10 June 2019

Cameroon: Situation in North West/ South West - Building Dynamic Dialogue

Photo: HCR/Elizabeth Mpimbaza
Displaced families (file photo).

The fallouts of the eventful outing last month by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute in the two restive regions of Cameroon remain fresh as he pushed through the Head of State's message of concerted action.

It is no news that the situation which has degenerated into conflict in the North West and South West Regions can only be handled through genuine dialogue. Yet, the debate that bitter rancour has created and the violent spillovers since 2016 have been such that the actors and the issues to be discussed do call for keen attention. To push the peace efforts further, the Head of State reshuffled the cabinet on 4 January 2019, ushering in Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute who on 9 May 2019 launched a peace initiative in Bamenda, North West Region and later in Buea, Limbe, and Kumba in the South West Region.

Apart from the contacts with the grassroots, the Prime Minister, Head of Government delivered a strong message; "The Head of State instructed me to come to the North West Region with a message of peace and reconciliation", he said adding that the President was ready to discuss every issue except breaking up the country into pieces and any repentant defaulters were forgiven.

Prime Minister Dion Ngute's message was logical, given that on 31 December 2017 during his State-of-the-Nation address to Cameroonians, President Paul Biya stated that; "I am aware that the wish of every Cameroonian of goodwill is to see an end to tensions in the North-West and South-West Regions and a return to normalcy. The vast majority of Cameroonians aspire to live together in peace. Bearing in mind this aspiration, I set up the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism which will play a key role in promoting our togetherness."

Opinions have so far been varied on building a nation but evidently nothing has changed especially on the resolve of those who have the goodwill to let Cameroon get out of the dilemma. Of course, the first major responsibility to proffer solutions lies on the shoulders of the government of the Republic of Cameroon under the leadership of President Paul Biya.

The protracted nature of the problem has not been as a result of lack of options or solutions proposed. Rather, every indication points to profound differences that require bolder and foresighted decisions which must all end up giving way to an inclusive society where all citizens feel accepted and united. The list of government-initiated proposals and the fallouts have been many.

Once the Head of State identified the question of national harmony as the epicentre of disillusionment, the immediate response was the creation of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism through decree N° 2017/013 of the 23rd January 2017. By April that same year, former Prime Minister Peter Mafany Musonge was appointed to head the Commission alongside other respectable Cameroonians.

It is as an advisory body with legal personality and financial autonomy. Irrespective of the intermediary solutions, by 30 November 2018, the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Committee (DDRC) in charge of ex Boko Haram fighters in the Far North Region and armed groups in the North West and South West Regions, was put in place by a Presidential decree. On 4 December 2018, retired Governor Fai Yengo Francis was appointed as the National Coordinator and installed into his function on 13 December 2018.

Officials have since been upbeat about the ability of the structure to deliver concrete results and those who doubt it can cross-check. Initiatives for dialogue from the civil society, political party leaders, private individuals, and even foreign partners of Cameroon can certainly fit in such a national structure and vision, especially if they are intended to enable Cameroonians emerge from the current bloodshed much stronger and forward looking. It might not happen like an electricity switch on the wall that immediately triggers to produce light in a dark room, but it looks easier to say that the wellbeing of Cameroon as a nation has to be paramount.

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