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Canada lauds Cameroon’s efforts towards peace

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The conflict-torn Anglophone North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon have received praise from the Canadian government for their peace-making efforts.

A complex military struggle between the government forces and armed separatist organizations has developed from what started as a political disagreement in Cameroon’s Anglophone region.

According to a report by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, English-speaking lawyers, students, and teachers started protesting what they called “neglect” and “cultural marginalization” by the Francophone-dominated government of Cameroon in 2016, which resulted in a violent crackdown by security forces.

The protesting unions kicked against the appointment of Francophone teachers, prosecutors, and judges in Anglophone areas. The union leadership denounced these appointments as part of the government’s gradual but steady process of “francophonisation” of the state, a report by The Conversation says.

In October 2017, Anglophone separatists proclaimed independence and declared a new ‘Ambazonia’ state in the North-West and South-West regions, a declaration that sparked a deadly conflict between armed separatists and Cameroonian security forces.

The separatist groups have described themselves as a movement for the “restoration” of the “Republic of Ambazonia”. The name ‘Ambazonia’ – derived from Ambas Bay, in the Gulf of Guinea – was coined in the mid-1980s by an Anglophone dissident lawyer, Fon Gorji Dinka, according to The Conversation.

More than 6,000 persons, including civilians and children, have been killed in the conflict since 2017. Security forces have perpetrated extrajudicial killings and widespread sexual and gender-based violence, burned Anglophone villages, and subjected individuals with suspected separatist ties to arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment, according to the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Following years of deadly conflict, the warring parties have now entered an agreement to begin a formal peace process with Canada given the mandate to facilitate the process.

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, in a statement issued on Friday, welcomes the agreement by the parties to enter a process to reach a comprehensive, peaceful and political resolution of the conflict, noting that the parties have agreed to form technical committees to begin work on confidence-building measures.

Canada commends the warring parties for engaging in substantive dialogue and encourages all stakeholders to support and work with the parties to advance and contribute to an inclusive process to reach a lasting and sustainable political settlement.

The statement, released by Global Affairs Canada, partly read: “Civilians are bearing the brunt of the ongoing crisis in Cameroon, with more than 6,000 people have lost their lives since 2017. In addition, nearly 800,000 people have been displaced as a result of this crisis, and 600,000 children do not have full access to education.

“Canada welcomes the agreement by the parties to enter a process to reach a comprehensive, peaceful, and political resolution of the conflict. The parties have also agreed to form technical committees to begin work on confidence-building measures.

“The agreement to enter a formal process is a critical first step toward peace and a safer, more inclusive, and prosperous future for civilians affected by the conflict.

“We commend all parties for engaging in substantive dialogue. We encourage all stakeholders to support and work with the parties to advance and contribute to an inclusive process to reach a lasting and sustainable political settlement.

“Canada has accepted the mandate to facilitate this process, as part of our commitment to promote peace and security and advance support for democracy and human rights. Our role also reflects Canada’s engagement to work with our African partners to build a better future for everyone.

“The parties to this agreement are the Republic of Cameroon, the Ambazonia Governing Council and the Ambazonia Defence Force, the African People’s Liberation Movement and the Southern Cameroons Defence Force, the Interim Government, and the Ambazonia Coalition Team. The parties further express the hope that other groups will join the process”.

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