As the Anglophone crisis, which has since morphed into an armed conflict in the North West and South-West regions, rages on, there have been a myriad of calls for a mediated negotiation to end the stalemate. One of such institutions that have been called to play the role of mediation is the Vatican. Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, a Senior Associate for Africa and Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, NDI, and prominent British politician, Lord Alton David Patrick Paul, have made fresh calls for the Vatican to urgently mediate to seek an end to the bloodletting in the North West and South-West regions.
Lord Alton, it should be noted, is a former Liberal Party and later Liberal Democrat member of the British parliament, who has sat as a crossbench member of the House of Lords since 1997 when he was made a life peer. Dr. Chris Fomunyoh and Lord Alton made this recent appeal in a coordinated outing to the Independent Catholic News media outlet published in the Vatican.
Vatican mediation could be game changer’
“The Vatican has moral authority worldwide, including with government leaders in Cameroon. How can it afford not to leverage those relationships to bring peace and social justice to a bleeding nation where 20 percent of its population constitutes the minority Anglophones who are facing an existential threat now and for future generations?”
, Fomunyoh told Independent Catholic News. He added that: “I think of the very instrumental role played by the Romebased and Vatican-connected Community of Saint Edigio in bringing peace to then war-torn Mozambique in the early 1990s, and wonder why such an effort cannot be undertaken for Cameroon where thousands have been killed, close to 400 villages burnt, and over one million dislocated either as internally displaced persons or refugees”
Meanwhile, talking further to The Guardian Post, Dr. Fomunyoh indicated that the very high level of mistrust and hatred that have developed since the beginning of the crisis and the casualties that continue to mount on both sides including civilians, make it extremely difficult for all parties to sit around the same table without third party facilitation. He said this approach has worked in many African countries, including Mozambique where the Vatican and Rome-based organisation, El Gideo, played pivotal roles. “There’s no reason it can’t work for Cameroon…, ” he said.
“If that’s what is needed to bring an end to the killings and atrocities, and to alleviate the pain and suffering of the people, then every peace crusader in and out of government, at home or abroad, must pursue it, rather than pontificate while people continue to die on a daily basis, ” Dr. Fomunyoh added emphatically. ‘Vatican mediation
could be game changer’ For his part, Lord Alton said: “I have followed events in the troubled Anglophone regions of Cameroon since violence broke out, and local contacts believe that circumstances are now changing. This is the moment for the Vatican to once more offer itself as an impartial mediator, trying to get all parties to the conflict to participate in peace talks”
. “There is a military stalemate between separatist forces and the Cameroon government, with unarmed civilians suffering intolerable conditions, caught in the middle. The Church’s renewed participation could be a game changer-bringing about a ceasefire and offering much-needed hope to Cameroon’s Anglophone citizens”
Surge in violence
It should be recalled that the past weeks have seen a surge in violence between armed separatist groups and the military in the troubled North West and South-West regions. The separatist fighters have recently been using improvised explosive devices on the military with devastating effects. Human rights groups have warned that the military is targeting villages in response, with unarmed civilians bearing the brunt of the crisis.
However, many analysts, including national and international rights groups, have noted that military force will not address grievances and mediation is necessary. Recall that in 2019, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Switzerland offered to hold peace talks between the belligerents. Although some pro-independence groups have signed on, the Cameroon government has not shown any signs in favour of such a move. More than two years later, Cameroonians and the world are waiting and watching. Watchers of the fracas are thus suggesting that it is time another credible institution multiplies efforts to bring all sides, including civil society, to the negotiating table. Due to the crisis in the North West and South-West regions, thousands of civilians have been killed, hundreds of villages burnt, the majority of schools have been closed for four years, and nearly one million people were, or are internally displaced, with some estimated seventy thousand more living as refugees in neighbouring Nigeria while others are scattered elsewhere.
In January 2021, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, visited Cameroon and urged President Paul Biya to enter peace talks with Anglophone separatists. However, with changing circumstances on the ground, pundits say the moment is ripe for the Vatican’s to mediate a ceasefire talks. While Catholic priests and other religious figures have been targeted during the conflict, the Church, as a key moral authority, observers posit, should be central to efforts to find a peaceful way forward using the negotiating table
Source: By Solomon Tembang
The Guardian Post – Daily
N° 2267 Wednesday October 13, 2021