Monday, January 30, 2023

"Not surprised", Catholic Charity Told on Peace Initiative Cameroonian Government Rejected

 Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) – Global Initiative To End Cameroons  Colonial Conflict (Gi3C)

Local sources in Cameroon have told Catholic charity and peace foundation, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), that the rejection by the Cameroonian government of a proposed initiative to end violence in the Central Africa country was expected.

Starting January 20, Cameroonians have received different sets of information concerning the ongoing violence in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon where an estimated 6,000 people have reportedly been killed.

On January 20, Canada's foreign ministry announced that warring parties in the Anglophone crisis had agreed to enter into a process that she said was aimed at resolving the conflict.

Three days later, the government of Cameroon faulted Canada, describing it as an “external entity” that does not have the mandate to settle the Cameroonian crisis.

In a report shared with ACI Africa on Thursday, January 26, a DHPI source in Bamenda tells the peace foundation that the rejection of the initiative “came as no surprise to many Anglophone Cameroonians.”

The source says that he does not expect much from the proposed peace agreement, especially with the government having distanced itself from it.

“I know that nothing will come of it because it’s the initiative of the Canadian government and not that of Cameroon’s President,” the source tells DHPI, and adds, “Actually the proposed peace talks is a non-event back here. No one is talking about it nor are people excited about it. The government of Cameroon insists on solving it by itself as an internal affair.”

Claiming that the Canadian government had been mandated by all stakeholders (including the Cameroon government and the Pro-Independence faction) to facilitate the process, Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement announcing a peace process that she said was aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon.

“Civilians are bearing the brunt of the ongoing crisis in Cameroon, with more than 6,000 people having lost their lives since 2017. In addition, nearly 800,000 people have been displaced as a result of this crisis, and 600,000 children do not have full access to education," Ms. Joly said.

She added, “Canada welcomes the agreement by the parties to enter a process to reach a comprehensive, peaceful and political resolution of the conflict. The parties have also agreed to form technical committees to begin work on confidence-building measures."

“The agreement to enter a formal process is a critical first step toward peace and a safer, more inclusive and prosperous future for civilians affected by the conflict,” the Canadian official said.

A statement issued by the Cameroonian government's spokesperson on Monday, January 23 however, said, “The Government of the Republic of Cameroon has not entrusted any foreign country or external entity with any role of mediator or facilitator to settle the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions.” 

“It is first and foremost up to the Cameroonian people, to the institutions and leaders that they have freely chosen, to seek appropriate ways and means to address problems facing our country,” Communications Minister, René Emmanuel Sadi, further said.

In a Thursday, January 26 interview with ACI Africa, DHPI Director Johan Viljoen said that the peace entity that is researching the six-year violence had not yet verified the reasons behind the rejection by the Cameroonian government of the Canadian peace initiative.

The DHPI Director noted that the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) supports Religious leaders in the country who have welcomed the proposed peace initiative.

“We support the position of our partners, the religious leaders in Cameroon, and that of the Holy Father who hope that efforts are being made to restore peace in Cameroon. It is encouraging to have many people come forward willing to participate in talks to end a conflict,” Mr. Viljoen said.

In a statement that was shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 24, Religious leaders in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions welcomed Canada’s announcement and urged the parties in conflict in the embattled region in Cameroon to pursue negotiations in “honesty”.

“Having been first hand witnesses to the ravages of war and the evils that have come with the armed struggle in these two Regions of Cameroon and as frontline advocates of peace, we, the Religious leaders of the North West and South West Regions welcome this statement as a major step towards the search for true, sustainable, and lasting peace in these two Regions,” the religious leaders said.

They added, “This has been our prayer and we are thankful to God that a hopeful corridor is beginning to open for inclusive dialogue that should usher in a peaceful resolution of the distressful socio-political crisis in the English-speaking Regions of Cameroon.”

And On January 22, after the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis turned his thoughts to various places of conflict including Cameroon.

The Pope expressed hope that progress is being made toward a resolution of the conflict in English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

“I encourage all the signatory parties to the agreement to persevere on the path of dialogue and mutual understanding because the future can be planned only in encounter,” the Holy Father said.