CHRDA/CSOs ignites African Union’s attention, request quick intervention to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon


In the letter which traced the historical background to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, a host of Civil Society Organizations regret the silence of the international community over the said crisis and take the African Union to task.  Since the start of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon (2016), there has been effort from the Civil Society Organizations to encourage the government and Separatist activist to engaged in a dialogue/negotiations process to no avail. In their letter, they hail the efforts these organizations have been making but question the international silence. Let us hope for the return of justice and peace in the English Speaking Regions of Cameroon. below is the letter

 

H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat

Chairman of the African Union Commission

African Union Headquarters

P.O. Box 3243, Roosevelt Street W21K19

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

H.E.  Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Chairperson of the African Union

African Union Headquarters

P.O. Box 3243, Roosevelt Street W21K19

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

H.E. Fatima Kyari Mohammed

Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

305 E 47th St, New York, NY 10017, USA

New York, USA

EXCELLENCIES​:    We, the undersigned human rights organizations, practitioners, and experts, are writing to urge you to take concrete action to confront the current crisis in Cameroon. The conflict in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon continues to worsen, and has deteriorated in such a manner, and at such a pace, that it threatens not only the state of Cameroon, but the wider region. It is our grave concern, that in the absence of firm action by regional organizations including the African  Union, the situation will only continue to deteriorate..

SITUATION SUMMARY

Historic Context   

What is known as the ‘Anglophone Crisis’ today has been known for generations as ‘the Anglophone question’ or the ‘Anglophone problem’, with roots in a controversial decolonization  process that remains contested by Anglophone Cameroonians. The crux of this controversy lies in the plebiscite that offered the former British Southern Cameroons the option to join either independent Nigeria or Cameroon, without the opportunity for the formation of their own  independent state. Acts by Presidents Ahidjo (1960-1982) and Biya (1982- present) have been  perceived by Anglophone Cameroonians as marginalising, such as the abolition of the federal  state that gave the Anglophone regions a degree of autonomy, and the removal of the second star  from the Cameroonian flag, which represented the country’s bilingualism.

Current Situation 

Protests originating from the imposition of French-language judges, teachers, and procedures in Anglophone-region courts and schools began in late 2016, and were met with a heavy-handed  military and police response. This was followed by the detention of Anglophone leaders in January 2017 (Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium) and sporadic denial of internet service in the Anglophone regions. As the crisis worsened, Anglophone communities began observing weekly ‘ghost days’ (shutting down markets and prohibiting travel) and closing schools, keeping children at home. In some areas, children have not been in school since the Fall of 2016.  On October 1, 2017, Anglophone separatists symbolically declared an independent state, ‘Ambazonia.’ In the following months, increased violence by the Cameroonian security forces sparked retaliatory attacks by armed separatist groups.

Over time, the conflict has birthed approximately nineteen armed groups who use irregular tactics in confrontations with government forces (International Crisis Group, 2019: 32-33). Some of these groups have killed and dismembered security force members and harmed and kidnapped Anglophone civilians who appear unsupportive of secession.  Meanwhile government forces have engaged in extrajudicial killings, beating and arresting protestors, burning villages, and using force disproportionately and indiscriminately. The crisis’ evolution has created a full-fledged humanitarian disaster, rife with grave human rights violations, ongoing violence, and death.

The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa and the ​Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights ​(2019) reported that 206 villages have been partially or completely burned since  the beginning of the crisis.​ ​The rate of attacks on villages has increased steadily over the last two  years. Attacks of this sort have created mass displacement. Recent estimates suggest that 550,000 people have been internally displaced as a result of the crisis. “[A]round 80 per cent are thought to have sought refuge in the forest, where they have no access to shelter, water or sanitation” (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2019: 16). Approximately 35,000 people have fled the Anglophone regions to neighbouring countries.

The United Nations estimates that 4.3 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in  Cameroon. These civilians often lack food, water, shelter, or adequate medical care. Sexual and  gender-based violence is increasing, and health centres have been targeted by combatants, facing  burning, shooting, and raiding. In some Anglophone areas, children have been out of school for  nearly three years. Pupils, students, and teachers have been kidnapped and school buildings have  been burned. According to Norwegian Refugee Council Director Jan Egeland, who recently  visited the Anglophone regions, “[w]e risk losing a generation to illiteracy” (Egeland, 2019).  Egeland’s statement was underlined by a UNICEF announcement in June 2019, that the targeting  of education in the Anglophone regions has seen at least 600,000 children affected, with 75  schools destroyed.

Domestic Efforts to Address the Crisis

The government has made some efforts to address the crisis. In 2017, it established the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism (Decree No. 2017/013, 23

January 2017). In 2018, it created the National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration  Committee (Decree No. 2018/719, 30 November 2018). Neither of these bodies has “undertaken  investigations, let alone informed the public of the results or provided compensation to victims.”  In a private communication made in connection with the CHRDA-RWCHR report, one  Cameroonian lawyer expressed the concern that these initiatives were ‘just a tool to show the  international community that the government is committed to resolving conflict.’” (CHRDA &  RWCHR, 2019:11).

In February 2019, Prime Minister Dion Ngute travelled to the Anglophone regions carrying a  message of peace and dialogue but maintaining the government’s position to ban discussions of  separation. On the second to last day of PM Ngute’s visit to the South-West region, the military  burned over 70 homes in Mankon, North-West Region (Human Rights Watch, 2019).

 

International Efforts to Address the Crisis

International responses to the crisis have been muted. Some countries have made statements encouraging peace and dialogue, and countries such as Belgium and Germany have offered to  assist the Cameroonian government in managing bilingualism.

In May 2018, the African Commission released a resolution on Cameroon’s human rights situation. In February 2019, the United States cut some military aid to Cameroon due to human rights violations (Browne & Hansler, 2019), and has also imposed targeted sanctions on key government members. In April 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to address the crisis. In May 2019, the UNSC held an Arria-Formula Meeting on the humanitarian situation in Cameroon, sponsored by the United  States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Dominican Republic.

Crimes Against Humanity

The CHRDA-RWCHR report (2019) provides evidence that the following crimes against  humanity have been perpetrated in Cameroon:

-murder

-deportation or forcible transfer of populations

-imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of  fundamental rules of international law

-torture

-rape and sexual violence

-persecution of the Anglophone minority

Violence has been perpetrated by both government security forces and non-state actors, including  local armed groups. “Separatist militias are battling government forces, while two organizations  have been directing separatists from outside Cameroon to fight not only against Cameroonian  security forces, but also against pro-government “self-defence” groups. Meanwhile, criminal  gangs terrorize local inhabitants, wreaking havoc” (CHRDA-RWC, 2019: 27). The report findings also indicate that much of the violence is ‘intentional and planned,’ including for example  murdering people in their homes, indiscriminately shooting at civilians, engaging in violence  against women, and burning villages. “The evidence points to a deliberate and violent campaign  against civilian populations” (CHRDA-RWC, 2019: 7).

 

Afterword

Contextually, it is important to note that beyond the Anglophone Crisis, Cameroon faces significant challenges. Boko Haram continues to wage a campaign of terror against the military and civilians in the Lake Chad area, including Cameroon’s Far North region.  Growing numbers of refugees seeking asylum from Nigeria and the Central African Republic are also entering Cameroon. Following peaceful protests in January 2019, opposition leader Maurice Kamto and hundreds of his supporters were arrested. Kamto remains in Kondegui maximum security prison in Yaoundé to the present day, and his supporters have protested in Cameroon, in Europe, and in North America.

It is the Cameroonian government’s primary responsibility to protect all its populations from mass atrocity crimes. This crisis now demands regional and international attention and action to reduce violence, protect civilians, uphold universal human rights, and facilitate dialogue and peace.

 

GUIDED BY ​African Union (AU)’s vision of ​ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based  violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide in the continent by 2020 through the Silencing  the Guns Intiative.

INSPIRED ​by​ ​the African Union (AU) Department of Peace and Security and its commitment  to mediation and conflict prevention and its ambition to operationalize the AU Mediation  Support Unit (MSU) and the 833rd meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) on “The  Role of Women in Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: The Contribution of  Women Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Returnees in Africa”.

ACKNOWLEDGE ​the contributions of the African Union and its endorsement of the  importance of treaties in international relations, notably in the area of maintenance of peace,  encouraging dialogue along with the consolidation and promotion of international law.

BEARING IN MIND​ the African Union’s commitment to Statute of the African Union  Commission on International Law (AUCIL) and African Union’s Articles 3 and 4 which  underscore the importance of accelerating the socio-economic development of the Continent  through the promotion of research in all fields;

WELCOME​ ​United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s remarks at the United  Nations Security Council on Conflict prevention and mediation:

Conflict prevention and mediation are two of the most important tools at our disposal to  reduce human suffering. When we act early, and are united, we can successfully prevent  crises from escalating, saving lives and reducing suffering and fulfilling the most  fundamental mandate of the United Nations, as set out in the Preamble of the Charter.

Despite these efforts, peace faces enormous obstacles. Divisions in the international  community mean that wars continue to rage as external actors dither or even fuel the  violence. Civilians pay the price. The fragmentation of non-State armed groups and  militias causes even greater chaos. There is a resurgence of populism and policies that  contribute to resentment, marginalization and extremism, even in societies that are not at  war. There are attempts in some countries to roll back human rights and the progress that  has been made over recent decades on gender and inclusion. Space for civil society is  shrinking.

The human and financial costs of conflict are high, and rising. Forced displacement is at  the highest levels since the Second World War, and hunger is resurgent after years of  decline. We cannot afford to reduce the energy and resources we invest in prevention and  mediation. But let’s not fool ourselves. Prevention and mediation will not work without  broader political efforts. I urge Council members, and all Member States, to strive for  greater unity so that prevention and mediation efforts are as effective as possible. That is  the only way to meet our responsibilities to the people we serve.

ENDORSE ​United Nations Security Council Resolutions​:

  1. Protection of civilians in armed conflict – Missing persons in armed  conflictS/RES/2474(2019);
  2. Women and peace and security: Sexual violence in conflict (S/RES/2467(2019));
  3. Children and armed conflict (S/RES/2427 (2018));
  4. Protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/RES/2417 (2018));

RECALL​ AFRICAN UNION Treaties:

  1. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  2. African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced  Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention);
  3. OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa;
  4. Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women  in Africa.

 

FURTHER RECALL ​Cameroon’s Commitment to International Treaties:

  1. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or  Punishment;
  2. Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture;
  3. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  4. Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
  5. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
  6. Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  7. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of  Children in Armed Conflict;
  8. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

 

REMIND​ Cameroon’s acceptance of individual complaints procedures for Cameroon:

  1. Individual complaints procedure under the Convention against Torture;
  2. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

REQUEST​ the Commission

REQUEST​ the Commission to ensure that:

A) The African Union (Peace and Security Council) sets up a Commission of Inquiry,  including a panel of experts, and demands a Fact-finding mission to Cameroon with  access to all regions of the country;

a. Specifically, it is imperative that the Commission of Inquiry include an  investigation into the credible evidence of crimes against humanity.

B) The African Union engages the diasporic groups of Cameroonians living abroad as they  compose the leadership of many of the non-state armed groups. Further, many  individuals in the diaspora are themselves responsible for provoking hate speech and  violence amongst the non-state armed groups;

a. Specifically, it is imperative that the African Union directly denounce and  condemn all individuals spreading hate over social media, especially those  operating from safety overseas.

C) The African Union initiates a peace building process in Cameroon;

D) The African Union works with various members of the United Nations Security Council  to find a resolution and prevent further conflict in Cameroon;

E. The African Union should urge the Government of the Republic of Cameroon to— 

1. Initiate broad-based dialogue without preconditions and make a credible, full faith  effort to work with religious and community leaders in the Anglophone region to  address grievances and seek nonviolent solutions to resolve conflict; 

2. Directly engage with separatist leaders in a series of confidence building measures  such as track two diplomacy.  This must be done in a way that ensures the safety  of all those who partake. Specifically, this refers to the Cameroonians in the  diaspora in the United States;  

3. Respect the fundamental rights of all Cameroonian citizens, including political  activists and journalists; 

4. Work with regional human rights organizations in Cameroon and in Africa to  address the crisis;  

5. Ensure that any security operations are conducted in accordance with  international human rights standards, including that security forces only use force  under appropriate circumstances; 

6. Transparently investigate all allegations of human rights violations committed in  the Anglophone regions and take the necessary measures to prevent arbitrary  detention, torture, enforced disappearances, deaths in custody, and inhumane  prison conditions; 

7. Release the leaders and members of the opposition parties, human rights  defenders, civil society activists, political prisoners, journalists, trade unionists,  teachers, and any other citizens who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained  without trial or charge. 

8. Ensure that detainees are treated fairly and humanely, with proper judicial  proceedings, including a registry of those detained by the Cameroonian security  forces, and with full access to legal resources;  

9. Ensure that arrests and detention have been made in accordance with the  principles established by the Guidelines on Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody  and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa (Luanda Guidelines) 

10. Ensure that Cameroon’s antiterrorism legislation is used only to prosecute  offenses that would be considered acts of terrorism under international legal  standards, and cease to use this legislation to sanction activities that are protected  by national and international guarantees of freedom of expression, peaceful  assembly, and association with others.  

11. Cease any procedures that make the operation of humanitarian organizations in  the Northwest and Southwest difficult and ensure broad, and inclusive action.  

12. Demilitarize the Northwest and Southwest of Cameroon, and cease intrusive  practices such as home invasions that only cause radicalization to increase.  

13. Ensure that in any dialogue that is initiated with separatists that the voices of  women and youth along with ethic and religious minorities are heard.

F. The African Union should work with its members and other like-minded states to: 

1. Make recommendations to prevent further human rights violations in the context of  peaceful demonstrations and ensure accountability; 

2. Impose targeted punitive sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for grave  human rights violations in Cameroon. 

3. Offer their good offices to ensure that the Cameroonian Government is willing to sit  down with the separatists to facilitate the dialogue needed to end the violence. 

 G.  The African Union should urge the separatist groups to— 

1. Engage with Cameroonian government officials, as well as civil society and religious  leaders, in a broad-based inclusive dialogue without preconditions to peacefully express  grievances and credibly engage in nonviolent efforts to resolve the conflict; 

2. Publically announce their support for the immediate termination of inhumane practices  such as decapitations, assassinations of government personnel, and the targeting of civil  society leaders;  

3. Cease the usage of misinformation and disinformation with the general public that both  intentionally and unintentionally has caused the spread of violence and human suffering. For instance, cease politicizing humanitarian assistance by spreading the lie that it is laced  with poison; 

 4. Cease all actions against international and local NGOs including the kidnaping of the staff  of organizations, and prohibiting the passage of their vehicles through checkpoints on  roads such as those in between Buea and Kumba.  

5. Clearly, and without hesitation, denounce all acts that incite attacks and violence against  civilians, government personnel, and officials alike.  

6. Immediately stop committing human rights abuses, including killings of civilians, use of  child soldiers, torture, immediately end all forms of kidnapping, and extortion; 

7. End the school boycott immediately and cease attacks on schools, teachers, and education  officials, and allow for the safe return of all students to class under the current education  system;  

8. End the economic sabotage and ghost towns that are wreaking havoc on the livelihoods  of civilians across the two Anglophone regions.  

9. End incitement to violence and hate speech on the part of the diaspora; and 

10. Immediately release all civilians illegally detained or kidnapped in the Anglophone  Northwest and Southwest regions.   

Atrocities should not be allowed to continue with impunity in Cameroon by any party to the  conflict. All perpetrators of grave violations need to be held to the same standard regardless of  whether they are government security forces or separatists.

We further believe that peace talks  and mediation are vital to ensuring that peace is returned to Cameroon and we request that  African Union lead the effort.      

We look forward to the African Union’s engagement in resolving the conflict in Cameroon. 

the signatories to the letter are;

African Bar Association

Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA)

Anglophone Crisis Project 

Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect 

Vanguard Africa

Montreal Institute of Genocide and Human Rights Studies

Cameroon American Council

Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)

Reach Out Cameroon

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Oasis Network

Debbie Stothard (Secretary General, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

The ​Raoul Wallenberg​ Centre for ​Human Rights

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

 

Categories: Uncategorized

2 comments

  1. You are correct but did you seek their advice before advocating for war and declaring war to attend independence?

    Like

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