As armed conflict rages on in what is gradually becoming the Ambazo-Cameroonian War, critics, civil society leaders and political commentators have called on the government of Great Britain to up its involvement in deescalating hostilities. The conflict, which has claimed the lives of at least five hundred civilians and soldiers in the English-speaking Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon, has been discussed in the US, Canadian and British parliaments but no government has taken further steps to push for a resolution of the conflict. Earlier this month, British members of parliament debated on the human rights crisis in Cameroon and implored the British government to active measures of ensuring that lives are saved in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon while pressing for justice to take its course against human rights violators.
In the following opinion, Dr Peter Mbile offers an analysis of the conflict in the former British Southern Cameroons, arguing that “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has a responsibility to help end the bloodshed in Cameroon”. Dr Mbile is the son of the late Southern Cameroonian and Cameroonian statesman, N. N. Mbile and the author of Knowledge to Action by Rapprochement: Counsel to Actors Seeking Impact Through Policy and Reform of Institutions in Central Africa (African Political, Economic and Security Issues). Please find more of Dr Mbile’s publications here.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has a responsibility to help end the bloodshed in Cameroon.
Without question, the Cameroonian people of the South West and North West in particular, are facing great difficulties, some truly unimaginable 3 years ago. However, the international community and the Cameroon State appear to be completely paralyzed, and have few choices but to pursue a military campaign against what we now term “Ambazonians”.
Military campaigns have only one set of outcomes: death, destruction, atrocities and retrogression. These need to stop.
The “Ambazonians” are in fact Cameroonians of the South West and North West, who have been radicalized through their own experiences; by reminders and instrumentalization of that experience by our diaspora; pushed by hopes of a better life; a better future; and especially a legitimate yearning for an Identity which they believe has been denied them for many decades – leading to their marginalization on their own land.
The “Ambazonians” believe they cannot express their full humanity under the current centralized, French-dominated system of government. And therefore, a need for a “separate” State – a feeling now made more acute by the atrocities of the current conflict/war. This choice appears for them to be an only option; for patriotism, for identity, and for progress. But are they necessarily?
It is quite easy for one’s life outlook to be consumed by the ugliness of war. And to speak to the actors of this war through that frustration. But less than 2 years ago the majority of these Ambazonian fighters and State soldiers could never have described each other in such terms; as enemies; or be seen by each other as legitimate targets for death, destruction and demonization. How did we get here and especially who can help us roll these perceptions back?
If solutions to this crisis were easy to find, we would have found them. However, there is wide agreement across the board that the war; the killings, the insecurity the mayhem, must stop. Its so advanced that, stopping this (short of killing every “Ambazonian” as some folks tragically imagine), requires a force of reason and of persuasion, strong enough, legitimate, yet external to this macabre drama.
One entity with both the historical and global legitimacy; including the diplomatic means to intervene vigorously and help resolve this crisis, is the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately for the moment, the UK is itself wrapped in the controversies, trials and tribulations of BREXIT. Therefore, our problem will either have to wait; or the UK must find additional resources to commit to the “Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia Crisis”. Why?
Outside geography, the main reason the North West and South West together, view themselves as “different” to the rest of Cameroon, is linked to certain important, even fundamental life aspects like Education, Judiciary, Community Organization or even Psychological perceptions of State business and or how to address such societal challenges.
Many of these formal perceptions are linked directly to British or Anglo-Saxon influence and rooted in British Colonialism and influence. There is also a significant French influence through association with brothers/sisters of former French Cameroon. Unfortunately, until room has been created for the “Anglophones” to fully express this so-called “Anglo-Saxon” heritage, even the obvious benefits of association with former French Cameroon would be systematically, and unfairly rejected by a majority of “Anglophones”. We also have our differences…
The South West and the North West are less culturally homogeneous as some imagine. In fact there are some cultural differences with a potential to create real and or imagined difficulties in the face of ever present political expediency. Therefore, should these two regions be “forced together” into a separate entity without important groundwork; or be forced into a continued centralized union with brothers of former French Cameroon, we will continue to have great internal strife. A sort of frying pan into the fire; or do nothing strategy.
The UK must see these realities simply, as an additional tool for conflict management, even as they must allow Cameroonians themselves to provide lasting solutions. The UK cannot imagine herself to be just “another foreign country on this matter”. France cannot play that role as there is insufficient trust within “Anglophones” for French mediation.
It is our hope that the UK should engage as quickly as possible in Cameroon. They have the resources to do so, despite BREXIT. And above all else they owe us this service – because it is a fact that; if we were not colonized by Britain, or if we were not using their esteemed language, Judiciary and Educational System, we would not have been in this now, seemingly, intractable situation.