Pressure Mounts on Biden Administration to Lead Efforts to End Genocidal War in Southern Cameroons Via Regime of Sanctions

As conflict continues to range in Southern Cameroons, human rights, civil liberties, social justice, and faith leaders, as well as experts, scholars, and other organizations have brought more pressure to bear on the Biden administration, calling on the United States’ government to lead the effort to bring the conflict to a quick end.

In a carefully worded petition to US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the signatories, including the World Council of Churches, the Cameroon Humanitarian Relief Initiative, Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations, Sam Soya Center for Democracy and Human Rights as well as the Global Campaign for Peace & Justice in Cameroon said they were deeply concerned with “the ongoing armed conflict in Cameroon, and especially atrocities and gross human rights violations against the Anglophone minority population in the country.”

Southern Cameroons refugees arrive in Nigeria to face tough living conditions (C) UNHCR

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at least, three million or about 50% of the Southern Cameroons population have been affected by the crisis, and 1.4 million need immediate humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported over 70,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring Nigeria and over 711,000 IDPs now live in other regions of the country as of November 2020.

In addition, women have become prized targets as rape is now being used as a weapon of war. The UN says 377 Gender-Based Violence (GBV) incidents were reported in the two regions.

“Thousands of civilians have been killed, and more than 300 villages have been burnt. As a result of the ongoing conflict, Anglophone Cameroonians have become the leading asylum seekers from Africa at the U.S. Southern border with Mexico,” the signatories say in a statement.

They say “the conflict is stressing a region already facing violent extremism in the Lake Chad basin and, if allowed to fester, would seriously jeopardize ongoing international efforts to curtail cross-border terrorism and combat Boko Haram and ISWAP. It also has the potential of threatening regional peace and security in the Gulf of Guinea.”

They blame the government of Cameroon for its failure to resolve the conflict, putting it down to the government’s “unwillingness to address head-on the root causes and its resort to military force to address otherwise political grievances of citizens.”

Escalating violence in Southern Cameroons targets children, women and the vulnerable old men and women who cannot run for their lives (C) UN News

They express confidence that the US government could act on the US Senate’s New Year Resolution that called for punitive sanctions on those responsible for the conflict in the Cameroons.

The rare bipartisan motion slammed the Francophone-dominated government of President Paul Biya, accusing it of repressing Anglophone citizens both politically and economically for decades. The Senators also cite the Yaounde administration's corruption and allegedly fraudulent elections.

The resolution calls for targeted smart sanctions against armed actors implicated in human rights abuses, it demands unfettered humanitarian access to the conflict zone, it calls for the Biya government to participate in mediated talks to address the root causes of the conflict, and it urges the US to continue to limit its security assistance to Cameroon.

“Mr. Secretary, we believe, strongly, that the Department of State and the Biden Administration should lead efforts to bring this conflict to an immediate end,” say the leaders of the human rights, social justice, and faith groups as well as experts, scholars, and other organizations.

They came up with a range of proposals which if implemented could lead to an end to the crisis. The proposals are:

- Name a Special Envoy to facilitate the State Department’s lead within the inter-agency process and its efforts to engage all international and local stakeholders whose contributions are needed to bring an end to the conflict, as laid out in Resolution 684.

- Impress upon the warring parties to negotiate, without any preconditions, for an end to the conflict and engage allies of the United States, notably France, to play a more constructive role in ending the conflict.

- Engage more firmly the African Union and agencies of the United Nations system to assist Cameroon address the root causes of the conflict and to uphold freedoms and universal rights.

- Initiate an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow unfettered access for humanitarian assistance and protect humanitarian workers and the Anglophone civilian population who desperately need assistance. We ask that the US to lead efforts by the international donor community to increase humanitarian support in order to meet the urgent and growing needs of IDPs and refugees.

- Demand an independent international investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council of massacres, atrocities, and gross human rights abuses in Anglophone Cameroon in order to account for and hold perpetrators of rights abuses accountable, and to prevent a culture of impunity that breeds more abuses to the civilian population.

- Champion an interagency response to sanction perpetrators of gross human rights abuses in order to curb impunity and curtail ongoing atrocities by both sides.

- End arms sale and military assistance to the Government of Cameroon, as there is ample evidence that military equipment provided by the US has been used to commit atrocities to the civilian population in Anglophone Cameroon.

- Grant Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Anglophone Cameroonians currently resident in the US. This community represents the highest number of Africans fleeing violence, torture and persecution from a majority Francophone government and reliable information confirms that many of the individuals deported by the previous Administration are currently in detention and facing abuses.

- Capitalize on the provisions of Senate Resolution 684 of January 1, 2021, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018 and other tools at your disposal to bring the civil war in Anglophone Cameroon to a negotiated end.

Southern Cameroonians fleeing atrocious assaults are among the highest number of Africans taking the risk through the dangerous forests to the Mexican border with the United States of America (C) The Telegraph

These proposals and many others before them from other quarters point to the systematic neglect this genocidal war has faced from the international community that continues as individual countries to do business with the government of ailing President Biya as usual.