Cameroon: Rights Groups, Women Organizations Want Urgent End to Atrocities, Human Rights Violations in NW/SWRs

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Non-state armed groups have been battling government forces for the past six years to create an independent state

BUEA, April 29, 2023 – In an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, some human rights, women, youths and humanitarian organizations, have called for the President to “demand an independent international investigation of the atrocity crimes, gross and serious human rights violations committed and to hold perpetrators to account to prevent, mitigate and respond to a culture of impunity that continues to breed violence.”

Titled “Open Letter to President Biden – Urgent Call to End the Atrocities and Human Rights Violations in the Cameroons and the Non-Compliance with the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the AGOA,” published on April 27, 2023, the organizations further enjoined President Biden to impose sanctions on any individual from the Cameroon government or armed groups who commit international rights violations on civilians, including the burning of villages, schools, churches, and hospitals.

Over 300 villages have been razed and the targeted killing of people continues daily by Cameroon government forces, the human rights, women, youths and humanitarian organizations said. The salient question now is how is this genocide different. The non-state armed groups have also been accused of carrying out gross human rights violations in the ongoing conflict.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) situation report of April 12, 2023, close to 700,000 persons remain displaced internally. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ March 2023 monthly brief reported over 87,000 refugees in neighbouring Nigeria. Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 300 villages burnt down. As a result of the ongoing conflict, former British Southern Cameroonians have become one of the leading asylum seekers from Africa at the U.S.  Southern border with Mexico.

The Cameroon government recently relaunched talks with the U.S. to rejoin Washington’s flagship trade initiative with Africa, Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) initiative, which grants qualifying African countries tariff-free access to the U.S. market, the Minister of the Economy, Alamine Ousmane Mey said.

Former President Donald Trump suspended Cameroon from the programme in late 2019 over “persistent gross violations of internationally recognised human rights” by Cameroonian security forces.

According to the organizations, the Cameroon government has neither established nor made continual progress under Section 104 of AGOA and continues to undermine efforts that seek to peacefully address the root cause of the conflict. Cameroon’s March 12, 2023, senatorial elections that preceded the second Summit for Democracy co-hosted by the United States was a testimony of a decline of a seemingly struggling authoritarian regime. Cameroon received over $173 million of assistance in 2022 from the United States and given the corrupt nature of the regime, it is fair to say much of United States taxpayers’ money may have been embezzled into private pockets.

They said: “Use your authority to compel the Cameroon government to demonstrate continual progress provided in the AGOA, in the respect of human rights by respecting international law, stop arbitrary arrests, release those detained in connection with the conflict and pay reparations to the families whose houses were razed by government forces.”

As efforts continue to look for a meaningful end to the ongoing atrocities in the North West and South West Regions, the Cameroon government denied it had Canada to mediate in its conflict with Anglophone separatists, despite Canada saying it had received a request to work on a peace process.

The UN estimates that the violence has claimed more than 6,000 lives and has kept 600,000 children out of school. File photo

Canada’s foreign ministry said it had accepted a mandate to facilitate talks between Cameroonian authorities and some separatist factions in English-speaking regions. But, in a statement that did not directly mention Canada, Cameroon’s government said it had “not entrusted any foreign country or external entity with any role of mediator or facilitator to settle the crisis”.

“(President Biden should) mobilize allies to impress on the Cameroon government to genuinely engage in a political settlement of the conflict to address the root cause facilitated by a third party and allowing the people of the former Southern Cameroons to collectively determine their future through inclusive democratic means. So far, the government is divided as some prefer a military solution that continues to promote a culture of impunity,” the statement continued.

“Impress on the Cameroon government to allow humanitarian access so that close to 2 million people who need aid can be reached without any blockage or interference of the government as was the case with Doctors Without Borders. This request aligns with United Nations Resolution 2417 (2018) condemning the starving of civilians, and unlawfully denying humanitarian access as warfare tactics.”

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