Cameroon Anglophone Crisis: Uncertainty Reigns After Government Reject Canadian Peace Talks

Cameroon Anglophone Crisis: Uncertainty Reigns After Government Reject Canadian Peace Talks
An atmosphere of uncertainty reigns in the conflict in the English speaking regions of Cameroon following the government’s dismissal of the Canadian peace talks. The peace talks which bring on the dialogue table leaders of the various separatist groups operating in the conflict regions and the government of Cameroon were announced on January 20, 2023 by the Canadian Foreign Minister, Mélanie Joly.
In a statement published on Monday, January 23, Cameroon government’s spokesperson and Communication Minister, René Emmanuel Sadi stated that, “following recent information disseminated by certain media, the Government of the Republic of Cameroon informs national and international community that it has not entrusted any foreign country or external entity with any role of mediator or facilitator to settle the crisis in the North West and South West regions.” In reaction to the declaration of the Government of Cameroon, the Canadian Government has insisted that the talks between the two main actors of the conflict remained unperturbed. It further argued that, for some months now, representatives of the Government of Cameroon and several Anglophone separatist groups have been meeting in Canada for pre-mediation talks, and they affirmed their participation in further peace talks to end the conflict. The statement has also raised an alarm among direct and indirect actors. Former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy noted that the Government of Cameroon’s denial of Canada Peace initiative is not surprising as it reflects division within the ruling class. Prominent separatist leader, Mark Bareta has hailed the reputation of Canada which he believes cannot make a statement if it was not on good track.
While the Canadian peace process has been welcomed by most armed Anglophone groups on the ground, the rejection of the process by Cameroon cast doubts on its willingness to end the conflict peacefully. Coming from the background of a Swiss-led talks which failed because of lack of commitment from the Government of Cameroon, the rejection of Canadian mediation projects Cameroon as the actor thwarting the end of the conflict. With Canada’s background as a bilingual country which reflects similar socio-linguistic dynamics in Cameroon, it gives her a pride of place in the understanding of the underlying interest of the conflict parties. Moreover, the announcement of the process drew worldwide acclamation which accounts for its sustainability. During his Sunday address “Angelus”, Pope Francis welcomed the move and expressed joy that progress is being made to resolve the conflict. Also, the Swiss process failed to bring major separatist leaders on the table who accused Switzerland for being a partial mediator owing to its hospitality to the Cameroonian Presidential couple who always spent lengthy holidays there. The Canadian process is the first peace initiative endorsed by Dr Lucas Ayaba Cho and Dr Ebenezer Akwanga; two of the most dreaded separatist leaders who initiated guerrilla warfare against Cameroon in 2017.
The conflict in the English speaking regions of Cameroon escalated in 2017 when the government engaged in a forceful repression of protesters and other Anglophone advocates seeking for more rights and representation for the minority English speaking people. As such, radical elements within the English speaking population, or Anglophones took up arms and to forcefully establish a separate state for Anglophones called Ambazonia. Since then, more than 6000 persons have been killed (some groups claimed more than 10,000), about 70,000 refugees in neighbouring Nigeria, 700,000 IDPs and close to 800,000 children of school going age are out of school. As such, the Canadian peace talks are considered a pathway to end the bloodshed.
Given the fact that Cameroon Government representatives attended pre-mediation talks for months in Canada and appended their signatures to the agreement, the rejection of the process few days after its announcement by the same government is an indication of major splits within the ruling class. The international community must employ maximum pressure on the Government of Cameroon so that it buries its division and work for peaceful resolution as violence for six years has caused more human and material loss. Canada must also uphold its reputation in the international community by ensuring that the Government of Cameroon adhere to the agreement.