Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central Africa Programs at NDI has lamented the ongoing Anglophone crisis as says Cameroonians in the last four years are increasingly losing their humanity and that today killing women and children, unarmed civilians, kids just for going to school have become the fabrics of the society.
The expert on democratization in Africa was talking to Babila Jonathan of Equinox this Monday, January 11 as he looked at the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions, the killings, what can be done to solve the crisis and bring normalcy to the regions.
For the past four years, separatist fighters have been battling government forces in the North West and South West regions. The former is looking to establish an independent state of “Ambazonia”. The conflict started in 2016 with lawyers and teachers and degenerated into a full-blown war in 2016.
Thousands of people have been killed, maimed, kidnapped and others forced to flee their homes for shelter in neighbouring Nigeria and other parts of the country. Both government and separatist fighters have been accused of extrajudicial killings of civilians.
The manager of the Lobe Estate (PAMOL) plantations was recently killed as the crisis in the North West and South West Regions continue to escalate. A principal in Tinto, Manyu Division was assassinated and another shot in the leg. Workers working in plantations have had their fingers chopped off and recently the massacre in Mautu.
“The list is getting longer by the day and it is extremely painful to see the level of violence that is now taking root amongst our people and the violence that seem to be accompanied by impunity and a sense of indifference to human suffering and the destruction that is in place. It is so painful and there comes a time when we have to say enough is enough and we have to bring this violence to an end,” Dr Christopher Fomunyoh who has organized and advised international election missions to Benin, CAR, Cameroon, Liberia, and Ghana said.
According to Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, who recently designed and helped launch the Africa Statesmen Initiative (ASI), a military solution cannot solve the crisis in the country’s North West and South West Regions.
“In 2017 I warned that if you take a military solution to the political problem you are not going to tackle the problem and collectively we as a society are going to lose our humanity. It is so painful that in the last four years we have increasingly lost that humanity and that today killing women and children, unarmed civilians, kids just for going to school have become the fabrics of the society,” He said.
“We have to sit back and revise the approach we have taken for this crisis that what we have tried in the past four years has not worked. We have to understand that this issue can only be resolved through dialogue, mediation, negotiations so we can bring the sufferings to an end. Violence only bequeaths violence and right now I am concerned about not just this conflict but the next one. What people have gone through, close to 70,000 refugees in Nigeria and other countries that people are not going to forget and forgive easily the suffering that they are going through.”
Many observers, however, say the root cause of the ongoing crisis has yet to be fully addressed and that is why the violence persists. This can only be solved if the root cause of the crisis is addressed through a meaningful dialogue by both parties.
“I have said so myself. Until we get down to the root causes of the conflict we are not going to solve it. We have to have the courage and address the grievances and until we do that the rest is just sugar-coating, speeches about a sense of normalcy that is not there. This is unacceptable and we need to address that,” Dr Christopher Fomunyoh said.
On the issue of President Biya’s End of Year address, Dr Christopher says “The things we have seen in the last 10 days are a reminder that whatever message was delivered on the eve of New Year is probably not resonating with the population or the people who have control of the arms. It is about time we stop talking and making speeches and time we sit around a table and settle our differences. Cameroonians are tired of listening to speeches all the time.”
With the call for an end to the violence coming from within and from international bodies, the Regional Director says inviting the leaders of these groups and sitting down in a room using a neutral platform with help from mediators may just be the key to bringing an end to the crisis.
“If the government comes on the table with representatives of these armed groups and that both delegations come out with a joint communiqué saying from henceforth no gun shall be fired in the North West or South West Regions, that kind of joint approach is likely to pay dividend than what we have seen thus far,” Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, a former adjunct professor of African politics and government at Georgetown University said.