Opinion Piece: Major National Dialogue Should Set Stage For Mediated Talks Between Government, Separatists

By Edwin Asong

On September 10, 2019, Cameroonians witnessed an unprecedented address from their Head of State, His Excellency President Paul Biya.
President Biya centered his address to the Nation on the sociopolitical crisis rocking the restive Northwest and Southwest regions of the country.

In the words of Mr Biya, “for close to three years now, the Northwest and Southwest regions of our country have been going through a crisis that has not only jeopardize the safety and well being of the population living there; but also has far reaching consequences, for the national community as a whole”.

It should be recalled that this address is coming from the backdrop of the teachers and lawyer’s strike calling for the revision of the OHADA Uniform Act into English and French and the preservation of the specificities of the Anglo-Saxon Judicial and Educational system in the two regions. The poor handling of these demands by the government and the locking up of Consortium Members spearheading these demands resulted in the infamous September 22, 2017 peaceful protests which resulted in counter repressive measures in the Anglophone regions by the State armed security forces.

This encouraged people in the regions to result to picking up of arms to defend themselves against what they accuse the military of looting, rape, arson and killing of innocent unarmed civilians.

Despite the somewhat not near enough measures taken by the Government to solve the sociopolitical crisis as critics say, Mr Biya in his address re-irritated what he considers have been several measures taken by his government to solve the sociopolitical crisis: “From the onset and true to an option that I hold dear, I instructed the holding of a dialogue between the Government and the trade unionist to seek appropriate solutions to these demands.”


As documented, the measures as announced by Mr Biya include amongst others;
1) The translation of the OHADA instruments which are now available in the two official languages
2) The creation of a Common Law section at the Supreme Court to handle appeals failed against the decisions of the Lower Courts in Common Law matters
3) The launching of a special recruitment of bilingual teachers.
Critics say the measures put in place by the government came too little too late to quell the already held sentiments of marginalization amongst those in the Northwest and Southwest regions.

Worthy of note is the fact that Mr Biya in his address admonished the anglophones not to complain about marginalization because he has always appointed an Anglophone to the post of the Prime Minister. The appointment of an anglophones is a Constitunal clause so why then will he say that as if he’s doing the anglophones a
favour? An observer asked after the end of Mr Biya’s report.

On January 2019, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), the main opposition party in the country, announced it will oppose any future elections in the country while there was still war ongoing. Their stance was followed by a boycott of the Nation’s National Day celebrations on May 20th 2019 in what they termed ‘sympathy with people in the Southern Cameroon’s living in a state of civil war’.

Other opposition parties, such as the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) also blamed the Government for failing to solve the anglophone crisis.
However the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), the ruling party to which Mr Biya has been the chairman since it’s rebirth , regards the separatists as terrorist and supports a military solution to the conflict.

President Biya in his address was admonishing and went on the defensive “ despite the efforts made by the government, radical movements mainly inspired from abroad have exploited and distorted corporate demands. They thus have hatched a secessionist plan to partition our country. In this regard, they have financed armed groups that have caused untold harm to the population of the Northwest and Southwest regions.”

Mr Biya here could be referring to the activities of some anglophone Cameroonians in the diaspora mainly in the USA and Belgium who have formed groups they say represent the the ‘State of Ambazonia’ as they call the anglophone regions. So they are accused of sponsoring the corporate demands. They thus have hatched a secessionist plan to partition our country. In this regard, they have financed armed groups that have caused untold harm to the population of the Northwest and Southwest regions.” Mr Biya here could be referring to the activities of some anglophone Cameroonians in the diaspora mainly in the USA and Belgium who have formed groups they say represent the the ‘State of Ambazonia’ as they call the anglophone regions. So they are accused of sponsoring the numerous armed separation groups fight the armed and security forces in Cameroon.

As such to unite the country under his one and indivisible policy and in a bit to solve the ongoing
sociopolitical crisis in the anglophone regions and the Book Haram activities in the Far North region, Mr Biya in his address convened what he termed A GRAND NATIONAL DIALOGUE. This dialogue Mr Biya says will “ enable us to seek ways and means if meeting the high aspirations of the people of the Northwest and Southwest regions , but also of all the other components of our Nation.” Per the Mr Biya this dialogue will be inclusive and will involve everyone from the armed separatists who lay down their arms and benefit from amnesty, to those in the diaspora, the civil society, opposition leaders and well wishers.

Observers say President Biya decided to call for the dialogue owing to the mounting pressure from the International Community, local opposition parties, the civil society and the growing discontent amongst Cameroonians living in the anglophone regions about the handling of the crisis. The main opposition party the Social Democratic Front (SDF) welcomed the dialogue but in an official party press release proposed the dialogue be chaired by a neutral party. They also asked the dialogue address the root cause of the anglophone problems, create an opening to discuss the firm of the State and for the military to not be part if the dialogue for they have played a role in the de-escalation of the conflict.

An observer Jack Chiraq questions the decisions of President Biya, “ the roof your house is burning and about to collapse, fire is destroying your kitchen , but stand by the door and invite people in, who now? Are you by any chance trying to increase the death toll toll or are you simply oblivious to the carnage you are causing?

This is the opinion held amongst many of the staunch regime critics who see the convening of the National dialogue as a sham and they refer to the Yaoundé Tripartite Conference where resolutions taken there are still to be implemented after so many years.

In this present form the National Dialogue of President Biya continues to transpire his dictate of
engagement of any future negotiations to end the anglophone conflict. The separatists were niy at the origin of the crisis, State repression was. Having achieved de facto legitimacy, it is hard to believe that the separatists will gladly go to a non-neutral ground. Therefore President Biya’s National Dialogue, while praiseworthy can only be a prelude to mediated talks between the regime and the separatists’.
As such to unite the country under his one and indivisible policy and in a bit to solve the ongoing sociopolitical crisis in the anglophone regions and the Boko Haram activities in the Far North region, Mr Biya in his address convened what he termed a Major National Dialogue.

This dialogue, Mr Biya says, will “ enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the people of the Northwest and Southwest regions , but also of all the other components of our Nation.”


Mr Biya says this dialogue will be inclusive and will involve everyone from the armed separatists who lay down their arms and benefit from amnesty, to those in the diaspora, the civil society, opposition leaders and well wishers.


Observers say President Biya decided to call for the dialogue owing to the mounting pressure from the International Community, local opposition parties, the civil society and the growing discontent amongst Cameroonians living in the anglophone regions about the handling of the crisis.

The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), welcomed the dialogue but in an official party press release proposed the dialogue be chaired by a neutral party. They also asked the dialogue address the root cause of the anglophone problems, create an opening to discuss the firm of the State and for the military to not be part if the dialogue for they have played a role in the de-escalation of the conflict.

An observer Jack Chiraq questions the decisions of President Biya, “the roof your house is burning and about to collapse, fire is destroying your kitchen , but stand by the door and invite people in, who now? Are you by any chance trying to increase the death toll toll or are you simply oblivious to the carnage you are causing.”

This is the opinion held amongst many of the staunch regime critics who see the convening of the National dialogue as a sham and they refer to the Yaoundé Tripartite Conference where resolutions taken there are still to be implemented after so many years.

In this present form the National Dialogue of President Biya continues to transpire his dictate of engagement of any future negotiations to end the anglophone conflict. The separatists were not at the origin of the crisis, State repression was.
Having achieved de facto legitimacy, it is hard to believe that the separatists will gladly go to a non-neutral ground.

*Edwin Asong is a political science researcher and analyst

Back to top button
Close