Cameroon: US Gov’t Says UNDP-Backed Reconstruction Program in Southern Cameroons is Ill-Advised, Ill-Timed

Some Senior Officials of the US State Department have made clear an ongoing reconstruction program being backed and co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons, at the behest of the Cameroun government is ill-advised, ill-timed and is unlikely to return the war-torn region to normalcy.

Taking questions from some Members of the US Congress in Washington DC Thirsday July 30, the Under-Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy Jr. said there is no way the situation in the Cameroons can be addressed without paying attention to the conflict ongoing in the once Independent State of Southern Cameroons, a region he referred to as the North West and South West.

Commenting on a Cameroon government plan to begin reconstruction in the war-torn region where the Cameroon army is still burning down villages in its campaign against pro-independence self-defense volunteers, marked by scores of killings daily, Mr. Tibor Nagy described the venture backed by the UNDP as not addressing the real needs and desires of the people.

He said “…the Cameroon government seems to forget that the number one desire of the people of the North West and South West regions is to have a say over their own affairs. It is one thing to talk about development, but the heart of it is the keen desire to have control over their own lives and until the Cameroon government understands that, all these plans are not going to succeed”.

The ongoing armed conflict in the Southern Cameroons has mutated from peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers in 2016 demanding greater autonomy, notably a return to a 1961 federal arrangement to violence after government abandoned dialogue and resorted to a military option. Shocked by the excessive use of force by the government, the people of Southern Cameroons changed their demands in 2017 to outright self-determination.

The two Cameroons at the dawn of independence were both UN Trust territories administered separately by France and Britain with the intent of preparing each side for independence. In 1961, the UN forced the Southern Cameroons to through a February-11 referendum to achieve independence either by joining the Federal Republic of Nigeria or French-controlled La Republique du Cameroun. The outcome of the vote saw the two Cameroons coming together in a federation of two states “equal in status”, but the French-speaking Cameroun with its military might and overwhelming population soon overran the Southern Cameroons into a unitary state. The result of that mutation is the ongoing war of independence.

According to multiple sources, the conflict has so far claimed over 12,000 lives with over 400 village settlements reduced to ashes by the Cameroun armed forces. It has also left over 1,5 million people homeless and in need of humanitarian assistance, and hundreds of thousands of others have fled into exile in neighbouring countries as refugees.