Listen up, France: If you want to help avert a full-scale civil war in Cameroon (you still have major economic interests in your former colony), it’s time to take a tougher line against its long-serving president, Paul Biya. That’s the urgent appeal this week from a group of (unnamed) French and Cameroonian observers and published by Libération, a French daily.
Over the past two years, hundreds of people have been killed and some 160,000 have fled their homes during armed conflict between government forces and anglophone separatists. Insurgents have targeted security forces, elected officials, and teachers, and the army has torched entire villages. “The international community, and especially France, must encourage the government towards dialogue, which it has so far refused,” the observers urged, blaming the government’s intransigence in the face of anglophone calls for greater autonomy.
With human rights groups banned from visiting conflict areas, a bishop from the would-be mediating Catholic Church targeted in an assassination attempt, and the press muzzled, such a move by France would raise hopes for a ceasefire and help dispel anglophone perceptions of its bias towards Biya. More on this under-reported conflict soon.