By Eric Tataw – Monday October 14, 2019.
The European Union has adopted an 8-point conclusion on the just-ended National Dialogue in the Central African country, Cameroon. In a statement dated Monday October 14, 2019, the EU says it welcomes the halting of prosecution by the military courts of Maurice Kamto and supporters of his party, the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, and of individuals arrested and detained in the context of the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions, adding that these decisions are a significant gesture of goodwill.
The body also opined that three years after ab armed conflict in these two regions, a national dialogue recently held in Yaoundé offered a first opportunity to open up prospects for a sustainable exit from the crisis. The EU calls for this process to be continued in order to develop responses to meet the population’s legitimate expectations, while encouraging the involvement of all those concerned both inside the country and from the diaspora, including women, young people and civil society, the statement says.
In the statement, the EU reiterates the importance of respecting and promoting human rights, the rule of law and the fundamental freedoms of the citizens of Cameroon. The statement also calls on Cameroon’s authorities and institutions to act in a proportionate manner, while respecting the obligations stemming from Cameroon’s Constitution and the international treaties and conventions on human rights to which Cameroon has subscribed. In particular, the principle of access to justice and the right to a fair trial before an independent court must be respected.
In all of the entries, pundits say by EU calling for elections by 2020, without any mechanism to ensure a ceasefire and the respect for lives is the most vexing thing to the Ambazonians in recent times. In the face of worrying restrictions on political space, the respect for the freedom of assembly, the freedom of expression and the involvement of civil society in the public debate are essential for any democratic and pluralistic state, the statement said, adding that Cameroon’s opposition should be allowed to be able to express themselves freely, in accordance with the law, and to participate without hindrance in the process of national dialogue and in the local and general elections planned for 2020.
Going further, the statement says the EU remains concerned and strongly condemns the continued violence and the level of insecurity in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon, especially where the civilian population is affected. It also condemned what it calls numerous and serious violations of human rights, adding that predatory crime has become widespread.
Quoting the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the statement says severe abuses have been committed, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, the burning of homes, the excessive use of force against civilians and sexual violence. This has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, forcing more people into exile, with almost 42 000 refugees in Nigeria and 530 000 internally displaced people in the North-West and South-West regions. The economic situation is also severely affected, says the statement.
While insisting that access by humanitarian organisations and health workers to the populations affected must be ensured, fight against impunity and compensation for all victims be guaranteed, the EU reiterates that the primary responsibility for protecting the population and maintaining security lies with the Cameroonian authorities.
The statement also says the use of violence in these regions is not the answer and reaffirms the need for all parties in Cameroon to respect the rule of law and resolve the crisis peacefully through an inclusive dialogue. In coordination with its international and regional partners, the EU will continue to support all efforts, such as the facilitation work by the Swiss authorities, able to build on this momentum, it continued.
The EU through the statement also reaffirms its commitment to the economic development and stability of Cameroon as a partner at the crossroads between the Sahel and Central Africa and as an important player in the fight against Boko Haram and in the peace process in the Central African Republic. Improving the stability of Cameroon will help to strengthen this cooperation, including its trade and investment dimensions. The EU expresses its hope that Cameroon will find the ways and means to achieve a national revival that will bring about the lasting reconciliation the country so greatly needs.
In conclusion, the statement says, the EU will remain committed to addressing the humanitarian needs of the populations affected and reiterates the importance of ensuring safe and unhindered humanitarian access to the entire country.
The North West and South West of Cameroon are facing a deadly armed conflict for over three years with armed groups fighting regular soldiers to restore the statehood of the former British Southern Cameroons now called Ambazonia.
Over two million (2.000.000) people, mostly women and children have been either internally displaced or living as refugees in Nigeria and other countries, way over thirteen thousands (13000) killed, over four hundred houses (400) burnt down by the Cameroon military with something in the neighbourhood of five thousand (5000) held as war prisoners across detention facilities in the country.
In order to lessen international pressure and contain the conflict which still keeps schools and businesses shut down in most parts of these regions, Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya in a televised address to the country on September 20, 2019, called for a Grand National Dialogue.
Observers however opined that the dialogue failed from inception following complaints of its lack of inclusiveness, especially as officials of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party of President Paul Biya manned all activities. This failure was further compounded by the appointment of Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute as the chairman and George Ewane as Spokesperson, all baptismal allies of the President.