The central African nation of Cameroon is better known for football, but its bloody, under-reported conflict deserves our attention. The right of minorities to self-determination is at the heart of violence blighting the lives of millions of unarmed civilians.
The Vatican has been increasingly diplomatically engaged, encouraging the Cameroon government to participate in inclusive peace talks, mediated by a third party. A webinar, hosted by the Liberal Democrats, on 19 April 6.30 – 8pm explores these issues.
Cameroon has been ruled by President Paul Biya, age 88, since 1982. He continues to win elections that no international monitor considers free and fair, and his country is ranked among the world’s most corrupt and repressive by Transparency International and Freedom House, respectively.
In 2016, Biya’s Francophone-dominated regime tried to impose French-speaking judges and teachers on the English-speaking regions, representing 20% of the population. Peaceful Anglophone protests were crushed with what impartial human rights groups described as disproportionate force. The UN estimates 700,000 civilians (out of six million Anglophones) have fled to the bush and beyond. UNICEF says one million children are out of school. Local civil society groups believe 5,000 people have been killed. Meanwhile, hundreds of opposition figures are imprisoned without due process.
Armed militias have emerged, demanding a sovereign country called “The Federal Republic of Ambazonia,” and rights monitors believe all armed sides are behaving with impunity, with unarmed civilians caught in the middle. The former colonial powers, the UK and France, offer bland calls for the respect for international human rights law, but neither government will apply pressure on Cameroon to attend inclusive mediated peace talks offered by the Swiss and the Vatican. Cardinal Parolin, the Papal envoy, visited Cameroon in January, and rights monitors suggest that Pope Francis is the only world leader commanding the respect of President Biya.
The webinar will explore a cross section of views on the way forward. Speakers include Dr Chris Fomunyoh from the National Democratic Institute in Washington DC, and Juliette Paauwe of the Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.
Source: Independent Catholic News