6 March 2017
Africans Rising Releases Fact-Finding Mission Report Into Crisis In Cameroon
In October 2016, associations representing teachers, educators and lawyers in two of Cameroon’s Anglophone South West and North West Regions embarked on a strike action. Their demands centred on greater inclusion and promotion of English-speaking Cameroonians in the teaching and legal sectors as well as across government and society in general, both regionally and nationally.
The strikes were followed a few weeks later by public protests in the two regions’ main cities, Bamenda and Buea organised by leading civil society organisations in the regions in support of the strikes and against the general “marginalisation and deprivation” of Anglophone Cameroonians by the Francophone authorities and government of President Paul Biya. The protests were broadened to include “ghost town” actions – stay-at- home boycotts enacted twice a week that led to major disruptions of schooling, judicial processes, private and public businesses and other services.
The government responded to protests with a security crackdown that led to reported human rights violations by the authorities and security forces including killings, arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, harassment and intimidation. An internet blockade that was instituted in January and has denied millions of people in the Anglophone regions access to the internet, remains in effect. Together with militarised security operations, this has produced a pervasive climate of repression, fear and intimidation across the
South West and North West Regions. Concerned about the worsening human rights situation, a four-member delegation from Africans Rising embarked on a fact-finding mission to Cameroon to understand the nature of the conflict, its context and its impact on the people of Cameroon and to help seek lasting peaceful and just solutions to the crisis for the Cameroonian people. The delegation met discreetly with a range of stakeholders, many of whom requested anonymity out of fear for their safety, who shared eyewitness accounts of many of the reported human rights violations and the impact of these violations on them and their communities.
We observed the devastating economic impact of the internet blockade, disrupted cellular communications and the closure of businesses as well as the equally devastating social impact on education, healthcare and safety and security that the government’s crackdown and protest actions have brought to bear in this crisis. The repressive response by government also has had serious political impacts, most notably the shrinking of space for civic and political action that in turn undermines citizens’ fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly and political association.
In order to resolve this deepening crisis, the Africans Rising mission recommends that the government immediately act to end the repressive actions and fear by ending its militarised security operations in the Anglophone regions with immediate effect. Other recommendations include the immediate unconditional release all people – including children, civil society leaders, and journalists – arrested and detained in connection with the process; the immediate restoration of internet access; the resumption of schooling; and the establishment of an open, independently-mediated dialogue process between government and Anglophone civil society to address all grievances.
As an emerging movement of people and formations, working for peace, justice and dignity we call on African organisations such as the African Union as well as other solidarity social justice groupings to engage this crisis in order to help bring about lasting peaceful and justice solutions for the people of Cameroon.
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