By Eric Tataw – Wednesday May 29, 2019.
Refugees International (RI), a non-profit organisation based in the United States Federal capital of Washington District of Columbia with Eric Paul Schwartz, former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration as current president has made recommendations to the Cameroon government, Ambazonia fighters, International Community, United Nations, among others, an article on the organisation’s website, Wednesday May 29, 2019, has shown.
Eric Schwartz’s organisation says Cameroon has long been viewed as a model of stability in a region fraught with conflict. Under the surface, however, tensions between its Anglophone and Francophone populations have simmered for decades.
The Anglophone minority, mostly concentrated in the North-West and South-West regions, has been marginalized, discriminated against, and economically disenfranchised since a referendum ended federalism and joined the two populations in a full political union in 1972, the article stated, among other concerns before proposing recommendations.
To the government of Cameroon, the organisation urged the regime to publicly recognize the severity of the crisis. Cameroonian authorities are responsible for addressing the needs of civilians.
Their failure to recognize the extent of displacement and humanitarian need has direct implications for the well-being of people in the North West and South West and contributes to the failure of the international community to support the response effectively, Refugees International has said.
The organisation also recommends both the Cameroon government and armed groups should guarantee unrestricted access. It opined that the Government of Cameroon and non-state armed groups must ensure safe passage for civilians, health workers, humanitarian organizations, and the diplomatic community throughout the restive regions.
The organisation also challenged the Cameroon government and armed groups to accept that humanitarian organizations must adhere to humanitarian principles. Cameroonian authorities and non-state armed groups must accept the adherence of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), local groups, and UN agencies to the humanitarian principles of neutrality and independence, the group said.
The group says aid groups need to have contact with all parties to the conflict to negotiate access and cannot side—or be seen to side—with any of the parties, including Cameroon’s military.
To the International Community and Donor Institutions, Refugees International says donors must increase funding. Donors cannot wait for things to deteriorate further, the organisation said.
Going forward, the group said donors must provide flexible funding to reach the $93.5 million the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates is needed for a thorough response in the North West and South West.
This immediate action is critical to ensure those organizations that have been using their internal funds are not forced to abandon the populations they have increasingly been able to reach, the group continued.
The organisation again proposed that the international diplomatic community in Yaoundé and political leaders in capitals worldwide must magnify the efforts of humanitarian organizations by echoing their requests for unfettered access to populations in need.
To Humanitarian Organisations and UN agencies in Cameroon, Refugees International recommends they train local NGOs on humanitarian principles and strengthen their implementing capacity. The pre-existing network of local organizations has allowed humanitarian groups to build trust and gain access to populations throughout the North West and South West, the statement says.
The organisation however said, “many of these groups have not been trained in humanitarian principles, resulting in occasional violations. It is vital that international humanitarian organizations and UN agencies provide local groups with training to ensure their compliance with humanitarian principles. They must also provide technical training to local actors working on protection issues to strengthen their ability to respond effectively.”
Another recommendation is to expand International NGO Safety Organization’s (INSO’s) operations into the North West and South West regions. INSO’s provision of real-time security incident alerts, strategic planning support, crisis assistance, and guidance on improving access is vital in enabling organizations to overcome security obstacles. Cameroonian authorities must permit expansion of their operations said the group.
Also, it recommends they establish an INGO Forum with donor support, adding that many INGOs fear reprisals from the Cameroonian authorities for reporting on the crisis and the extensive needs of the affected population. Launching an INGO Forum, which could operate either from within or outside of Cameroon, would allow operational organizations to report collectively on the practical realities and challenges.
Uphold the “ground rules” for engagement and information sharing with Cameroonian authorities, the statement suggests. Together with OCHA, humanitarian organizations have drafted agreed-upon ground rules for effective and principled engagement with Cameroonian authorities, said the bulletin.
However, these rules have not been fully respected. Aid organizations must follow these guidelines to work alongside the Government of Cameroon and its armed forces. Given the significant impediments to access, doing so is vital to protect the already-limited humanitarian space, it furthers.
To the UN leadership, the organisation opines it establishes full-time positions within UN agency offices in the two regions, saying that despite the ongoing crisis, which shows no signs of waning, UN staff has been appointed to the North West and South West on a temporary basis only.
UN agencies in these regions, especially OCHA and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), should create permanent positions for staff in their offices in the main North West and South West cities of Bamenda and Buea to ensure continuity and prepare for expanded operations, contingent on donor funding, parts of the statement say.
The statement also recommends the UN increases the visibility of the crisis, mobilize donor support, and call for unfettered humanitarian access. Severe under-funding, lack of international attention, and the stalemate between aid groups and Cameroonian authorities are crippling the humanitarian response, it suggests, adding that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres must plan a visit to Cameroon to engage with President Paul Biya on these crucial issues.
The organisation also challenged the UN to launch country-based pooled funds for a more nimble humanitarian response in Cameroon. With trend lines only worsening, international humanitarian organizations must explore longer-term funding options, it stated.
The organisation went on that with donor support, OCHA should begin putting in place the mechanisms needed to establish pooled funds in Cameroon. It however stated that such funds are flexible and not earmarked, allowing both local and international aid organizations to respond to the most pressing needs in a timely manner.
The country’s Prime Minister was in the two English-speaking Regions in which during his visit to Bamenda and few other parts of the North West and South West was quick to ask for a return to normalcy and for the fleeing population to come out of the bushes while at the same time, the military was killing innocent people.
Unrest in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions began in October 2016 as a disagreement in language but government mismanaged it, turning it into a demand by majority of Anglophones in the North West and South West for a separate state called Ambazonia.
Gun battles have ensued and the government has been accused of numerous Human Rights violation, including targeted killings and the burning down of entire villages according to credible reports from the US Ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Henry Barlerin, reputable Human Rights Lawyer Agbor Balla and Bishops of Mamfe and Kumbo and just recently, The Human Rights Watch, yet, the Biya regime is resisting any call for dialogue.