Cameroon at the threshold of inferno, lessons from post-conflict Rwanda to pull it back
Cameroon, a nation which less than eight years ago could pride itself among the “most” peaceful countries in Africa is now at the threshold of an inferno with many raising fears of a possible replay of the sad tale that plagued Rwanda in 1994.
Today, Cameroon is fighting a war on two fronts with civilians and military casualties raising at a geometric rate. In its Northern regions, the Nigerian-oriented terrorist sect, Boko Haram and the Anglophone crisis in its English speaking regions threaten to tear the agile nation apart.
Crisis Group warns
The International crisis group in its Watch list 2018 publication highlighted Cameroon among the nations to be on watch this year.
In their report, they observed that “the Boko Haram insurgency is on the wane in the Lake Chad basin but continues to carry out attacks against civilian and military targets in Cameroon’s Far North. The war has killed about 2,000 Cameroonians, displaced roughly 170,000 and triggered the rise of vigilante self-defence groups. Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have experienced violent flare-ups as the central government represses dissent over the perceived marginalization of the English-speaking minority.”
The impact of the lingering Anglophone crisis which has since December 2016 escalated from a civil protest to a semi-armed revolution keeps souring, gulping and causing the state, corporations, businesses as well as individuals colossal sums of money with its effect on the economy described by many as “problematic”.
Despite the huge financial and capital loss and the thousands of internally displaced and refugee seeking Anglophones that have been affected by the prolonged crisis, the probabilities of it ending anytime soon is decimal, experts hold.
With a yet to be established death toll which is feared to be in hundreds, Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, president of the outlawed consortium and founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa holds that “the Anglophone crisis is the biggest time bomb in Cameroon.”
His opinion is seemingly shared by the International Crisis Group which remarked that “if the situation is not defused through dialogue, the entire country could be destabilized ahead of elections.”
While Boko Haram continues to multiply its suicide attacks in the Northern Regions of Cameroon, several armed groups of the Cameroon separatist movement have emerged in the North West and South West regions.
Anglophone crisis is born
What started as a trade unionist civil protest has now metamorphosed into a semi-armed revolution with the media being flooded daily with news of killings, abductions, burning of villages, attacks on government officials and massive arrests.
While the government has on more than one occasion sworn to do all to protect the territorial boundaries of Cameroon, those advocating for secession or restoration, as some prefer, threaten to burn their way to independence.
Despite the fact that calls continue to mount on the need to organize a roundtable and an all inclusive dialogue so as to proffer lasting solutions to the crisis, Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji is noted to always insist that the government will not dialogue with secessionists.
While the killings and atrocities continue to multiply on both camps, many have warned of an imminent civil war. While at some quarters, some people believe open confrontations might hasten and bring the desired solutions to the crisis, historians such as Nchiwo Thomas in Buea, warns that Cameroon might be heading towards the Rwanda path.
Lessons from Rwanda
It should be recalled that in less than four months of fighting; April 7, 1994 – July 1994, over 8,000 inhabitants perished in the Rwandan genocide pitting the Tutsi against the Hutu majority.
The lessons to be drawn by anyone before embarking on any armed confrontation is visible to all. As in less than four months, some eight thousand Rwandese were slain, property destroyed, millions sought refuge in neighboring countries, women and girls got grossly abused with underaged children having to live with the trauma after witnessing the carnage.
Even though a number of people got tried for fueling the genocide, the scar left on the population of Rwanda and the entire nation will not fade away, at least not any time soon.
At the end of the fighting, the factions decided to down their weapons and come together and pledge to guarantee responsible governance and participation; assure repairable, reconcilable justice, promote human rights and fight to promote impunity.
Time for Cameroon to avoid Rwanda’s route
Haven learnt the hard way, many have opined that Cameroon should learn from the mistakes of Rwanda and make hay while the sun still blooms. With the traditional and modern media having a crucial role to play in the Anglophone crisis as it did in the Rwanda genocide, many have called for media practitioners to exercise caution and be diligence while carrying out their function.
But with the advent of the social media and the rise of citizen journalism which have proven very difficult to keep in check, fears are rife that the current bend negotiated by the Anglophone crisis might lead to Rwanda in 1994.