- Title: Cameroon's national dialogue ends with no road map
- Date: 4th October 2019
- Summary: BAMENDA, CAMEROON (FILE - OCTOBER 1, 2017) (REUTERS) PROTESTERS AT ROAD BLOCK WITH AMBAZONIAN FLAGS OF INDEPENDENCE IN BLUE AND WHITE (AUDIO OF GUNFIRE) RIOT POLICE SEEN THROUGH TEAR GAS SMOKE REMOVING BARRICADE BAMENDA, CAMEROON (FILE - DECEMBER 2016) (REUTERS) PROTESTERS RUNNING, FILMED FROM A BALCONY, AUDIO OF A SHOT PROTESTERS PICKING UP BRANCHES / INJURED PROTESTER BEING CARRIED
- Embargoed: 18th October 2019 16:37
- Keywords: cameroon crisis anglophone region national dialogue separatists
- Location: YAOUNDE AND BAMENDA, CAMEROON
- City: YAOUNDE AND BAMENDA, CAMEROON
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA002AZONVPZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Cameroon's national dialogue which ended on Friday (October 4) could have opened the door to an historic peace agreement, ending a fight between English-speaking separatist militias and the army that has cost nearly 2,000 lives, forced half a million people to flee and rule.
Instead, it was boycotted by separatists and moderate politicians.
"I want to tell you that we invited nearly everyone of them. They were invited and some of them didn't feel comfortable coming for reasons they know best, we wanted them to come and to take part in the discussions, this was a wonderful opportunity for them to come and air their views, they didn't come. But we know that a good number of other persons who are close to them came here and I've talked to some of them, they are quite happy with the way the dialogue was conducted, they are very happy with the open and frank nature of the discussions," said Cameroon Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute.
The insurgency emerged after a heavy-handed government crackdown on peaceful protests late in 2016 in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions by lawyers and teachers who complained of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority.
The roots of their grievances go back a century to the League of Nations' decision to split the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors at the end of World War One.
For 10 years after the French- and English-speaking regions joined together in 1961, the country was a federation in which the Anglophone regions largely governed themselves.
President Paul Biya's centralization push since he came to power in 1982 quickly eroded any remaining Anglophone autonomy.
The 2016 protests soon turned violent. By 2017, newly formed armed groups were attacking army posts in the Anglophone regions. The army responded by burning down villages and shooting civilians.
Separatists entrenched in the mountainous west say they will only come to the table if the government releases all political prisoners, including 10 leaders who were sentenced in August to life in prison on terrorism charges, and withdraws the military from the North-west and South-west regions.
Critics said talks this week were not inclusive and did not involve any discussion about a return to federalism that many say is the solution to the conflict.
"I'm not satisfied with the outcome because I mean personally what I hold so dearly, a return to a federation, was not one of the recommendations. But the positive I'm taking out of the dialogue was that it was very frank and very honest. For those of us who were in the hall could tell you how honest it was and the debates were very heated, i saw how, i mean some people in government acknowledge the fact that some of the positions that we were raising was the right position," said human rights lawyer, Agbor Nkongho.
"I'm not very satisfied, I'm not very satisfied because the root causes of the problems are not really addressed, the root causes of the problem is from the state and if the form state is not really addressed then we'll not really solve the problem. But yes we've come, we've talked, proposals have been made, certain opportunities have been provided," added film producer Agbor Gilbert.
Biya, who is 86 years old, rarely speaks in public or meets with his government and spends months each year holidaying in Switzerland, has struggled to contain the problem.
He said on Tuesday (October 1) that he would drop charges against 333 prisoners held in relation to the crisis, but the move failed to appease separatists and moderates alike who say that thousands more remain imprisoned on trumped-up charges.
(Blaise Eyong and Christophe Van Der Perre)
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