Cameroon: Diplomacy - Battle to Cleanse Tainted Image

opinion

Some organizations, political parties, organizations and individuals in 2019 accentuated their manoeuvres to soil Cameroon's image at the international scene.

Government has spent the first year of President Paul Biya's current "Great Opportunities" term of office to cleanse the tainted image of the country at the international scene soiled through smear campaign by some international human rights Non-governmental Organisations, political parties, groups, media and individuals. Using mostly the social media networks, some foreign media organs and some local media organs as relays, the campaigners have levied accusations against Cameroon's defence and security forces.

They make allegations that forces have embarked on gross human rights violations in the socio-political and security crisis in the North West and South West Regions characterised torture, extrajudicial killings of civilians, destruction of property. Government is also accused of being inflexible against opponents of the ruling party with alleged stifling of political manifestations, arrest, detention and torture of political leaders. Faced with these gruesome attacks, government has stood up to give its own true version of the stories, government's policy and vision to promote unity, social cohesion, living together and attainment of economic emergence. For example, government reacted to the false allegations propagated by the French media outlet Mediapart accusing Cameroon's elite force, the Rapid Interventional Battalion (BIR) of rights violations in the Anglophone regions.

Communication Minister and government's spokesperson René Emmanuel Sadi in a press conference last September said, "The allegations of this foreign media, peddled and relayed by a string of international media, reveal an undeniable desire to tarnish the image of the Cameroonian army, that of its leader, and therefore, that of Cameroon as a whole." He further said, "There is no doubt that there again, as we have seen, in other circumstances, is a clear intention to manipulate national and international opinion, to stir up resentment and tensions in a country resolutely committed and mobilized to restore peace and security, where they are today threatened, to demonize and stigmatize a strong and credible army, whose main credo, as we know, lies on the respect of republican institutions, and popular defence, and may be, to question the validity of its participation in the Major National Dialogue."

The international NGO, Human Rights Watch, has targeted Cameroon with its March 2019 report accusing Cameroon's security forces of serious human rights violations against civilians in the North West and South West Regions. In response, Minister Sadi said the NGO was bias as it downplayed the responsibility of armed groups in atrocities committed in the two regions. He described the report as a "systematic tendency to discredit public authorities and the Cameroonian government." Besides the smear media campaign against government, President Biya's first 12 months of the current term of office have been marred by physical demonstrations abroad. Notable cases are the attacks against Cameroon's embassies in Paris, France and Berlin, Germany by militants of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) on January 26, 2019 and attempts to break in to President Biya's hotel in Geneva, Switzerland late June 2019 by the "Brigade Anti-sardinards" gang. The demonstrators in both cases had damaging messages against Cameroon and its Head of State, Paul Biya. Government through the various communication channels, international fora and talks with foreign dignitaries presented the true facts thereby, dispelling the false information propagated by the demonstrators.

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