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Opinions of Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Columnist: Dr. Donald Agumenu

The Cameroon Crisis: A flaw in global political leadership

Thousands of children have died in the crisis Thousands of children have died in the crisis

I keep wondering if the UN, AU and our regional bodies are actually giving the necessary attention, or have a sense of urgency, towards the crisis in Cameroon. It seems as if, the world is immune to the situation in that beautiful country. The tapestry of the issues in Cameroon is such that, if care is not taken, global perspective may be thwarted to projecting the Southern Cameroons rebels who are fighting for self-determination with guerilla warfare tactics as terrorists, so that they be treated with the contempt associated with Bokom Haram. In fact, this seems to have been the trend.

Worthy of note is the fact that, Boko Haram has remained a thorn in the flesh of the Cameroon government since 2014, when Paul Biya declared war on them. There is also an internal crisis stemming from the general election of 2018, where Paul Biya was accused of rigging the elections. This led to the incarceration of some opposition leaders including individuals such as Maurice Kamto.

Why should the world be quiet over the arrest and incarceration of a freedom fighter, astute advocate of human dignity and freedom, like the opposition Leader, Mr Maurice Kamto, the Leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement ( MRC)? Let's not be deceived. These are different issues with varied complexities and scopes.

The magnitude of hostilities reported from that part of our continent, on the mainstream media and on the social media, in my opinion, is enough for the UN Security Council to craft a definite position on the crisis. This could be a more proactive way to chart a path towards resolving the conflict sustainably, and minimizing the obvious ills that come with crises of such nature and scale; such as overlooking the dignity and history of the victims or minority; the violation of human rights, the tendency to ignoring the legal complications and interest and positions of certain stakeholders, even when hostilities subside.

African Union ought to have been involved more than they are, in mitigating the Cameroon crisis. They should champion the matter. A sustainable way for a peaceful resolution, based on equity and respect of human values and conventions could have been reached if the AU had played her role as prescribed by international conventions and chatters which the Cameroon Government and the arm separatists ought to have abided by, and which time without number they have violated. Thousands of children have died in the crisis and as we speak, more atrocities are being committed on innocent people while the world turns its back, and seems unconcerned for reasons I am unfamiliar with. The UN itself reports that, there are more than half a million displaced, among them; more than forty thousands are hanging in neighboring Nigeria as refugees while a couple of hundreds have been killed and thousands more are languishing in jails as political prisoners, under circumstances that are very inhumane. Should it be in the name of sovereignty, geopolitical interest, or the game of global politics, and economic interest?

Certainly, only those who have not understood the intricate root causes of the Cameroon crisis would imagine that the separatists picked up arms just because of marginalization. Although this could also be classified as one of the deep-seated reasons for the crisis, the most fundamental are the acts and schemes that are tantamount only to colonialism. The evidence and presence of francophone military personnel still perpetrating gross violation of human rights- giving orders like colonial masters to the people of Southern Cameroons - maiming young boys and girls, and in some cases, raping them, have become a commonplace in this modern day and age.

The situation worsened in 2017 when the Government soldiers made up of mostly Cameroon-Francophone and Chadians, walk into villages and burn down farms, destroying plants of farmers, raze down homes with fire, killing the vulnerable ones in them; shooting armless people, carrying extra judicial killings, arresting and jailing the young men and women, and leaving the rest with no option but to run to neighbouring francophone towns, into bushes and forests, or again, crossing the borders to Nigeria; or simply, choosing the option of self-defense; to fight and kill or be killed.

The complexity of this crisis is provoked by the growth of militant forces fighting along the borders of Cameroon and northern Nigeria. The brutalities and ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the Cameroonian army is sometimes sandwiched and substituted with the militant insurgencies which in effect is overshadowing the realities in the English speaking Cameroon. That notwithstanding, the rebels popularly known as the Amba Boys, or Southern Cameroons restoration forces, have also, in some cases, taken the law into their hands in the guise of protecting lives, property and their political interest against the Cameroon army.

It would interest you to know that, in spite of the successful outcome of Maiden Kofi Annan Peace and Security Forum, many Cameroons especially the Southern Cameroons were of the view that, such a strategic platform should have been used to equally discuss peace and security in Cameroon. Out of all the critical issues deliberated upon on this forum, what became the area of focus especially for most Ghanaians unfortunately, is the alleged non-verbal political communication between two political leaders in Ghana- President Nana Akuffo-Addo and Fmr. President John Mahama.

_Geography and Demography of Cameroon:_

Tourist literature describes Cameroon as "Africa in miniature" because it exhibits all major climates and vegetation of the continent: coast, desert, mountains, rainforest, and savanna.

The country's neighbours are Nigeria on the Atlantic Ocean to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south. (DeLancey, Mark W.; DeLancey, Mark Dike (2000)

Cameroon is the world's 53rd-largest country, located in Central and West Africa. It lies between latitudes 1° and 13°N, and longitudes 8° and 17°E. The nation controls 12 nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean and it’s divided into five major geographic zones, distinguished by dominant physical climatic and vegetative features. The coastal plain extends 15 to 150 kilometers (9 to 93 mi) inland from the Gulf of Guinea, and has an average elevation of 90 metres (295 ft). Exceedingly hot and humid with a short dry season, this belt is densely forested and includes some of the wettest places on earth.

The population in Cameroon was 23,439,189 by 2016. The life expectancy is 56 years (55.9 years for males and 58.6 years for females). According to the latest census, Cameroon still has slightly more women (50.6%) than men (49.4%). Nearly 60% of the population is under the age 25, and people over 65 years of age account for only 3.2% of the total population.

Cameroon's population is almost evenly divided between urban and rural dwellers. Population density is highest in the large urban centres, the western highlands, and the northeastern plain. Douala, Yaoundé, and Garoua are the largest cities. In contrast, the Adamawa Plateau, southeastern, Bénoué and most of the South Cameroons Plateaus are sparsely populated.

According to the World Health Organization, the fertility rate was 4.8 in 2013 with a population growth rate of 2.56%.

_The Genesis of the Crisis:_

In 1961, two different people of two different colonial borders; two different national languages, two different political setup, with two different judicial and education systems; ‘freely’ united to form a confederation; a two federated states for prosperity sake. By 1972 however, the stronger counterpart as per population, and under the auspices of a colonial power – France; usurped the rights and freedoms of the less populated side - the Southern Cameroons, by augmenting the occupation police and taking over leadership of the land and the people through political institutions. Is it a coincidence that, it was during the same year oil was discovered in commercial quantity in the Southern Cameroons? Constitutional reforms were made on the 1961 constitution although there were clauses that rightly stipulated that, the form of the state shall not be altered. Not only was the form of the state changed, during subsequent years, the two stars on the flag were equally altered and even the former name of the French Cameroon became the name that both sides would bear up until today.

Many reasons accounted for the independence of African nations in 1960s and part of this was the wind of change. The founders of the UN had declared that human beings were equal and this automatically necessitated the labeling of nations equal as well because, they are politically inhabited. Thus, countries were called to be part of the UN so that; they could inherit the grace of territorial equality at international levels.

However, some trust territories (nations) that were considered small or economically weak at that time were given their “independence by joining.” By this I mean, attaching their national territories and sovereignties onto other states. To a certain extent, it meant that, during the celebration of the independence day of the smaller perched nation, both nations ought to celebrate and vice versa, while recognizing each one’s uniqueness. Such was the case of the Southern Cameroons for about 12 years. It was reported that, although the Union of both nations was not officially regularized at the United Nations, both people had lived respecting their different unique values, principles and systems, including their different systems of law and education to an acceptable degree, until 1972. The discovery of oil, many have said, fuelled the sudden change towards crude annexation and this has adversely affected the twin nation’s economy, social and political systems, and sadly enough has destroyed the brotherly atmosphere that should have continued to exist and create the opportunities for both camps to build on interdependence and mutual prosperity as one people .

Although the UN has no laws that forbid people to ask for self-determination or self-governance, the people of Southern Cameroons have been tortured psychologically, mentally, and many a time physically when they make allusions of their origins. I believe that, the goal of seeing nations or a people heading towards self-determination and self-rule preoccupied the UN at that time when nations were given options on independence. It is not an easy task to coordinate an individual talk , less of all nations. It is normal therefore to imagine that, certain human errors could have been made by the UN officials during those tense moments of quest for liberation by various nations. No one and no institution is perfect, but what we cannot condone in this modern day , is the justification of errors, in the face of gross monstrosity carried out due to the consequences of the excess or omissions of that era.

The death of thousands of people should be everyone’s concern especially the UN. It is part of the UN’s responsibility to look into her legacy and see how they can right the wrongs that were carried out in Southern Cameroons. The eyesore in this area is nothing short of genocide and I don’t care which side is perpetrating the evil. Evil is Evil and must be condemned. The world must not let human beings be slaughtered like animals and come around to make peace, when war stories intertwine and become complex to detach. That should be done now. Indicators oblige us to act soonest.

Africa must honour the legacy of Mr. Kofi Annan with a demonstrable stable peace , by democratizing the principles and benefits of democracy for a sustainable leadership on the continent. It is no overstatement to say that, the greatest tribute the people of this continent must pay to this noble and illustrious elder - an incredible son of Africa, is to deepen the principles of good governance, peace and security; as tenets for achieving the Africa that we all desire to see: The Africa that will competitively engage in world affairs; taking a central stage in commerce, industry, technology, education, health, agriculture, water, sanitation, aerospace-technology, and banking; a continent that will be devoid of devastating brutalities, corruption, ethnic cleansing, racial segregation, nepotism, unemployment, and all forms of crimes against humanity; a people with access to clean and portable drinking water ; the Africa with nations that can feed their own and have abundance to share with the world.

Dr. Adesina, the president of African Development Bank referred to the continent as the breadbasket to the world. In as much as I agree with him to a large extent, I still maintain that, Africa is the hope of the new world that’s still trapped in a poisonous web of a serious leadership crisis; a flaw that has marred the enormous possibilities and potentials we have, to feed and heal the globe.

The underpinning reason for underdevelopment and many crisis in the region, in simply terms is poor leadership. The immorality of many leaders in Africa with the support of some of their past colonial masters cannot be overstressed. With the monetization of politics that is trending rapidly, and eating up the fabric of our ethics and morality, the crisis in Cameroon may last for decades, if righteous leaders don’t emerge to condemn and find ways to right the wrongs.

Thanks to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, J.J Rawlings, Paul Kagame, and many others who gallantly sustained the freedom struggle towards justice, peace, security, and accelerated development in their nations. Africa is gradually leaving the quagmire of colonialism but, we still have got much work to, especially on areas such as political leadership. The Crisis in Cameroon is a signal that, we still have a long way to go.

To say the least, the international community and global leadership have woefully failed to take the appropriate measures that should have curbed the crisis in Cameroon and if nothing is done now, the future would be easily foreseeable although, it would be predictions of bad omen and doom.

While we appreciate a step of peace taken by Mr Paul Biya to hold a national dialogue on the crisis , i will equally urge the the UN Secretary General Antonio Gurerres and his Security Council together with the AU, to quickly setup a special committee - high powered taskforce made of experts , currents and formers heads of states,religious leaders , civil society organizations etc , to move into Cameroon as a matter urgent and help restore hope and a sense of security and trust in this unstable climate.

Dr. Donald Agumenu Leadership and Governance Expert