The International Crisis Group (ICG), a transnational NGO, is ringing the alarm about a deadlock in negotiations that many hoped would bring peace to the restive English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
"In the last 20 months, the conflict has left 1,850 dead, 530,000 internally displaced and tens of thousands of refugees. The intransigence of the belligerents threatens to generate further violence and prolong the conflict, which neither (side) can win in the short term", the ICG emphasised in a 2 May report.
The so-called Anglophone Crisis, also known as the Ambazonia War, began in September 2017, when separatists in English-speaking Northwest Region and Southwest Region, together known as Southern Cameroons, proclaimed independence from Yaoundé.
Commenting on the ICG findings, Joseph Lea Ngoula, a security analyst, highlighted that "in just 20 months, the escalation of the crisis in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon has generated the same number of civilian and military casualties as the Boko Haram* conflict did in four years".
"This is a record in the recent history of Cameroon", the security analyst told Sputnik France. "And the government forces fail to stop the irresistible rise of separatist militias".
Founded in 2002, Boko Haram is a jihadist terrorist organisation based in Nigeria. It is also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon.
Anglophone General Conference
However, the initiative, spearheaded by Cardinal Christian Tumi, faced opposition from the country's government, which prompted Anglophone religious leaders to postpone the event to November 2018 and then to March 2019.
"Various external pressures that the Cameroonian government is now facing could contribute to the holding of this conference", said Moussa Njoya, a Cameroonian political analyst. "In 2018, the government made every effort to upend the conference. They have even managed to put Cardinal Christian Tumi under suspicion of favouring the separatists."
Njoya explained that while the government was throwing sand in the gears of the conference, some separatists had become extreme radicals. According to the analyst, they now claim that those who will maintain dialogue with the government in Yaoundé are traitors.
"Meanwhile, in the government camp, many believe that federalists and separatists are enemies of the nation and therefore it is not possible to maintain a dialogue with them", Njoya underscored.
Cameroon Government Should Show Goodwill
To break the deadlock, the Cameroon government could show goodwill and release many participants of the rebellion, for example, Mancho BBC, Ayuk Tabe, and other English-speaking leaders arrested in 2017, Njoya suggested.
"It would be good if the overwhelming majority of the separatists laid down their arms and followed the path of normalisation," the political analyst opined. "But we see that to date, many have benefitted from this conflict: they kidnap people and demand ransom,, and impose taxes on civilians. In the territories engulfed by the crisis, the militants grab cars, houses, etc. in the name of the fight."
The organisation also urges the government to launch investigations into abuses by the security forces; and release the hundreds of Anglophone activists. In exchange, the report continues, "the separatists should renounce their strategy of Monday 'ghost towns' (general strikes) and their school boycott and expel combatants guilty of abuses against civilians".
International Actors Should Step In to Break the Deadlock
However, Joseph Lea Ngoula expressed bewilderment that the authors of the report had somehow forgotten about Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council.
"In the coming months, both countries will play a major role in resolving the Cameroonian issue on various UN arenas", Ngoula noted. "It appears that Yaounde regards them as allies and counts on them while withstanding the pressure exerted by Western countries".
The security analyst opined that Yaounde may request assistance from Moscow and Beijing in order to compensate for the reduction of Western aid as well as ask Russia and China to prevent the inclusion of the Cameroonian issue in the Security Council's agenda.
"Probably, Russia will enjoy playing such a role. After all, it wants to restore its position in Africa," Ngoula suggested.
*Boko Haram is affiliated with Daesh (IS/ISIL), a terrorist group banned in Russia
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