By Kesah Princeley
Cameroon’s Social Democratic Front (SDF) party senator, Kemende Henry, says a recent national dialogue convened by the regime to resolve a crisis ravaging the country’s Anglophone minority regions is far from addressing the situation on the ground.
In an exclusive interview with EboniGram on Saturday October 5, in Bamenda, capital of the conflict hit North West region, the senator — like some opposition politicians — claimed that the agenda of the national dialogue had been premeditated by the government.
I could suspect right from the beginning that something had been prepared by the government. What took place was not a dialogue because people came and read key note addresses. Everything they came up with was the work of committees which were put up by the organizers [the government],Senator Kemende Henry
On September 10 2019, Cameroon’s long-time ruler, Paul Biya, announced a “Major National Dialogue” whose aim was to solve an ongoing conflict in Cameroon’s two minority Anglophone regions, which is nearing it’s third year. The said dialogue took place under the supervision of the Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, from September 30 to October 4.
Among other resolutions forwarded to the country’s octogenarian president for approval and implementation, participants resolved to grant a special status to the country’s Anglophone regions, promote bilingualism, reduce the powers of regional governors and to foster the spirit of living together in a decentralized system of government.
Meanwhile, the leaders of some Anglophone groups, fighting for a separate state from Cameroon, turned down calls from the government to attend the dialogue.
According to Senator Kemende Henry, the tension on the ground can only be resolved if a frank dialogue is organized in the presence of a mediator. To him, the recent gathering was worth very little or nothing to be called a dialogue.
“I don’t think what actually took place was a dialogue because my dictionary defines it otherwise; unless, it is a Cameroonian definition of the word dialogue,” the senator averred.
Widespread pessimism over Cameroon National Dialogue
After the dialogue, President Paul Biya released 333 Anglophone prisoners with misdemeanor offenses, who were yet to be tried in military courts. Senator Kemende said this decision has very little effect in putting an end to the ongoing conflict. He added that Anglophone leaders who were given a life jail sentence would have also been released to take part in the dialogue.
Asked what could be done to bring back peace to the crisis battered regions, which separatists call “Ambazonia,” Senator Kemende Henry said it was necessary to create a federal government that would allow the disgruntled Anglophones to manage their affairs themselves.
Let Anglophones have a chance of creating their own leadership. They should create a two state federation, as was in 1961, considering the people’s way of life, educational and judicial system. I believe Anglophones don’t have a say [now] in what concerns them.Sen. Kemende Henry
Some critics have expressed pessimism over the recent dialogue, given that clashes between the country’s military and Ambazonian fighters have increased in some parts of Anglophone Cameroon, recording several deaths and loss of property.