A senator from Cameroon’s main opposition SDF party, Kemende Henry, has welcomed President Paul Biya’s call for a national dialogue to resolve the ongoing Anglophone crisis.By Paul Njie & Kesah Princely
In an exclusive interview with Ebonigram, the senator intimated that although late, the dialogue is necessary in de-escalating the tension in the restive North West and South West regions of the country.
The barrister, cum senator, revealed that they of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) are hopeful that the dialogue scheduled for the end of September 2019, can put to rest the deteriorating armed conflict.
During a rare prerecorded State of the Nation address on September 10, Cameroon’s octogenarian President Paul Biya mandated the country’s Prime Minister with the task of overseeing the holding of a national broad-based dialogue.
Cameroon national dialogue: with who?
Popular opinion in Anglophone Cameroon holds that the rightful team with whom government should dialogue remains in prison, and have called for their release.
In January 2018, the government of Nigeria colluded with Cameroon to arrest and extradite ten leaders of the self-proclaimed Federal Republic of Ambazonia — a move which the Abuja High Court in Nigeria called “illegal.”
The ten leaders were slammed a life jail sentence in Yaounde, in August this year.
Senator Kemende Henry hopes that the release of the Ambazonian leaders — including its President, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, — would be part of the issues to be addressed during the Prime Minister’s consultative talks, prior to the announced dialogue.
Biya claims no Anglophone marginalization
President Biya who has ruled Cameroon for nearly 40 years denied any claims that Anglophones in his country have been marginalised by his administration. However, in December 2016, President Biya averred that Anglophone lawyers and teachers who protested against marginalisation in their professions had legitimate claims.
At the start of Tuesday’s presidential address, the Head of State acknowledged that his government had provided solutions beyond what the chagrined lawyers and teachers had demanded, but regretted that some nationals in the diaspora have exploited the “legitimate”cause to push the once peaceful country into chaos.
“It is contradictory and paradoxical to say there is no Anglophone marginalisation,” Senator Kemende said. To the senator, if there was no discrimination against Anglophones in the country, the president would not have recently created a Common Law Bench at the Supreme Court; a Common Law Department at the National Advanced School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM); translated the OHADA Uniform Act into English, after over 50 years of its existence in French only — most of which were the raised by the protesting lawyers.
He added that the president contradicted his own speech, stressing that marginalisation and the Anglophone crisis, were the very essence for his rare outing.
Some critics have described President Paul Biya’s decision to organise a dialogue, three years after the crisis started, as a rather late move. Human rights groups say close to 2,000 people have died, and over half a million displaced internally and externally; whole villages razed, and schools grounded owing to the socio-political imbroglio crippling Anglophone Cameroon.