Cameroon: 'Humanitarian Measures Will Be Much More Effective As Peace Returns'

Damaged building that was part of the torched district hospital in Kumba
interview

Professor Yenshu Emmanuel Vubo, Political Sociologist University of Buea.

How do you appreciate the Head of State's message to the nation that mainly focused on ways to resolve the socio-political and security crisis rocking the North West and South West Regions?

The speech was a balanced one and should inspire hope if the upcoming meeting for a dialogue meets the fundamental problem frontally. By this, I mean that it should not be business as usual. It should go straight to the lone item on the agenda which is the situation of the English speaking component of the polity and that has ramifications on all other problems that could arise from that. This is what has led to the sociopolitical crisis that drifted into a security crisis in the two administrative regions. If the first is solved, then the second and many others including the security angle which is but a fall out of the first will follow. The component I am talking about is that of a culture inherited from a colonial experience expressed in an official language that is used in offices in the two regions and taught in schools with implications in the economy and intercommunity relations. The crisis derives from the stark reality that this component is losing its place in this polity and the people it represents are also losing out. The Head of the State made a diagnosis, indicated measures taken, the evolution of the crisis, and singled out this issue as the lone point on the agenda. It is sufficiently clear that nothing else should be discussed at such a forum contrary to some political actors who think that it could be a replay of the Tripartite Conference of 1991. This is the opportunity for Anglophone Cameroonians to pose their problems lucidly and for the whole nation to resolve the historic disputes that have rocked it in terms of constitutional arrangements. Two positive points can be identified in the speech. The first is that the list of invitees is broad, inclusive, and all-embracing. In that regard, it sends an olive branch to those who have taken up arms. Secondly, there is the hint on presidential pardon within the context of this dialogue. It is normal in such discussions there is a place for the negotiation of several forms of measures of a legal nature (clemency, pardon, amnesty). For now, this has been inscribed within the context of the discussions to take place starting at the end of the month. For the moment, there are national consultations with other stakeholders which I believe is not the dialogue itself. I am looking forward for a very fruitful meeting that will move the nation forward in a positive direction.

Government has put in much efforts and resources through the Head of State's Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Plan. How do you evaluate the impact of the assistance to salvage the situation of Internally Displaced Persons?

It was an innovative initiative in the first place. The classical situation is one where countries go cap in hand begging for assistance in the spirit of dependency. The first implication is the development of a culture of assistantship that puts the country in a helpless condition. The second is that this opens the disaster zone for the influx of humanitarian agencies who are involved in a veritable business of humanitarian assistance. This business feeds on the problem and may not have an interest in resolving it. I am not downplaying the genuine intentions of many of such agencies. The government of Cameroon taking this as its sovereign responsibility decided to launch this plan. My take on implementation is that it too early to evaluate comprehensively since it is still on-going and is hampered in many areas by insecurity. Some materials have been distributed to the displaced but these are contingency measures to succour the despondent. The measures will be much more effective with time as peace returns. It is then that we could expect that this emergency plan extend to more long lasting measures such as the return, resettlement and rehabilitation of the concerned. There will also be a need to rebuild the communities and their social infrastructures as well as help returnees to reconnect into mainstream economic life. The task ahead is still very much.

The Head of State announced the Major National Dialogue intended to solve the crisis. What should be the orientation of the humanitarian assistance plan in the dialogue?

The orientation should be the reconstruction of the communities affected by conflict and the re-insertion of returnees in the communities where they lived or which they wish to resettle. The conflict has turned the social fabric of many a community upside down and there is really a need to assist them in coming back to normal and improving themselves as well as the lives of their inhabitants. These are measures that have to take time (months and even years) to accomplish. When the substantive issues that gave rise to the crisis are resolved, there will be need to rebuild areas affected in terms of social amenities that could have been destroyed and catch up with what has been lost. I am thinking in the latter regard to school children who have lost years of schooling especially in the rural areas, of people who have lost in terms of economic activities and of persons affected psychologically.

As a political sociologist, what do you propose should be done for the National Dialogue to effectively solve the crisis?

A number of proposals come to mind. First, the dialogue should not digress but focus on the essential issues. It should also lead to consensual resolutions that are both binding and durable. The participants should not replicate the habitual recourse to the strategy of Anglophone-Francophone acrimonies whenever the two parties meet. For once, there should be tolerance and a will to listen to each other, especially the Francophone community listening to the Anglophones because the latter are those who are concerned. This will entail negotiations in which there is a give and take. Lastly, a resolution should be taken that all consensual resolutions will be implemented. These will then pass through the due process of institutionalisation (bills in Parliament, passing of laws) and immediate application. Without a commitment to implementation, this may lead to a stalemate. Then it would have been nothing but a waste of time. Hopefully, this should not be the case.

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