Cameroon’s NW, SW Religious Leaders Welcome Canada Peace Talk Initiative as Major Step Towards Peace

By Synthia Lateu & Boris Esono Nwenfor

Anti-government demonstrators block a road in Bamenda, Cameroon, December 8, 2016. The UN estimates that the violence has claimed more than 6,000 lives and has kept 600,000 children out of school. Photo REUTERS/Stringer – RTSVBFL

Following the announcement of the Canada Peace Talks by Foreign Minister the Honourable Mélanie Joly, religious leaders of the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have lauded the proposed Canada-facilitated Peace initiatives with non-state armed groups, to end the conflict in the country’s English-speaking regions.

In a 7-point joint statement issued on January 22, 2023, the leaders of the Muslim and Christian faiths told the stakeholders of the peace process to be “honest, God-fearing sincere, humble, and patriotic throughout the entire announced peace process and let the spirit of God assist them in their deliberations.” They have equally expressed hope that “all the parties will keep aside their personal and/or political or other exclusive interests, but will sincerely and determinedly work for the common good, inspired by truth, justice, love, and equity,” the religious leaders wrote in a communique.

The Anglophone Religious Leaders further call for an end to violence in the conflict as a way to “promote confidence-building and credibility as well as a conducive and assuring environment for the announced peace process to thrive” while appealing to the international community” to assist without bias or prejudice in the resolution of the crisis for the common good of the people of Cameroon.”

In a release made public on Friday, January 20, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Melanie Joly, stated that the Republic of Cameroon, the Ambazonia Governing Council and the Ambazonia Defence Force, the African People’s Liberation Movement and the Southern Cameroons Defence Force, the Interim Government, and the Ambazonia Coalition Team have agreed for her country to facilitate peace talks, aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon.

“Canada has accepted the mandate to facilitate this process, as part of our commitment to promote peace and security and advance support for democracy and human rights. Our role also reflects Canada’s engagement to work with our African partners to build a better future for everyone. Our role also reflects Canada’s engagement to work with our African partners to build a better future for everyone,” Melanie Joly announced.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Communication and government’s Spokesman, Rene Emmanuel Sadi in a press release on Monday, January 20 rejected the Canadian peace talk, stating that: “The Government of the Republic of Cameroon informs the national and international community that it has not entrusted any foreign country or external entity with any role of mediator or facilitator to settle the crisis in the North West and South West regions.”

“The Major Dialogue, which was held in Yaounde in 2019, was an opportunity for the sons and daughters of Cameroon to exchange freely and discuss prospects for a future of peace, security and progress for our country,” Rene Emmanuel Sadi said.

Dr Christopher Fomunyoh of the National Democratic Institute in Washington, DC, reacted to Cameroon’s communique with incredulity.  “Cameroon has a chance to prove to the world that it sincerely wants peace and prosperity for all its citizens. Disowning the Canadian effort after months of engagement and acquiescence would call into question the government’s credibility and reliability as a partner for the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Refusing to participate in the Canada-sponsored talks will seriously damage the image of the Cameroon government in the eyes of the vast majority of Anglophones and the world.”

A segment of the communique by Religious leaders welcoming the Canada Peace Talks

“Peace processes are always messy and take time, and this is a conflict that has been going on for 40 years,” Joly told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet retreat in Hamilton. Our goal is to be patient and to take a deep breath,” Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said after Yaounde announced it never sought international help.

“We were approached by the Cameroon government, and we also had a UN representative present during the mediation,” Joly said Tuesday. “Our sole interest in this is to make sure that parties are at the table,” she said.

The UN estimates that the violence has claimed more than 6,000 lives and has kept 600,000 children out of school. Due to attacks on villages, at least 800,000 people have fled their homes, surviving in challenging conditions as internally displaced persons and refugees.

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