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Southern Cameroons Crisis: Diplomatic And International Response

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The diplomatic front though slow kept growing daily and there is some good news already. One of these was that the International Commission Of Jurists “ICJ” had called for the immediate release of Balla and others. The ICJ condemned the arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention of lawyer Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr. Fontem Aforteka’a Neba. The ICJ recommended that Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr. Fontem Aforteka’a Neba should be immediately released. In a statement they wrote:

The ICJ condemned the arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention of lawyer Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr. Fontem Aforteka’a Neba. They have been charged with a number of offences involving terrorism; rebellion against the State; incitement of civil unrest and breach of the Constitution.

Felix Agbor-Balla (photo) and Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, respectively President and Secretary General of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), were arrested on 17 January 2017, after the Minister of Territorial Administration banned all activities, meetings and demonstrations of the CACSC and the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC). Since late October 2016, Cameroon has faced a number of demonstrations in several cities in the English-speaking regions of the country.

The protesters have been calling for an end of the use of the French language in courts and schools, among other demands, and the government has accused the two organizations, CACSC and SCNC, of supporting these activities.The protests began after an indefinite strike by school teachers in the city of Bamenda, by youth protesting against alleged neglect of the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.

Felix Agbor-Balla and Fontem Aforteka’a Neba are currently detained incommunicado at the Yaounde Central Prison in Kondegui, which is far from where family members live. Their trial which had been set for 1 February 2017 was postponed without notice or due cause to 13 February 2017.The charges they face require evidence establishing that they incited or carried out acts of violence or, that they were the instigators of the protests and demonstrations.

The two were arrested on the same day where they had signed a statement calling for protest activities to be carried out without violence. If convicted of the charges, the two may face the death penalty.The ICJ is concerned that the two men are being held incommunicado, in contravention of international standards, where they are vulnerable to ill-treatment. The ICJ is also concerned at allegations that their charges stem from exercise of their internationally protected human rights, including rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.Under no circumstances should they be subjected to the possibility of the death penalty.

ICJ further calls on the authorities in Cameroon to comply with their obligations under the treaties to which it is party, including as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.These treaties guarantee the rights to a fair trial, liberty and freedom of expression, association and assembly, among other rights.

The ICJ opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, as a violation the right to life and freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.The ICJ calls on Cameroon to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolition, in line with repeated calls by the UN General Assembly.

However, the international crisis Group in its 2nd August 2017 Africa Report No 250 gave the international and diplomatic response concerning the Anglophone Crisis. They wrote:

The international response has been led by the U.S., multilateral organisations and international civil society. On 28 November 2016, the U.S. State Department published a communiqué calling for dialogue in the Anglophone regions and calling on the government of Cameroon to respect fundamental freedoms. In December, the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa condemned the violence and asked Cameroon to respect minorities. On 18 January 2017, the president of the African Union Commission expressed concerns about acts of violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions and called on the government to seek dialogue. The UN Special Representative for Central Africa visited Yaoundé in February and April. He met Consortium leaders in prison and signed a communiqué calling for the release of prisoners, the restoration of internet and dialogue. On 23 March, during President Biya’s visit to the Vatican, the Pope invited him to pursue dialogue and respect minorities. These statements helped to secure an end to internet shutdown in

These statements helped to secure an end to internet shutdown in April, but did not result in any moves toward the structural and constitutional reforms requested by Anglophones. Bilateral responses and the European Union (EU)’s response has been the weakest. Except for the U.S., Cameroon’s Western partners, such as France, the UK, Germany, Canada and the EU have not made any public statement, saying they are exercising discreet diplomatic pressure on Yaoundé. The strongest reactions have come from international civil society, especially from the UK Bar and organisations like Amnesty International. The lack of coordination of the international response has undermined new initiatives. Several European countries planned to publish statements but, in the end, remained silent, clearly for fear of finding themselves isolated. Other partners with economic interests in Cameroon probably preferred to tacitly support the regime, which protects them against Chinese competition.

In February, some European countries wanted the European Union to issue a joint statement on the Anglophone question, but the initiative was blocked by other member states anxious to avoid criticising Cameroon too openly because of its role in the fight against Boko Haram. This relatively timid reaction can be partly explained by diplomats’ hesitation to intervene in a crisis whose consequences are limited to the country in question, without repercussions in the sub-region, and which remains less acute than other crises in Africa. Although limited, the gains made by discreet pressure confirm them in their opinion that private diplomacy is the best strategy. More generally, Western countries have tended to deal with Cameroon in the context of its relative stability compared to other Central African countries and the low risk that the Anglophone crisis will lead to

Although limited, the gains made by discreet pressure confirm them in their opinion that private diplomacy is the best strategy. More generally, Western countries have tended to deal with Cameroon in the context of its relative stability compared to other Central African countries and the low risk that the Anglophone crisis will lead to partition of the country. Cameroon’s role in the fight against Boko Haram reinforces this attitude. The government of neighbouring Nigeria has not got involved in the current crisis. Moreover, it is wary of the Anglophone protest movement, because it fears that an independent Anglophone Cameroon could act as a base for separatist Nigerian movements. Nevertheless, some inhabitants of south-eastern Nigeria sympathise with Cameroonian Anglophone activists, although this probably does not amount to any substantial support.

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