Minority Rights Group International (MRG) welcomes the recent announcement by Cameroon’s North West Governor, AdolpheLele L’Afrique, offering Ambazonia fighters support – if they surrender their weapons and renounce rebellion.
Governor AdolpheLele L’Afrique, whose statements were reported in the Guardian Post and several other local press, declared that the fighters would be aided with logistical and psychological support for their eventual reintegration into society.
‘The recent statements by the Cameroonian authorities represent a very welcome opening, given the recent extremely worrying escalation of the conflict,’ notes Agnes Kabajuni, MRG’s Africa Regional Manager.
This pronouncement – together with President Paul Biya’s previous call for dialogue and his recent call for separatists to lay down their arms – provides an opportunity for parties to commit to a cease fire and peacefully bring to an end a conflict that has so far claimed hundreds of civilian lives and displaced more than 160,000 people internally, with another 20,000 fleeing into Nigeria..
‘This is definitely a positive twist to the conflict and lays a platform for parties to abandon the use of violence in resolving grievances but instead commit to peaceful options such as amnesty programmes’ says Agnes and further notes that much as amnesty programmes are cost-effective, they should not be a substitute for a substantive discussion on the root and adjacent causes of the conflict.
At the same time, any way forward must be based on a clear human rights framework, involving all affected communities in a meaningful dialogue as well as the political will of Anglophones to seek common ground in ending the conflict.
‘An effective amnesty programme should be based on inclusive consultation, greater degree of community ownership and more close integration processes that go beyond incentives such as cash and capacity-building,’ emphasizes Kabajuni. ‘Such a process should take into consideration comprehensive community reconstruction and development’
MRG points out that there are a number of positive examples in the region that buttress the success of amnesty programmes. The Niger Delta region of Nigeria was for more than two decades engulfed in a conflict. But on 25 June 2009, over 15,000 combatants surrendered their weapons under an amnesty program signed by the late, President, Umaru Yar’Adua; more than15, 000 ex-fighters enrolled for a capacity building program.
Earlier on, in Liberia (between, 1989-2003), an amnesty program resulted in more than two quarters of fighters disarming, with more than 9,570 weapons and 1.2 million rounds of ammunition surrendered – about 90,000 fighters got rehabilitated and reintegrated. In Sierra Leone, the armed conflict ended in 2002 under an ‘Arms for Development Initiative,’ led and owned by the community.
However, MRG advises that amnesty programmes should not be a quick fix nor a one-size-fit-all strategy hence the need to contextualize and tailor them to the underlying or root causes as well as the proximate or remote causes of the conflict. Mwalimu argues that most amnesty programmes fail to take off or if they take off fail to
succeed in their objectives because they were not decreed from the highest level of government and lacked sufficient input from peace experts.
About the conflict
Relations between the largely Anglophone regions of Cameroon and the country’s dominant Francophone government have long been fraught with many English-speaking Cameroonians stating that they are politically, economically and linguistically marginalized. Some have called for full independence for the Anglophone regions, with some groups resorting to violence. Both sides to the conflict are being accused of committing human rights abuses.
The current crisis was triggered by the appointment of French-educated judges to courts in the English-speaking regions. These appointments were rejected by teachers, university students and lawyers who have been engaging a campaign of strikes and demonstrations, since October 6th 2016. This was later followed on November, 1st 2018 by unilateral declaration of independence by separatists under the name Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front. Mass demonstrations were met with force and in recent months, there has been an increase in the number of kidnappings in the two Anglophone regions. The latest being the kidnap and later release of 79 students in Bamenda, an English speaking region.
Notes to editors
Minority Rights Group International is the leading organization working for the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide. We have decades of experience securing rights and combating discrimination, and our work is more relevant than ever today. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
For more information contact:
Hamimu Masudi, Media Officer, Minority Rights Group Africa (Kampala, Uganda)
T: +256 773 264 478