AFRICA/CAMEROON – A Jesuit: “Serious violations of human rights in the English-speaking provinces”
“The situation is dramatic: law enforcement agencies continue to kill civilians, thousands of people seek refuge abroad or in other provinces of the country”. Fr. Ludovic Lado, Jesuit, traces a dramatic picture of the crisis taking place in the English-speaking provinces of Cameroon. According to the religious, continuous violations of human rights are being perpetrated.
For years the English-speaking provinces, have asked for more space for their customs and habits and for greater autonomy. Since 2016, demonstrations of discontent have become more frequent. On October 1, 2017, the most extreme fringes declared the independence of the two English-speaking provinces from Cameroon and the birth of the Republic of Ambazonia. Faced with this situation, the French-speaking government of Yaoundé reacted with a hard hand, sending soldiers and law enforcement agencies to repress any form of dissent. To date there have been at least 150 victims – including 64 civilians – 160,000 internally displaced persons and about 26,000 who have fled to Nigeria.
“The demands for autonomy are legitimate – continues Father Lado – and I believe that the return to a federal Constitution, like the one abolished in 1972, can guarantee these provinces this autonomy. The majority of the Englis-speaking population do not want independence and disagree with the demands of independence of the movement for Ambazonia. Not only that, but most of the English speakers are also opposed to violent methods. I think violence must always be rejected”.
President Paul Biya and the government of Yaoundé, however, seem deaf to the demands of the English speakers. “Some personalities – Father Lado explains – have called for a peaceful confrontation to end repression, President Paul Biya and the government have ignored these appeals, I believe in opportunity, in 2018 presidential elections will be held and the political class of Yaoundé fear that the crisis will take a turn that will be difficult to manage.
But does one not realize that more and more young people are taking up arms against the government? Repression can only worsen the crisis”.
The US State Department has condemned the increasing violence.
The European Union has asked the Cameroonian government to use only “proportionate force” to quell the revolt. On May 16, in a letter signed by the president Msgr. Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala, the Bishops’ Conference of Cameroon denounced the “inhuman, blind, monstrous violence and a radicalization of positions” in progress in the English-speaking provinces. The Bishops call for “mediation to get out of the crisis and save our Country from a useless and baseless civil war”.
“The clashes will continue until the problems that underlie this crisis are resolved – concludes Father Lado – People are exasperated by a policy that does not listen to them and that is why it continues and will continue to resist the repression of law enforcement. A change of direction from the government is necessary, but at the moment I think it seems difficult”.