Series: Evaluating International Mediation Acceptance – Case of the Ongoing Anglophone Dispute in Cameroon (5)
Part 5 of 5
Part 4 discussed the characteristics of a mediator and the likelihood of its acceptance. The USA, UK the AU offered to mediate, other bodies called on the UN to mediate but so far, no mediation is in sight. In the next part, the international context will be examined. This part will also include the overall conclusion from the analysis, a look at ongoing conflicts around the globe, some resolution relevant insights, new options for a settlement, and lastly an outlook for the future.
Lastly it is the international context which deals with other events or conflicts taking place simultaneously. When other conflicts become of greater importance to one or more adversaries, de-escalation is more likely to occur and consequently acceptance of a mediation leading to mediation success. “The African nation of Cameroon has lived for years between the fires of civil warfare from Nigeria to the west and the Central African Republic to the east.” With the Boko Haram insurgency in neighboring Nigeria, its attack on Cameroonian soil since March 2014 have led to multiple displacements in the country’s Far North region. Cameroon is host to around 336 000 refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR). In the Far North Cameroon region, Minawao refugee camp currently hosts over 48 000 Nigerian refugees and CAR refugees in the East Cameroon region currently stands at 256 000 people. This should be a big burden to the developing nation that is still hoping to emerge come 2035, with much at the grassroot level to handle like access to medical care, education, employment, and others.
The crisis in the Northwest and Southwest region, with the protests from opposition leader Kamto Maurice of Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) who rallied a great deal of followers on 26 Saturday 2019 to lead protests in major cities in Cameroon is opening more fronts for the regime to battle with. With the pressing humanitarian crisis and more fronts to battle with, it is expected that the regime feels the pressure and accept an inclusive dialogue or a mediated dialogue but so far there is nothing insight.
From the above analysis, I foresee that there would never be an inclusive dialogue or a mediated dialogue – a negotiation about self-determination, if the current regime remains in power. Subsequent regimes will be voted to power based on how they present the anglophone marginalization problem. During the 2018 presidential campaign, candidates were very careful to voice that they were going to negotiate with the separatist. Also, if the regime accepts to dialogue about self-determination which will subsequently be determined by a referendum, another group of Southern Cameroonians will rise and revolt against it. It is believed that the virtual government of Ambazonia is more of a kleptocracy and doesn’t have the interest of the people at hand. Despite the readiness of separatist to accept a mediated dialogue, the regime has the upper hand and will not accept a mediated dialogue with separatist movements. Those who are calling on the government of Cameroon for an inclusive dialogue know that they are throwing water on a duck’s back. This is lack of seriousness on their part to see that this crisis is resolved to the best interest of Cameroonians.
Ambazonia doesn’t seem to have the resources and international support needed to persuade the regime into accepting an inclusive and mediated dialogue on self-determination. To an extent, mankind and the international community is suffering from inertia. With the numerous pictures and videos of horrific beheading of government soldiers, the burning of houses in search of Amba Boys, wanton killings by government soldiers, and the killing of innocent civilians by both camps. No international body, country, or individual personalities or citizen diplomats have put pressure and succeeded to persuade the government of Cameroon and the separatist for a cease-fire or humanitarian diplomacy just to save lives or to create humanitarian corridors. It is intimidating that with the increasing death toll and destruction, the crisis has still not gotten the attention it deserves. The international community is watching as killings are going on in Anglophone regions of Cameroon. This is not different from what happened in the 1994 Rwandan genocide under the watchful eyes of the UN while the international community was silent.
This crisis is like no other as there has been no reported defection in the Cameroon military or police. In the Sudan civil war that ended with a comprehensive peace agreement in 2006, there were a high level of defection in the military mostly those from South Sudan to fight the war against the North. There were also typically Muslim north and Christian south. Most often they defected with military warfare equipment and turn to use it against the enemy. In 2013 when war broke out in the newly independent young nation South Sudan, the military split into two camps and especially along tribal lines since they were two predominant tribes; those supporting the president who are the Dinkars, and those supporting the rebel leader who are the Neurs. In all, there was the support of the UN, the AU, the Troika countries, and more so neighboring countries like Uganda and Kenya providing support and coercing for a cease-fire, setting a comfortable environment for negotiations, reaching a settlement and overseeing its implementation. Anglophone separatist argue that most of these wars lasted for long before the intervention of the international community and that their “struggle” will continue. For example, the Sudan civil war lasted for more than 20 years before the UN intervention. Should the international community watch the ongoing destruction in Cameroon and intervene after some 20 years? The Anglophone crisis may need to be handled in a different way due to its protracted nature, its intensity, the composition of the fighters, and the regime in place.
The three-year Biafra war that ended in 1970, also saw men and women in uniform who defected from the Nigerian army. After independence, Nigeria was administered in provinces along tribal lines to include Fulani, Hausa and Igbos. The Igbo tribe wanted their own country called Biafra and a deadly war was fought without success. There was much sympathy from European countries but only four countries were recognizing the call for self-determination by the Igbos. The case of the Central African Republic is also a fight between Christians and Muslims over political power and not over self-determination. With more than 245 ethnic groups in Cameroon, the Anglophone region doesn’t have a dominant tribe. Though there are experiences of inter-tribal wars, religious wars are not common. The crisis is not a religious or tribal conflict, nor is it a war to topple the regime but a fight based on the legacy left behind by the colonial powers.
The anglophone conflict in the North West and South West region of Cameroon is yet to be exported to “La Republique du Cameroun”. What is going on there is that Liberation Forces or Amba Boys apart from fighting, beheading and killing soldiers and police, they are more specialized in killing their own armless people. There is evidence that they kidnap their own people and ask for ransom, they terrorize the population and especially girls to use them for sex, kill men, women and children and all those they assumed are against the “struggle”. They dig up potholes on the roads in the region making movement difficult for civilians and making emergency evacuations for medical reasons very difficult. They also burn schools and other infrastructure they deemed is colonial property and recently there were rumors of them being responsible for the burning of hospitals and kidnap of school children. This is unlike the case in the Biafran war where there is no evidence that Biafrans were killing each other but that they died of diseases and hunger rather than the fighting itself. They were all unified towards one war aim which was the liberation of Biafra.
The ‘ground-zero fighters’ who are unified under one war aim to free Ambazonia or homeland use; ‘odeshi,’ a magical spell from Nigeria that is assumed to protect them against bullets in their so called God ordained struggle. They also use Dane guns, machetes, stones, digging potholes and use few warfare weapons seized from the military or police. This can’t defeat a professional patriotic army like that of the Republic of Cameroon. Cameroon is host to the Staff College or military academy that services some countries in and around Africa. Cameroon also has its military and police serving in UN peacekeeping missions like in Central African Republic, Haiti, Darfur and others. This should testify to her military might and professionalism. Sympathizers of Ambazonia equate Cameroon military to Amba Boys. The factions in South Sudan like for example the White Army see women strong and well dressed in military gear unlike the Amba Boys who look like child soldiers with limited military pose and with young girls posing as their wives. In the Central African Republic context, armed groups are also well equipped with warfare equipment.
The separatist groups in the diaspora seek for funding even from people on ground-zero through online fund raising. It is alleged that they are corrupt, fight on, and mishandle these petite funds. Those in ground zero are specialize in kidnap of their own people for chicken change ransom just to feed the fighters. There are no reports of kidnapped of government officials and demanding for big concessions like release of prisoners connected to the Anglophone crisis or a mediated dialogue. This is an indication that separatist are unskillful and may not be able to fund the war without external support. It is also clear that they lack the military might and skills to win the struggle against the government of Cameroon. Perhaps the international community is more silent expecting the separatist to analyze their chances of success and to give up the fight for self-determination since they are found at a disadvantaged position.
The geostrategic location and geopolitical situation of Ambazonia, which is a strip of landmass sandwiched between the Republic of Cameroon and the Federal Republic of Nigeria leaves it at a disadvantage position to win the war because the Nigerian government is cooperating with the Cameroon government to see that they are brought to their knees. This was proven when Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine others were taken into custody in Nigeria and later deported to Cameroon in January 2018. The outcome of the upcoming Nigerian presidential elections scheduled for 23 February will determine the dynamics of this Anglophone crisis, if the crisis will be business as usual or new wave of change will blow. The Republic of Cameroon still enjoys bilateral relations with all its allies and is not under pressure to act in a low way. The internal threats to Ambazonia is basically the presence of more than 25 armed groups that turn to confront each other on occasions. Ambazonia is yet to gain international recognition or any country is yet to voice a recognition of the piece of territory called Ambazonia, and the separatist are yet to get external support. Though the territory has access to the sea, the ports which have the oil refinery are still controlled by the regime and maybe the last thing that the regime can ever give up. This looks like the Biafran war where they also didn’t receive much external support especially from its only next-door neighbor Cameroon. Though few countries recognized and supported Biafra’s fight for autonomy, it didn’t lead to success. The Sudan civil war saw South Sudan fighting for self-determination and enjoying the support of most east African countries. South Sudan had five neighboring countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
There are basically no similar ongoing conflicts as most conflicts have had UN, AU and other organizations and countries intervening in one way or the other though they intervened after damages most have occurred. The ongoing crisis in Central African Republic saw the arrival of the UN and the international community in a timely fashion. Though the crisis was not that of self-determination, but the early intervention served as a deterrent to the intensity of the armed conflict thus saving lives. The armed conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Mali and others are enjoying massive media reporting and international concern. There are peacekeepers in South Sudan protecting lives from the sky through the land to the waters. But the difference with these wars is that they are fighting for the change of a regime not for self-determination. This Anglophone crisis falls under the category of a situation where former colonial masters exercised the right to self-determination where an entity was wrongly incorporated into the newly independent state and later the awareness of dissimilarities come. Examples of such include Eritea, Somaliland, Kasmir, Southern Sudan and others.
Cameroon is highly integrated socially and given the multicultural and bilingualism they enjoy, the government should take up her responsibility to protect the citizens and the territorial integrity of the great triangle. The separatist should fractionate their demands and opt more for an enhanced local self-government, either decentralization, regionalization or advocating for Cameroon to become a federated state made of more than the initial two state federation. The only solution to this crisis is to review the Foumban Conference of 1961 which was the marriage between West Cameroon and East Cameroon giving birth to the Foumban Accord which was the foundation of the Federal Constitution. Apart from a two-state federation, an eleven-state federation will be ideal, casting out the fear that the English-speaking region may finally become independent in future. Best practices could be drawn from neighboring Nigeria which is a thirty-six-state federation. This may lead to a détente and the regime will welcome the antagonists to the dialogue table to discuss the political solution to resolve the root course of the dispute. The regime on the other hand should call for a ceasefire and invite an international body to monitor it. If not, then the international community should put pressure on the government of Cameroon and separatist for a cease-fire. There is always a time to give up for strategic and tactical reasons and to prevent more losses. Separatist and the regime should consider the fact that they are fighting for the good of the citizens. If in this century people are still being killed without respect for dignity, it means that mankind has not learn a lesson from the past mistakes, hence the saying that history repeats itself.
Communities are being depopulated by the
wanton killings. This is outrageous in this global village with all; the Core
International Human Rights Instruments (treaties) protecting human rights and
the right to dignity, organizations like the UN, AU and others with the mandate
to deter or use force to prevent human suffering and genocides, world powers
and countries that are supposed to play the role of big brother like USA,
Russia, and others. Apart from intervention, Peace Education, a concept and an
initiative of UNICEF is an important and sustainable way of maintaining future
world peace. It should not only be introduced in post conflict environment but
should be considered as a way of empowering individuals to have peaceful
relations and view conflict as an opportunity to progress and not to regress
through the conflict partnership approach.
 Understanding Success and Failure of International Mediation, Pdf on Egnyte, 373.
 United States Institute of Peace, Cameroon’s Anglophone Uprising, 2018.
 Hajer Naili, Five Things to Know About the Humanitarian Crisis in Far North Cameroon, NRC, June 22, 2018, https://www.nrc.no/news/2018/june/five-things-to-know-about-the-humanitarian-crisis-in-far-north-cameroon/ (accessed January 26, 2019).
 European Commission, Cameroon: European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, European Commission, May 2, 2014, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/where/africa/cameroon_en (accessed January 26, 2019).