Cameroon – Anglophone Crisis: I don’t think separation is realistic but Government has to show flexibility – Canadian High Commissioner
The Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon, H.E. Richard Bale was speaking in an interview published in The Post this week. He regrets that actors in the Anglophone crisis are reluctant to engage in dialogue that could end the armed conflict.
The paper quotes High Commissioner Bale as saying that the best way to end the crisis is for both the Government and the separatists to be flexible and give a chance to compromise vis-à-vis their extremist positions.
Referring to the manner in which the Canadian Government handled the Quebecois uprising in the 70s, The Post quotes the diplomat as saying that people are usually satisfied when they are given powers to manage their own affairs.
The Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon is of the opinion that countries wherein there is freedom, where opposition political parties are allowed to operate freely without harassment, are better off.
The diplomat holds that resolving the deadlocked crisis will require “a broader genuine dialogue involving a greater number of stakeholders than it happened.”
“On both sides of the conflict, you have actors who are reluctant to engage in dialogue, perhaps understandably because there is always a level of mistrust, anger, and stronger words,” said Bale. “That is what happens when there is a quasi-war and people on both sides are killed, emotions become very strong. So the challenge is: how do you get those two sides that are very angry at one another and both believe in the correctness of the cause, how do you bring them together? These spontaneous feelings, whether its hashtags or women peacebuilders, they are effectively saying the same thing; find a way of ending this by talking to one another.”
High Commissioner Bale went on to look at the differences and similarities between Cameroon and Canada, stating as it were, that Anglophones have legitimate grievances.
His words: “Canada and Cameroon are in some ways very different countries, but in some ways, it is quite striking the similarities and challenges we face or have faced. We both are bilingual countries; we both have two judicial systems: one of the linguistic communities is a minority.
“I think this is the same in both countries, they also have legitimate grievances, but also they have perceived grievances. And the trick is to address both the legitimate grievances and the perceived grievances. It is not necessarily easy.
“In Canada, we had the Quebec Independence Movement; there was a terrorist group there with bombs, cabinet ministers were assassinated. The situation of Cameroon is on the same scale. That of Canada was very traumatic. The Government sent tanks in the street at one point in Montreal, in 1970.
“We faced genuine challenges to our national unity and to our ability to build a country that accommodates the flourishing of both the majority linguistic and cultural community and the minority linguistic and cultural community.
“So, we can’t tell Cameroon what to do. We cannot tell Cameroon this is how we did things. It takes a very long time and you have to be very flexible. You have to be prepared to give things off and at the end of the day; you will be better off having given certain things off.
“So, we can share those experiences provided there is the willingness. We have been providing support to civil society, those groups that are kind of in the middle. We will continue to do that and in fact, we are going to increase our level of support for civil society groups of various kinds. We contribute to humanitarian aid. It is kind of necessary, but it is a band-aid, not a kind of solution for the crisis.
“We have supported what is known as the Swiss initiative and we are continuing to do that. We are not necessarily saying that has to be the road the two sides in the Cameroonian conflict take, but at the moment, it is the only one that is on the table. We think the offer is an opportunity and we encourage both sides to engage in that process.”
Diplomat Bale advised the government to do something that regains the people’s trust, positing that it will help the dialogue process.
Although separatists are bent on getting independence and the government is determined to secure a united and indivisible Cameroon, High Commissioner Bale says the most important thing is for the parties to meet and for there to be flexibility.
Hear him: “Both sides should show some flexibility. The reason why there is armed conflict is that there are these two irreconcilable visions. If you are going to get the maximum number of state voters to agree on an end to the crisis, there has to compromise on both sides. On the one hand, I don’t think separation is realistic. I don’t think that independence is a realistic outcome of the discussion. On the other hand, logically, surely the Government has to show flexibility in the way the state operates.”
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