Biden Administration’s Interest in Conflict in English-Speaking Cameroon Heralds Renewed Concerted International Pressure on Biya’s Gov’t

Authorities in Cameroon, so averse to foreign intervention in the country’s “domestic affairs” are increasingly uncomfortable with the incoming Biden administration’s readiness to take a closer look at what is happening in the English-speaking region.

Speaking during his confirmation hearing, the incoming US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken expressed displeasure at what he described as “violence directed at the Anglophone population” in Cameroon.

It is a statement that breaks with the usual diplomatic language that is always coated with niceties, according to Kennedy Abang, author of the book “Southern Cameroons; Negotiating an Existence.”

Incoming US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken told the Senate that the US would be vibrant again on the international scene (C)

Mr. Blinken’s outing came just days after the US Senate passed Resolution 684 that calls on the Cameroon government and armed groups from the English-speaking Southern Cameroons to “end all violence, respect the human rights of all Cameroonians, and pursue a genuinely inclusive dialogue toward resolving the ongoing civil conflict in Anglophone Cameroon.”

The resolution talks of the “the Francophone-dominated Government of Cameroon” that for decades has “repressed English-speaking Cameroonians politically and economically throughout the history of Cameroon, dating back to the reunification of British-administered Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon under a federal system in October 1961.”

The said resolution further condemned the “…excessive use of force by government security forces against Cameroonian civilians living in the Anglophone regions, including the burning of villages, the use of live ammunition against protestors, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, sexual abuse, and killing of civilians, including women, children, and the elderly.”

“That resolution”, says Cameroon’s towering intellectual and President of the National Democratic Institute, Christopher Fomunyoh, “was a jewel, because it gives the incoming (Biden) administration the pedestal on which to stand and tighten the noose around the Yaounde regime, and will also embolden lawmakers in other countries to pressure their respective governments to act.”

That perhaps is the effect it has had on the British Shadow Minister of International Trade, Emily Thornberry.

Christopher Fomunyoh, Director for African Affairs at the National Democratic Institute- NDI (C) The Fomunyoh Foundation

“She has always spoken very powerfully on our case in Parliament,” Fomunyoh says of the shadow Minister.

“But with a corrupt government here engaged in a mountain of dubious deals with Yaounde all the talking ends in the Parliament” he adds.

In essence, Mrs. Thornberry was terribly upset with a trade deal the United Kingdom signed with Cameroon on the same day the US passed its resolution on the crisis in the Central African country.

The said trade deal states that “…the UK commits to providing immediate duty-free, quota-free access to goods exported from Cameroon. In exchange, Cameroon commits to gradual tariff liberalization of goods…”

In a fiery speech in the United Kingdom Parliament, Emily Thornberry said the trade deal agreed by ministers showed no consideration and no concern for the “persistent gross violations of international human rights that are taking place inside Cameroon.” (Hon. Emily Thornberry blasting the trade deal between the UK and Cameroon)

Angered that the trade deal was not debated in Parliament, Hon. Thornberry said she could not understand why Britain would negotiate a trade deal “with a regime which is slaughtering women and children just because they live in English-speaking towns.”

Yaah Maggie Kilo, Member of the Steering Committee of the Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations

Southern Cameroons’ pro-Independence leaders and experts keen on the conflict have welcomed the renewed international interest in the Cameroon conflict. Yaah Maggie Kilo, an expert on state fragility and international development, told Timescape Magazine that she would like to see the US “sponsor negotiations, just like what they did in South Sudan. That will be of tremendous importance to us, to see that the bloodshed comes to an end, the conflict stops, and we can have real negotiations with the government of Cameroon.”

Government officials in Cameroon have long insisted that the country’s problems will be solved by Cameroonians.

Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, Director of the CPDM Academy in Yaounde (C) YouTube

While noting that Mr. Blinken’s interest in seeing an end to the bloody conflict in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons is just part of US foreign policy objectives, Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, the Director of the ruling CPDM party’s academy contentedly said that “as far as I know, the US will never support secession.”

The conflict in the Cameroons started five years ago as a plea for more autonomy in the judiciary and education sectors, but eventually led to calls for total independence.

It has plunged the former UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons into a savage civil war that has now lasted four years.

And it has taken a toll on the people of the region: over 3,000 (according to the United Nations, though local and international rights organizations put the figure at over 12,000) people have been killed and millions forced into exile, with hundreds of thousands still living in the bushes.