As the world observed the International Day of Peace this Monday, it became all the more clear that the restive Anglophone regions of Cameroon need more than just a day of peace — in fact, they deserve total peace every day.
For close to four years now, these two regions have hosted persistent gun battles between Anglophone separatist fighters and regular security forces. The conflict in the bilingual Central African country, stemmed from complaints of marginalization of the Anglophone minority by the Francophone dominated government.
Today, the armed conflict is taking a great toll on the citizens, as well as the economy.
The United Nations declared September 21 of every year as a day of peace around the world, with the aim that peace could be strengthened. The hope is to have 24 hours of non-violence and ceasefire, in areas plagued by conflict. But, is 24 hours really enough for peace?
Belligerents in the Anglophone armed conflict might have respected the UN`s 24-hour ceasefire call to an extent, but their actions so far leave much to be desired.
In March, the UN Secretary General António Guterres implored all warring parties around the world to drop their weapons and observe a ceasefire, due to the ravaging impact of the Coronavirus pandemic worldwide.
“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he said.
“That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Mr Guterres stressed.
However, despite this plea, both the military and Anglophone secessionists turned a deaf ear. They continued to engage in fighting, to the detriment of the civilian population. They have rendered the area void of any peace, leaving the people helpless.
How severe is the situation?
The security situation in the English speaking regions of Cameroon is quite dire. As a result of the conflict, over 3000 people have died, with nearly a million people estimated to be displaced.
Cameroon used to enjoy relative peace before 2016 when the Anglophone crisis started. So, the figures are quite shocking for the country.
Most schools in the Anglophone North West and South West regions have remained closed for almost four years, following a separatist order for school boycott. Some who have attempted to go to school to either teach or learn, have faced kidnap, torture and in some cases, death, in the hands of separatists.
Moreover, belligerents have allegedly set homes and villages aflame, with violence being on the rise. The continuous tension forced some Anglophone Cameroonians to flee into the bushes for safety.
Also, economic activities have been paralyzed, thereby affecting the economy badly.
The severity of the conflict proves that there is only one way out — dialogue. The government of Cameroon needs to engage in sincere and unconditional talks with leaders of the Anglophone separatist fighters.
Both local and foreign observers have prescribed dialogue as the only solution, yet the government remains intransigent. They are seemingly not willing to hold talks with the separatists.
This probably accounts for why the conflict has lasted this long, without clear signs of the situation ebbing anytime soon.
No one is too big to negotiate — not even the government. Make concessions, reason things out with the separatists, for lasting peace to return to the two Anglophone regions.
For their part, the separatists should express a desire to compromise. No need to keep putting ordinary citizens in peril.
When the guns stop “talking” in Anglophone Cameroon, displaced people would love to return home, and activities would surely go back to normal.
Dialogue — genuine dialogue — is the magic wand for peace to return to the restive regions, not just an international day of peace.