The conflict-torn Anglophone North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon have received praise for their peace efforts from the Canadian government.
A complex military struggle between the government forces and armed separatist organizations has developed from what started as a political disagreement in the Anglophone part of Cameroon.
According to a report by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, English-speaking lawyers, students, and teachers started protesting what they called “neglect” and “cultural marginalization” by the Francophone-dominated government of Cameroon in 2016, which resulted in a violent crackdown by security forces.
The recruitment of Francophone teachers, prosecutors, and judges in Anglophone regions was protested by the unions. According to a report by The Conversation, the union leadership criticized these appointments as being a part of the government’s slow but persistent process of “francophonizing” the state.
In the North-West and South-West regions, Anglophone separatists declared independence and a new “Ambazonia” state in October 2017. This declaration sparked a deadly conflict between armed separatists and Cameroonian security forces.
The separatist organizations have referred to themselves as an effort to “restore” the “Republic of Ambazonia.” Anglophone dissident lawyer Fon Gorji Dinka came up with the moniker “Ambazonia” in the middle of the 1980s; it is taken from Ambas Bay in the Gulf of Guinea, according to The Conversation.
Since 2017, at than 6,000 people have died in the conflict, including civilians and children. According to the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, security forces have carried out extrajudicial executions, committed widespread sexual and gender-based violence, burned Anglophone villages, and arbitrarily detained, tortured, and otherwise mistreated people who are suspected of having separatist ties.
The warring sides have finally agreed to start a formal peace process after years of deadly hostilities, with Canada given the responsibility to facilitate the process.
In a statement released on Friday, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs,Mélanie Joly, welcomed the parties’ decision to begin a process to find a comprehensive, peaceful, and political solution to the conflict. She also noted that the parties had decided to establish technical committees to start developing confidence-building measures.
Canada applauds the warring parties for holding meaningful discussions and urges all parties involved to support and cooperate with the parties in order to develop and contribute to an inclusive process that will lead to a just and durable political settlement.
The statement, released by Global Affairs Canada, partly read, “Civilians are bearing the brunt of the ongoing crisis in Cameroon, with more than 6,000 people having lost their lives since 2017. In addition, nearly 800,000 people have been displaced as a result of this crisis, and 600,000 children do not have full access to education.
“Canada welcomes the agreement by the parties to enter a process to reach a comprehensive, peaceful and political resolution of the conflict. The parties have also agreed to form technical committees to begin work on confidence-building measures.
“The agreement to enter a formal process is a critical first step toward peace and a safer, more inclusive and prosperous future for civilians affected by the conflict.
“We commend all parties for engaging in substantive dialogue. We encourage all stakeholders to support and work with the parties to advance and contribute to an inclusive process to reach a lasting and sustainable political settlement.
“Canada has accepted the mandate to facilitate this process, as part of our commitment to promote peace and security and advance support for democracy and human rights. Our role also reflects Canada’s engagement to work with our African partners to build a better future for everyone.
“The parties to this agreement are the Republic of Cameroon, the Ambazonia Governing Council and the Ambazonia Defence Force, the African People’s Liberation Movement and the Southern Cameroons Defence Force, the Interim Government, and the Ambazonia Coalition Team. The parties further express the hope that other groups will join the process.’’