019. It brought together the government and various opposition parties, religious authorities and CSOs but many political observers castigated it as just being a farce as the renowned separatist leaders were either in jail or refused to participate as they were afraid of being arrested if they had set foot in the country.
“The question is whether it (Major National Dialogue) was inclusive enough to include all the parties that are involved in the conflict and when they started the process were they willing and had the intent to find the answers,” Roelf Meyer said responding to a question of which leaders should be approached when such a talk is called.
“It took us (South Africa) a long time to get to the peace point and we must not forget that apartheid was a system that was on for a very long time. The message is for people to pursue dialogue as the way out and to find solutions. The result will only be achieved is if both sides of the conflict are willing to engage thoughtfully with the intent of finding solutions.”
The Former National Party cabinet minister Roelf Meyer played a key role in the signing of the National Peace Accord which led to the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa. And to him, Dialogue is the essence of solving any problem. “It is the fundamental vehicle to come to a solution,” Meyer says. “It is not an easy process as it takes time.”
“I believe that all conflicts have to end in peace, otherwise it will carry on to the detriment of everybody and the people that are involved in the conflict. Unfortunately, we have seen in conflicts in the world is that it drags on and on and the people who pay the highest price are those that suffer as a result of violence,” Roelf Meyer told Pan African Visions.
“In many cases, leaders protect themselves and allow their followers to carry the burden on their behalf. It is very important to find a peaceful solution to all conflicts.”
Presenting some six approaches for a peaceful resolution of a crisis, Roelf Meyer noted that aside from key dialogue, he says there is a need to develop a process that includes all the parties involved and there must be some level of planning which must be taken into account.
He added that the community needs to be involved in the peace process, from the Civil Society Organizations, religious authorities amongst others. “Peace is not something that belongs to the leaders only. If you do not involve the community, you will not have sustained peace,” Roelf Meyer said while noting that there must be a vision for what the leaders want to achieve and an inclusive approach should be developed.
Roelf Meyer added: “The most sensitive thing leaders can do is for them to be prepared to engage in talks and dialogue through negotiations finds the answers. In South Africa that is exactly what we did; we were dragging the conflict for a long time but then, fortunately, we had leaders who were prepared to sit down atat the table and start the process of talks and negotiations.”
“We have had a lot of problems in Cameroon towards peace but one thing I learnt is that to achieve peace you must be non-violent,” said Ndi Rita, a student at YIBS in the Department of Didactic, Curriculum development and Teaching.
“What I am taking back from this discourse is the need for dialogue to solve any particular problem or crisis. Each of the youths in the country can do it in terms of engaging and being part of the dialogue process.”