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Practical solution to the Anglophone crisis: France, China and USA hold the key, not the UN

If the secessionist movements in English-speaking Cameroon continue to pursue the head-on collision option with the Republic of Cameroon, there will likely be many more massacres of citizens, many more toothless mealy-mouthed platitudes from the United Nations and other foreign observers, but no meaningful progress to end the current crisis.

The 1 October massacre shows that the Cameroonian government is going to play hardball over attempts by Southern Cameroons to secede and become an independent country. While we condemn the indiscriminate arrests and killing of English speaking Cameroonians from the North West and South West Regions of the country, we must think seriously and deeply about strategies going forward.

A hard-nosed response by the government to the Anglophone crisis requires a hard realist approach to seeking for solutions.

A hard realist will accept that the government has always had the upper hand in this crisis. First, the government has legitimacy in the eyes of the international community that all the Anglophone protest groups (be it SCNC, MORISC, SCACUF, etc.) just do not have and may never have. Second, the government has the financial muscle to pay for whatever strategic response they adopt to the crisis. Third, the government’s administrative machinery is still very effectively in charge of all of Cameroonian territory from the lowliest village in Ndian to Bongo Square in Buea to Commercial Avenue in Bamenda. Lastly, and most importantly, the government has all the guns and remains the only actor in Cameroon with legitimate right to own and use guns as it sees fit. At the moment all of the government’s resources, especially its guns, are aimed at shooting down anyone who stands up for secession of Anglophones from the republic of Cameroon.

True, the government’s hard-nosed approach has radicalized some Anglophone social movements and a lot of Southern Cameroon peoples. True, there are young men and women who think they would rather go to war than continue living under the current governance arrangement in Cameroon. However, their longstanding anger, and indescribable pain at this moment in time, is as expected clouding hard-nosed reason.

It must be said that under the present global political environment, under the present overwhelming odds favouring a victorious outcome for the government of Cameroon in the event of an all-out armed conflict against Anglophone seccesionsts, Southern Cameroon people must re-strategize their approach to finding solutions to Anglophone marginalization in Cameroon.

I am a hard realist, and posit that under the present conditions I have laid out above, the practical attainable solution is federalism.

How this federalism will look like and what trade-offs Southern Cameroon and East Cameroon will agree to is up in the air and open for negotiations at a round table. Of course the current government is not willing to negotiate federalism. But if they continue to maintain this stance, stability and peace will elude Cameroon. This is because such an adamant position against federalism from the government will continue to strengthen the secessionists who will eventually pick up arms and enter into a low grade long-term rebellion, which will not be good for Cameroonians east and west of the Mungo.

Even at this terribly sad point in time due to the massacre of Southern Cameroonians on 1 October, there are Southern Cameroonians who still see genuine federalism as possible and worth trying; we are in the minority, but this is partly because the government is saying no to federalism. If the government were to indicate a willingness to dialogue about the federalism option, there would be a significant increase in the numbers of Southern Cameroon peoples who e willing to give it a chance. The hard question now is: how can the government be moved to enter into dialogue on federalism?

I submit the answer lies with Cameroon’s most important global economic and political partners – this is a group of countries that include France, China and the USA on the front row, and on the second row you have Britain, Germany and Nigeria.

These nations have the political influence and the economic resources necessary to persuade the Cameroonian government to enter into dialogue with representatives of Southern Cameroons on the federalism option. It is incumbent now on the various Anglophone movements to wok behind the scenes with these global partners to force through the federalism dialogue option.

If the Anglophone movements continue to pursue the head-on collision option with the Republic of Cameroon, there will likely be many more massacres of Southern Cameroon peoples, many more toothless mealy-mouthed platitudes from the United Nations and other foreign observers, but no meaningful progress towards a better life for the peoples of Southern Cameroons.

Sessekou Ayuk Julius Tabe, leader of the Southern Cameroons Interim Government, the ball is in your court to kick it as you see fit. Remember that a duty of government is to secure the well-being of her people. Ensure to exhaust every possible diplomatic effort in pursuit of a better life for the people of Southern Cameroons. If you choose a head-on collision with the Republic of Cameroon over the secession option, and it leads to the annihilation of the people, your government would have failed the people.

* DR. EMMANUEL O. NUESIRI (BSc. Buea; MPhil. Cantab; DPhil. Oxon) is Visiting Scholar, University of Potsdam, Germany,  and Fellow, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP), Beckman Institute, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, USA.



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