Monthly News Update: Southern Cameroons - June 2019

BY PHEDRA NEEL, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PILPG-NL

THIS POST COLLECTS UPDATES FROM THE PAST MONTH CONCERNING RELEVANT DEVELOPMENTS IN SOUTHERN CAMEROON. THE INFORMATION IS DRAWN FROM LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL ONLINE SOURCES. LAWYERING JUSTICE WILL TAKE A BREAK FROM POSTING UPDATES UNTIL AFTER THE SUMMER. 

BEGINNING OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Switzerland facilitates talks to end Anglophone crisis

In early April, Pietro Lazzeri, Swiss Ambassador to Cameroon, announced that Switzerland would be willing to help the belligerent parties in finding a way to end the Anglophone crisis. Two months later, in June, the Cameroonian federal government and several separatist groups have asked Switzerland to mediate in peace negotiations, a question Switzerland responded to in a positive matter. Switzerland noted: “At the request of the parties, Switzerland is acting as a facilitator in the crisis in north-western and south-western Cameroon. To this end, a second preparatory meeting with various Cameroonian opposition groups took place in Switzerland between 25 and 27 June 2019. Facilitation is an instrument of Switzerland’s traditional good offices. In this role, Switzerland can establish contacts and provide communication channels. Switzerland’s good offices are open to all concerned parties who wish to participate in facilitation processes.” [June 28, 2019]

Ambazonia leaders endorse Swiss-led dialogue to solve Anglophone crisis

Various leaders of the Ambazonia separatist movement have pledged to take part in the negotiation process initiated by Switzerland to seek a lasting solution to the crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. The leaders of the separatists groups have made it clear that they demand the independence of the Anglophone regions and urged other countries to support the peace negotiations. [June 28, 2019]

UN and USA welcome Swiss mediation in Anglophone crisis

Stephane Dujarric de la Rivière, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, issued a statement in which he welcomes the move by Switzerland to mediate talks between the government and the separatists in order to seek a solution to the crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. The statement reads: “The Secretary-General expresses the full backing of the United Nations to this endeavor and reaffirms his readiness to support it as necessary. He encourages all parties to participate in this process and commends the Cameroonian authorities and other stakeholders for this positive step.”

Similarly, the United States’ Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, who was in Cameroon earlier his year, welcomes the announcement that a dialogue will begin between both the government and separatist movements. He calls upon all parties to participate in the inclusive negotiation process. [June 30, 2019]

SITUATION IN SWITZERLAND

Cameroonian diaspora warned against protesting in Switzerland

Cameroon’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Leonard Henri Bindzi, has warned Cameroonians in Switzerland of the personal consequences they risk when participating in a violent protest against the presence of President Biya and his wife in Switzerland. [June 25, 2019]

Cameroon Ambassador summoned after attack on Swiss journalist at Biya’s hotel

 On Wednesday 26th June, a Swiss reporter was attacked by supposedly Biya’s bodyguards, in front of  the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva where Paul Biya was staying with his wife Chantal Biya. According to the journalist, when demonstrations began, several men ran out of the hotel to chase them away. He remained in front of the hotel and said that he was mishandled by the men who forcibly took his equipment while he was filming.Following these events, Switzerland has taken “diplomatic steps”, meaning that the Cameroonian ambassador was summoned to explain the events. [June 28, 2019] 

Swiss police clash with anti-Biya protesters in Geneva

Swiss anti-riot police clashed on Saturday, June 29, with hundreds of Cameroonian protesters in Geneva as they attempted to force their way to the Intercontinental hotel where the President Paul Biya is lodged. The anti-riot police used tear gas and water cannons to displace the protesters who were calling on the Swiss government to evict Biya from the Intercontinental hotel. The protest was organized by a group that calls itself Brigade Anti Sardinard (BAS) and assembled hundreds of Cameroonians who are calling for the release of Maurice Kamto and an end to the violence in the North West and South West regions of the country. [June 30, 2019]

Petition launched to oust Paul Biya from Switzerland

A Swiss parliamentarian has launched a petition at the Geneva Council in order to declare Cameroon’s Head of State Paul Biya persona non grata in the country. This petition is a reaction to the assault on the Swiss journalist, allegedly by Biya’s bodyguards. The Parliamentarian says the continuous stay of Paul Biya in Switzerland is a slap in the face of human rights advocates and a humiliation to the city of Geneva. [June 30, 2019]

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

Red Cross chief worried by the humanitarian situation in Anglophone regions

The Deputy Director of the International Red Cross-Africa, Patrick Youssef, has called for more support from the international community to help victims of the crisis in the North West and South West regions. The Red Cross chief said that his recent visit to the region has given him a broader idea of the urgency of the needs of those affected by the conflict, including the access to health facilities, food, clothing, and shelter. He called upon all fighting parties to allow humanitarian aid to reach even the most remote refugees. [June 17, 2019]

Separatists destroy humanitarian aid destined for Anglophone crisis victims

Armed men have set fire to a humanitarian aid vehicle in the North West region. In a video of the events, the men are heard saying that the goods are poison and that no goods sent by the Cameroonian government will be allowed to pass. This causes difficulties for the assistance plan of the government which consists of 50 truckloads of humanitarian aid to the North West and South West regions. [June 24, 2019]

Over 650,000 children in restive regions in need of humanitarian assistance 

 According to a new assessment of UNICEF, around 650 000 children living in the Anglophone regions are in need of humanitarian assistance. Toby Fricker, UNICEF’s spokesperson, also mentioned that humanitarian organizations, such as UNICEF, are having difficulties executing their mandate because of the ongoing conflict. [June 25, 2019]