Renowned Nigerian actress Stella Damasus has, in a tearful online plea, urged the international community to intervene in the conflict raging in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon in order to save the lives and properties being destroyed daily.
“I wonder why this Cameroon issue does not have the kind of media coverage that it deserves. This is genocide and we are acting like it doesn’t matter,” she stated on her Twitter account, adding that “if you know anyone who can help, if you have connections with the UN or any agency, please reach out to them and speak out. If your country was in the middle of this and you had to run for your life, you would want people to speak up and find help, #helpcameroon.”
Her tweet comes at a time when Africa and the world are focused on two major football competitions, notably the Women’s World Cup in France and the African Nations Cup in Egypt. However, the award-winning star says the lives of women and children are more important than the frenzy of football games.
The mega star launched a campaign with the hashtag #helpcameroon on June 17, 2019, and has since been receiving thunderous reactions from people across the board. Most are Cameroonians who appreciate the initiative of the mega star and have invited many others to join in the campaign to raise awareness of the suffering masses in Cameroon.
The conflict in the two restive Anglophone regions of Cameroon has been raging on since 2016, when teachers and lawyers staged protest marches demanding more rights for the minority English-speaking population of Cameroon. However, in late 2017 demonstrations took a violent turn when peaceful protesters were shot and killed by soldiers.
However, there has been very limited media coverage of the conflict, to the extent that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) called it the most neglected conflict in the world. The Secretary General of the NRC, Jan Egeland, blames the impasse in the conflict to the lack of international awareness, which ensures that gross human rights abuses go unreported. The former United Nations top diplomat also stated that the conflict is going unreported because most international media outlets are not interested in covering what is happening in Cameroon.
Since the October 1, 2017 protest march, where Anglophone nationalists symbolically declared the independence of the two English speaking regions of Cameroon under the banner of Ambazonia, violence has become daily. Anglophone nationalists have now organized themselves into various armed groups challenging government forces. Both sides have been accused of gross human rights abuses, with government forces burning down more than 200 villages and towns as well as killing mostly unarmed civilians. Armed separatists have primarily been accused of abductions for ransoms, the killing of soldiers, and the disruption of education.
Even though the government has promised to organize dialogue, the regime of President Biya still believes in the military option, despite its untold consequences on civilians. Stella Damasus’ message is a call to the international community to put pressure on the government of Cameroon to open unconditional dialogue with separatists. According to Human Rights Watch, approximately 2,000 people have been killed. The UN estimates that more than 530,000 persons are displaced internally, with about 30,000 in neighbouring Nigeria. Entire villages and towns in Anglophone Cameroon have been emptied of their residents. Moreover, 1.3 million are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.