The man still laying claim to victory during the 2018 presidential election in Cameroon says government measures to resolve the crisis rocking the restive English-speaking regions are too little and too late to resolve the crisis.
In a wide-ranging interview on the international TV Channel, Vox -Africa, Prof. Maurice Kamto, the leader of the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement said “decentralization, even with Special Status, is too little and too late,” to resolve the problem.
The Cameroon government had, in the wake of what it called a Major National Dialogue to resolve the crisis, fast-tracked the implementation of the 1996 Constitution and granted ‘a Special Status’ to the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons.
Still quite a fussy concept, the ‘Special Status’ is characterized by Regional Assemblies and Houses of Chiefs, along with Independent Public Conciliators, but Kamto says the measures can’t tame escalating tensions.
The opposition leader at the onset of the crisis supported decentralization but now says federalism is the only way out.
“…We now stand for federalism. Even for symbolic reasons, you cannot fail to reintroduce federalism if you want to resolve the problem seriously,” he said.
The English-speaking regions (the North West and South West regions) otherwise known as the Once Independent State of the Southern Cameroons, have been fighting to restore that independence since 2017.
They have complained about decades of marginalization, with the pent-up frustrations bursting into the open in 2016 when teachers and lawyers in the two regions took to the streets to protest what they saw as the government’s attempts to annihilate the Anglo-Saxon Education system and the Common Law system they inherited from their British colonialists.
The government responded with lethal force. A pro-independence uprising ensued, and the Southern Cameroonians began asking for independence and the creation of a new nation to be called Ambazonia.
Describing the crisis that has killed at least 4000 people as a “heart-break”, Kamto, who estimates the numbers to be much higher, notes that he did call the government’s attention to the existence of the crisis, even before it broke out.
“On the 25th of June in Bamenda, I reiterated the fact that there was an Anglophone Problem needing redress,” Kamto recalls.
“Nobody listened to us,” he said. By October of the same year, teachers and lawyers were on the streets.
“I was in Ngaoundere at the time. I saw peaceful protesters being shot at by the forces of law and order. I was so upset,” the MRC leader recalls.
Kamto says if he were to be elected President today, his first move towards resolving the crisis would be to release all those arrested in connection with the crisis, and declare a ceasefire so that the “army should be withdrawn from the streets and sent back to the barracks.”
He would then allow Anglophones to meet as Anglophones and come up with a common position on how they want the crisis to be resolved before engaging in a dialogue process.
“It should be a dialogue that involves international observers and facilitators from the African Union, the United Nations, and countries such as Britain, the US, and France because if they assist as facilitators, I think the outcome will be respected,” he posited.