Cameroon: An Irreversible Peace Process

Bafut Palace

The long awaited dialogue has come and gone leaving serious immortalizing imprints for Cameroonians in and out of the country to ponder on. The three years that preceded the convening of the Major National Dialogue witnessed a medley of events marked by consistent conflict, arms struggle, deaths, displacements of the population and a steady growth of hate speeches on the streets as well as the media. Cameroonians who have all these years known and spoken but the language of peace found it difficult to understand what was happening to their country. But as it is always said, no condition remains permanent and everything that has a beginning has an end. The convening of the Major National Dialogue by the Head of State responded to the soothing aspirations of the greater majority of the population. In fact, all segments of the conflict that erupted in October, 2016 and has rocked the North West and South West Regions since then, waited impatiently for this great event even though with split expectations as to how it should be organized.

As the over 1,500 participants at the opening ceremony and about 600 in the plenary and committee sessions left the Yaounde Conference Centre on Friday, October 04, there was every evidence that the tree of peace has been planted. What is left now is for it to be nurtured with fertilizer and sprayed with insecticides to ensure it doesn't wither and die. From every indication, the sentimental attachment the population had towards the organization of this dialogue is such that nobody would really wish for its collapse.

It is true that political bickering that preceded the dialogue put many Cameroonians in several ideological camps making the Anglophone problem such a sensitive issue that could likely tear the country apart. And so, several thousands were forced to flee their own homes, some becoming internally displaced and others refugees. The wounds of the problem, which according to Sultan Ibrahim Njoya could easily be resolved became so deep as to require the expertise of a serious physician to get them healed. It is true that in a conflict like this one, there are bound to be extremists and moderates. Such is the case with the one in the North West and South West Regions. Be it extremists or moderates, the underlying point is that the dialogue has set the stage for a process that must usher in the long awaited peace. The truth about the Anglophone problem is that it was like a political volcano that has been boiling for decades but which exploded in 2016. This explains why it would be absurd for anyone to think that a problem which has taken so long to reach this dangerous apex can be solved with a twinkle of an eye. It takes one step to cover a journey of 1,000 miles. That one step is the launching of the dialogue that just ended opening floodgates of further discussions and implementation of recommendations that emerged from it. The Head of State in a tweet congratulated participants for their devotedness and committed to implement the said recommendations; of course within the ambit of the opportunities, feasibilities and capacities thereof. One thing remains clear; in a dialogue, one must not expect to have everything. It is a give and take exercise. Many people might have expected the adoption of a Federal system as indicated by Simon Munzu in an interview with the Cameroon Radio Television, but if they didn't have it, they could see how to exploit the opportunities given to them by the eventual creation of a special status whose content is yet to be fully defined. The dialogue journey has just begun and how successful it will be will very much depend on Cameroonians themselves. It is an irreversible process that must go right to the end.

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