Mimi Mefo Takambou, CEO and Managing Editor of Mimi Mefo Info last week participated at the Stimson Centre’s Atrocities Prevention Study Group’s panel on Cameroon in Washington DC.
As one of the key speakers at the in-camera session, Ms Takambou made a sincere submission on the situation in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions otherwise referred to as ‘Anglophone Cameroon’.
The briefing at the Stimson Centre’s Atrocities Prevention Study Group’s panel on Cameroon unfolded under Chatham House Rules, reason why remarks of key speakers remain a guarded secret.
Nonetheless, this is the second panel on Cameroon being organized by the Washington DC-based Centre. It filtered out that Cameroon is not doing very well on the Holocaust Watch list when it comes to conflicts as revealed in this year’s Afro Barometer Report. It is against this backdrop that the Centre for the second time hosted a panel discussion to take stock of the situation and propose a way forward.
Mimi Mefo Info understands that participants were updated on the latest happenings in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions, with submissions pointing to the fact that violence and killings have soared after the so-called Major National Dialogue whose major resolutions involves the granting of a “special status” for the protesting population.
Observing that the Special Status has not been well received within the Anglophone community given its apparent vagueness, many were all agreed that dialogue without the Main Leaders of the current struggle was doomed to fail.
The Cameroon Government’s stance on the Swiss led dialogue is not clear and world leaders could do more than just salute the Swiss-led negotiations, the experts said. They welcomed the fact that there is at least a mediator in the peace talks and expect that such talks will be held on neutral ground as requested by “Ambazonians”.
Citing the letter signed by 50 scholars addressed to Macron, the keynote speakers feared a repeat of the Rwandan situation in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions given that the Cameroon Anglophone conflict is one of the most neglected and under-reported conflicts in the world. Whereas the conflict is deteriorating, statistics by international organizations on humanitarian needs, deaths, arrests, and IDPs among others are not updated.
The panellists said there is the need for the International Community to make unambiguous, direct statements and as well take concrete actions to save lives in the conflict-hit regions by ending the bloodbath.
Although Ms Takambou has chosen to maintain sealed lips regarding her submissions at the Stimson Centre’s Atrocities Prevention Study Group’s panel on Cameroon in Washington DC last week, it has however filtered out that she made a passionate appeal for the international community to act now and avert another Rwanda-type bloodbath. She is said to have presented reasons why the world needs to get involved in the crisis in Cameroon as a matter of urgency.
Below are some excerpts of her submissions:
“The US has a responsibility to Cameroonians being killed daily. Under the UN doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), it is the obligation of individual states and the international community to protect whole populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Cameroon has clearly failed in its duty to protect its citizens. The onus now lies with the International Community,” the CEO of Mimi Mefo info is reported to have said.
She is said to have further argued that “The US is not new to taking such crucial decisions to protect populations. When Gaddafi threatened to kill his people, France, Lebanon and the UK proposed, and the US voted in support of a humanitarian intervention through a UN Resolution. Why is the case of Cameroon different? Why the silence? Why has there been no resolution at the level of the UN to end the hostilities and save lives? R2P is based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility but at this stage, we are hoping it would not be an action that violates Cameroon’s sovereignty, but rather forces the state and non-state actors to reach a mediated settlement. This is a humanitarian responsibility and it is my hope that the US will lead a resolution to stop the carnage.”
Drawing on the cases of Cameroonians fleeing the conflict, Ms Takambou argued for why it was logical for the US to take action.
“English-Speaking Cameroonian refugees and internally displaced persons generally have one objective. Flee! Those who can afford it, go to the US or European embassies and secure visas and travel out of the country. Those who are refused visas or those who cannot afford it, take the most dangerous options.
“Some travel through the deserts to Libya where we have all witnessed cases of humans being bought and sold as slaves in the 21st Century. The few, who manage to pass, some die in the Mediterranean and others manage to get into Europe. A great number now target the US – they go through South America. From Cameroon to Ecuador, through Columbia, Panama and then finally Mexico, the numbers of Cameroonians targeting the US as the destination of travel through these perilous routes have hiked by over 500 per cent in the last couple of years.
“We see videos and tales of woes as many die along the way – Mass graves have been found in many of the transit countries, many corpses of people are strewn across the jungles of South America. But for those who manage to cross and seek asylum in the US, their challenges are only beginning. The traumas of the conflict and the challenges faced through the perilous journey means that many who finally arrive the US have varying forms of mental health challenges ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.
“As US lawmakers, even if you do not care about those who die in Cameroon or on the hazardous journeys, you must surely care about those who make it to your shores. They become your responsibility. Not only because you have to deal with rising immigration, but also because you have to deal with all the problems associated with it. But most importantly, because it is a basic thing that we ought to do as humans – care for others. You can make all of this to end – help stop the conflict in Cameroon and it will stem this mass exodus of people.”
In discussing economics, Ms Takambou highlighted how these were inextricably linked to politics and the military.
“We cannot talk about politics or military incentives, without looking at the economy. While we appreciate the recent decision by the US to suspend Cameroon from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade deal, we think this is more of a window dressing. The impact of such a move will only affect ordinary citizens.”
She goes on to challenge the AGOA as a step that does not go far enough in forcing a resolution, arguing that the US appears to be complicit in the atrocities through its military alliance with Cameroon.
“If the US is suspending AGOA but continuing with its strong military alliance with Cameroon, the problem is not being addressed. The Battalion D’Intervention Rapid (BIR) of Cameroon, an elite unit of the military received most of their training from the US – so when our people see them committing serious atrocities, it is not often hard to blame the US. In the heart of this conflict, the US has donated military helicopters to the Biya Government.”
While underscoring the importance of protecting their interests, Ms Takambou makes the appeal that there are better ways of doing so.
“We understand that the US has interests in Cameroon, and so does China and France. Do we not think it will be mutually beneficial if these interests are protected in an atmosphere of peace rather than conflict?”
What can be done?
Ms Takambou is said to have echoed the need for targeted sanctions against those who have been fanning the flames of the conflict.
“Direct sanctions on those in power should not be ruled out. The US Secretary of State this week blacklisted the former Kenyan Attorney General on allegations of corruption. So I am not asking for an impossibility. Similar sanctions on those in positions of power within the Cameroon government will force them to seek a resolution to this conflict.”
She challenges some of the current rhetorics being used, saying that they tend to ignore the unequal power relations between the State of Cameroon and its disgruntled citizens who have taken up arms.
“We need to stop this rhetoric of violence being committed on both sides as a justification for non-action. There is no doubt that there have been widespread abuses by the Separatists including kidnappings, beheadings and the unleashing of terror on the population. But all this is happening because of the failure of governance. The failure to investigate for example the beheading of prison officer Ayafor Florence, despite the existence of video evidence showing the perpetrators, is just one of many confirmations that the Cameroon government is not bothered by the deteriorating situation.
“The US has a humanitarian responsibility as a member of the UN Security Council, to act. And that can be done through the imposition of sanctions targeting specific government officials who are in the position of power and can do something to end this crisis.
“The English-speaking community which has remained peace-loving and hospital never wanted a war in the first place; they are a people fighting for their Independence just like the US did in the 1770s. If the government has failed everyone on the table for a genuine dialogue to take place, there is a need for a 3rd party intervention.”
Before leaving Washington DC, Ms Takambou continued with an outreach to some legislative and executive institutions of the US government.