On Human Rights Day, Cameroon Activists, Civilians Call for True Dialogue to End Crises
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON – Hundreds are protesting on Thursday, International Human Rights Day, In Cameroon to call for an end to separatist violence and Boko Haram terrorism. The two conflicts have killed tens of thousands of people in the country.
A crowd of mostly women and children sing at the city center in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, for peace to return to the central African state.
Mumah Bih Yvonne of the Cameroon Women’s Peace Movement says human rights abuses are becoming unbearable, with women and children the most common victims.
“A true truce should be observed. A cease-fire and a dialogue where all stakeholders shall be invited,” she told VOA. “Those who have taken upon themselves to be kidnapping should be booked and anybody who perpetrated desecration, be you of the military corps or of the non-state armed groups, justice [should be] served accordingly.”
Yvonne said they organized the protest as part of activities marking the 2020 International Human Rights Day, observed on December 10.
The Cameroonian military has been fighting Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based Islamist terrorist group since 2016. The military accuses the group of regular killings, abductions, and burnings of mosques, churches, markets, and schools. The fighting has displaced over 2 million and left more than 7 million in need of humanitarian aid.
The United Nations reports that 3,000 people have been killed and 550,000 displaced since fighting broke out with English-speaking separatists in the French-majority country in 2016.
In its 2020 report, Human Rights Watch says both armed groups and government forces have been committing widespread human rights abuses across Cameroon.
The report says government forces and armed separatists have even killed, assaulted, or kidnapped people with disabilities.
Both the military and separatist fighters have admitted quite often that human rights abuses such as abductions, beheading of women and children, and killing of innocent civilians exist. In some cases, the government has blamed the military and opened investigations.
Feka Parcibel is the coordinator of the organization Hope for Vulnerable and Orphans. She says rebels and the military should drop their weapons if they truly want peace to return to Cameroon. She says the fighting has deprived hundreds of thousands of children of their rights to education. Feka says dozens of children have been killed for going to school.
“It has been four years of suffering. The killings have not brought any solution and will not bring any solution. We are tired of crying, of running away from home, of getting into sex work, we are tired of being slaves just to survive. Drop your guns, end the bloodshed,” she said.
Feka said Cameroon should organize what she called a true national dialogue with separatist leaders to stop human rights abuses.
Marie Theres Abena Ondoua, Cameroon’s minister of women’s empowerment, says the government is committed to bringing peace, but that fighters should drop their weapons.
“Prime minister [Joseph] OK? Dion Ngute was in the North West and South West and he spoke to them [fighters] in a language that they all understand so I am begging them to listen to his cry and that they should give up violence. We have all become beggars of peace and each of us has a role to play so that our beloved country can become a land of peace,” she told VOA.
Cameroon held a so-called major national dialogue last year to solve the country’s crises, especially the Anglophone separatist crisis, but fighting has continued, with gross human rights violations, according to the U.N.
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