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Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led a letter signed by a group of Democratic Senators to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raising deep concerns about violations of human rights, the breakdown in the rule of law, and elections fraud in Cameroon. In addition to Senator Van Hollen, the letter was signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

The Senators write, “Cameroon has become an increasingly important regional counterterrorism partner and the United States has increased its commitment of security assistance in recent years. However, rising tensions in the Anglophone North West and South West regions, coupled with credible reports of human rights abuses by the Cameroonian armed forces in those regions and the Far North, where Boko Haram is active, have changed the tone of discussions regarding U.S. security assistance.”

They continue, “Reports indicate that government forces are responsible for extrajudicial killings, the burning of villages, torture, and other human rights abuses, including a much-publicized video reportedly showing soldiers executing two women, a child, and a baby they accused of being members of Boko Haram. The violent death of American missionary Charles Wesco underscores the level of bloodshed engulfing the Anglophone areas of the country. United Nations figures indicate that more than 21,000 Cameroonians have fled to neighboring countries and 160,000 are internally displaced.”

The Senators close the letter urging, “The U.S. government should make clear to the government of Cameroon that, while we remain dedicated to the fight against Boko Haram, our commitment to human rights and the rule of law is steadfast and we expect our regional partners to share that commitment. We must also emphasize the critical importance of a political solution to the crisis in the Anglophone regions, work with civil society groups to ensure that elections are free, open, and transparent, and offer our assistance as mediators. The United States should impose sanctions on individuals found to have committed gross violations of human rights, consistent with the law. In addition, we will work with our colleagues in the Senate to assess whether additional conditions should be imposed on security assistance to Cameroon.”

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We are writing in response to concerns that have been raised about the recent elections in Cameroon, the ongoing crisis in the Anglophone regions of the country, and human rights abuses related to the crisis and the campaign against Boko Haram.

Cameroon has become an increasingly important regional counterterrorism partner and the United States has increased its commitment of security assistance in recent years. However, rising tensions in the Anglophone North West and South West regions, coupled with credible reports of human rights abuses by the Cameroonian armed forces in those regions and the Far North, where Boko Haram is active, have changed the tone of discussions regarding U.S. security assistance.

Reports indicate that government forces are responsible for extrajudicial killings, the burning of villages, torture, and other human rights abuses, including a much-publicized video reportedly showing soldiers executing two women, a child, and a baby they accused of being members of Boko Haram. The violent death of American missionary Charles Wesco underscores the level of bloodshed engulfing the Anglophone areas of the country. United Nations figures indicate that more than 21,000 Cameroonians have fled to neighboring countries and 160,000 are internally displaced.

In addition, recent elections were marred by irregularities and intimidation. Voter turnout in the Anglophone regions was reportedly “marked by apathy, and in some regions, outright fear,” and driven to unprecedented lows by the military’s campaign against Anglophone separatists, which has often veered into human rights abuses against civilians. The results of the election remain heavily disputed, and multiple presidential candidates have petitioned for the results to be voided, citing allegations of ballot stuffing and intimidation. The program director for Central Africa at the International Crisis Group told Foreign Policy that “[t]here is an emerging civil war. Anglophones feel completely disenfranchised, but they didn’t need the elections to tell them that.”

The U.S. government should make clear to the government of Cameroon that, while we remain dedicated to the fight against Boko Haram, our commitment to human rights and the rule of law is steadfast and we expect our regional partners to share that commitment. We must also emphasize the critical importance of a political solution to the crisis in the Anglophone regions, support civil society groups to ensure that elections are free, credible, and transparent, and offer our assistance as mediators. The United States should impose sanctions on individuals found to have committed gross violations of human rights, consistent with the law. In addition, we will work with our colleagues in the Senate to assess whether additional conditions should be imposed on security assistance to Cameroon.

We look forward to working with you on this critical issue.

Sincerely,

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Source: vanhollen.senate.gov

World democracies, global organizations and the world’s biggest media outlets have either maintained criminal silence or opted for a shockingly high level of hypocrisy on the 36-year-old tyranny of Paul Biya, 85, in the Cameroons.

For instance, whereas the West has chased leaders of Biya’s ilk from power under similar conditions in Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, The Gambia and Zimbabwe, excuses are made to roll out the carpet for Biya.

On November 6, the 36th anniversary of Biya’s first inauguration as president in November 1982, the ruthless dictator was sworn in for yet another seven-year term. Biya’s longevity in power would have been impossible without the West, notably France, looking the other way.

Often seen, on account of its unpopularity, as being on political life support, Biya’s regime has survived on the back of brutish repression, state terrorism, constitutional coups, massive vote rigging and election hold-ups.

Biya is the civilian façade of a clan-based de facto military regime. It thrives on divide-and-rule and fuelling the many fractious factions of the opposition.

It is a regime that pays lip service to majority rule but survives on minority rule through its rejection of election run-offs.

It dismisses remedies that could be offered by vote recounts.

It professes faith in the infallibility of decisions handed down by Biya’s hand-picked Constitutional Council, the supreme authority on the bankrupt electoral system that the regime counts on to cling on to power.

But, if you arrived on earth today from Mars, you would be forgiven for concluding – based on global media coverage of the Cameroons recently- that the most important challenge facing this two-in-one failing or failed nation founded in 1961 is the kidnapping of 81 students and their teachers. It is not.

Yet, it is the only story that every single one of the world’s leading wire services (AP, Reuters, AFP, etc.) and broadcast outlets (CNN, BBC, VOA, RFI, DW, etc.) have bothered to cover extensively.

They have done so despite the shallow nature of the facts and holes in the story.

When the dust settles, world media may be able to admit that the Biya regime played political Drama Queen on this incident, leading the world and world media by the nose.

In a hurry to have the scoop on a story that they sensed has global appeal and front-page staying power, reporters created a storm in a teacup.

Their reporting embarrassed audiences around the globe with poorly sourced, hardly fact-checked, wildly distorted, misleading and inaccurate accounts of the kidnappings.

Western capitals took the bait, expressing concern and calling for the immediate release and safe return of the kidnapped students.

None expressed concern over why an officer of Cameroon’s army was unmasked in photos as the lead kidnapper.

Acting urgently, as Western capitals did is understandable.

There is, indeed, no higher priority than to seek resolution of a crisis.

However, on these kidnappings and even before all the details are known, one thing is clear.

The kidnapping of the 81 students and teachers looks increasingly like a sadistic prank by the Biya regime.

It was aimed, ostensibly, at reenacting the April 2014 kidnapping by Boko Haram Islamic extremists of 276 Chibok Girls in Nigeria’s Borno State.

It is the kind of fabrication the regime has been desperate to find to mobilize world support for listing the pro-independence campaign as a terrorist movement.

It is the kind of crisis every tyrant prays for when they need to divert world attention from real challenges.

Like a deer in the headlights, Western powers and Western media houses are caught in the regime’s self-incriminating web of lies, endless political spin, and pure propaganda. How else?

If Western democracies were not just going along with the regime’s poorly masked campaign of demonization of pro-independence campaigners in Ambazonia, one would have expected them to show the same level of concern for other vulnerable citizens.

For example, hundreds of thousands of Ambazonian children – most of them far younger and more vulnerable than the students kidnapped – now live in the wild (in bushes, farmlands and forests).

It is the only choice they have if they want to survive the brutish French-speaking troops whose occupation of Ambazonia has led, among others, to the looting and burning to the ground of over 140 villages.

As a result of scorched earth practices in blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, more than 100,000 people have fled into exile or refugee camps mostly in neighboring Nigeria

Victims of these horrendous abuses cannot be blamed for doubting that the West truly believes in the sanctity of life – for all.

The congratulatory messages to Biya after he staged another election theft in broad daylight has many doubting the commitment of the West for democracy, human rights and the rule of law for citizens of the Cameroons.

Especially because both London and Washington, DC, congratulated the “election thief” way ahead of countries like North Korea and China.

France’s ownership of the natural resources of the Cameroons in keeping with a pre-independence accord signed on 26 December 1959 and Britain’s preoccupation with sealing oil and gas deals suggest that the West cares more for pay-to-play deals than for the welfare of Ambazonians.

The hypocrisy is blatant.

France’s foreign minister played Pontus Pilatus when reporters asked whether or not Cameroon’s most recent presidential elections were free and fair.

Paris hid behind the very convenient, but utterly false, claim that France respects Cameroon’s so-called sovereignty.

Speaking of which – where else did the West evoke national sovereignty in a crisis they were interested in preventing or ending?

Under the “Responsibility to Protect” principle adopted by the United Nations in 2005, the West can – if it truly cares – intervene unilaterally in Ambazonia to put an end to an unjustified war against the English-speaking people of Ambazonia who, overwhelmingly, favor peaceful separation from recolonization by Cameroon.

While the world has looked away, thousands of pro-independence campaigners have been massacred, injured or “disappeared” in one of the world’s most under-reported war and humanitarian crisis.

The number of the internally displaced is probably north of a million people.

It is genocide – a crime of intention.

French-speaking troops are targeting and slaughtering English-speaking citizens simply for insisting to be who they like to be: Ambazonians.

No students – or anyone else for that matter – should suffer kidnappings.

The prank this week would have been avoided had Western democracies not shown the kind of indifference, criminal silence and outright failure that has been promoted as policy at global organizations like the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Their job, at all times, should have been to call out regimes like Biya’s. Sadly, the leaders of the United Nations and the Commonwealth have bothered more about being on good terms with a tyrant who lavishes them with gifts of gold than uphold resolutions adopted by and still pending full implementation by the institutions they lead – if such could be called leadership.

As with the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the massacres in Bosnia in 1995, there is no excuse for Western democracies doing nothing to end the carnage in Ambazonia.

Especially because the Biya regime has telephoned their every move and has lived up to every one of those sadistic pledges.

For example, from the very beginning of the war against Ambazonia, the regime committed officially that its troops will target civilians indiscriminately – in other words, that their troops will commit war crimes.

The only adjustment that has been made to that policy has been the regime calling on its troops to stop documenting their atrocity crimes and crimes against humanity on video, posted on social media.

Biya’s minister of territorial administration promised, from the onset of the war, that their troops will treat – sorry, mistreat – Ambazonians worse than Boko Haram terrorists.

The regime has delivered on that promise.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the war against Ambazonia has been more deadly than the counter-terrorism campaign Cameroon is waging against Boko Haram in the northern regions of that country.

Facts don’t lie. Western democracies, global organizations and the Western media are proving, shamefully, that they held former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe to a different standard than they are willing to hold the Biya regime.

America readily approved support for rebels who formed a never-before-known state in Benghazi in defiance of the central authority of ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but Washington is unwilling even to uphold America’s YES vote – along with 63 other countries on the floor of the United Nations on 21st April 1961 – in favor of independence for Ambazonia (then known as Southern Cameroons).

The West evoked Responsibility to Protect as soon as the Gaddafi regime promised “rivers of blood”.

Yet, the same Western democracies are sitting on their hands even as the Biya regime not only promises but is actually spilling “oceans of blood” in Ambazonia.

The same United Nations which deployed Peacekeepers to arrest further descent into violence in a far less bloody civil war in Cote d’Ivoire has mouthed platitudes tantamount to giving Biya a pass even as his regime has prevented the deployment of human rights and humanitarian missions.

The same France, which, with support from America’s former president, Barack Obama, did not hesitate to lead a military invasion.

They dragged out of the presidential palace the former leader of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, and installed the person the West believed was the rightful winner of the ballot in that country.

Now, they are burying their heads in the sands of so-called sovereignty of Cameroon.

Talk of hypocrisy!

Author: Boh Herbert Ntumfoyn Ntumfoyn

Source: taarifa.rw

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The International Rescue Committee is scaling up its response in the region to respond to protection concerns and ensure access to clean water and basic needs.

  • Cameroon’s North West and South West regions are experiencing high levels of insecurity and armed violence, in some cases forcing whole communities to flee.
  • A quarter of a million people have been displaced from their homes in the South West region alone, of which around two-thirds are women.
  • After being forced to flee, many people are sheltering in the bush and relying on local communities for support. They reported urgently needing food, housing, and healthcare.
  • A recent IRC assessment found that people are using extremely negative coping mechanisms including women who are using plant leaves in lieu of sanitary towels.

Since 2016, Cameroon’s predominantly English-speaking North West and South West regions have experienced increasing levels of instability and violence, leading to a socio-economic crisis. Since October 2017 this crisis has gradually turned into insecurity and armed violence. Escalated tensions and multiple conflict outbreaks between the area’s Separatist Militias (SM) and the country’s defense and Security Forces (SF) have affected civilians; forcing many to flee their homes in the two regions.

The International Rescue Committee, in collaboration with two local organizations, Authentique Memorial Empowerment Foundation (AMEF) and Reach Out, recently conducted an assessment in the South West region to understand the needs of the displaced and host communities.

Hannah Gibbin, Cameroon country director for the International Rescue Committee said:

“The escalating crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon has long gone overlooked. A quarter of a million people have been displaced from their homes in the South West alone, of which around two-thirds are women. Access challenges across both regions mean we do not know the full extent of the needs.

After being forced to flee, people are relying on local communities for support and reported urgently needing food, housing, and healthcare. People have had to find shelter and safety in the bush where they have little access to food, clean water, or any other basic services. Others are being sheltered by villagers, where already limited facilities are being overstretched – compounding the crisis for both the displaced and the local villagers. Many people are unable to afford to buy food, leading to them undertaking desperate measures including only eating once a day.

Women are being forced to use plant leaves in lieu of sanitary towels. The IRC found that 13 of the 17 focus groups that asked women about menstrual hygiene materials reported that they do not have access. This was either because they are unable to pay for them, find them or are too afraid to move to do so.

On top of this six of the nine communities assessed do not have adequate latrines meaning people have to go to the toilet in the open, potentially exposing women and girls to exploitation and disease. Where they are available, toilets are unlit at night, have no door or locks and are not segregated by gender, once again putting women at risk.

Community leaders also told the IRC that they are concerned about health services available for pregnant women, including care during deliveries and antenatal care. Only two out of the eight health facilities surveyed have the ability to conduct cesarean sections. A number of others are missing midwives and gynecologists.”

In addition to the risks faced by women the wider displaced community is at risk from malaria and typhoid. The assessment found that health centers are serving up to 66,000 people and that some of the health facilities lack access to both the drugs and equipment needed to adequately support the community. In addition, many health facilities lack the trained staff and equipment to handle a cholera outbreak should one occur.

More than half of the locations assessed have broken water points. Where the water points are functioning, there is a concern of potential contamination and issues of overcrowding and reliability. In some communities, issues around access to water had been exacerbated by the arrival of newly displaced people as the infrastructure can not handle the number of people.

The IRC is working in the South-West region to support people displaced who have fled to areas outside of urban centers, who are most in need. Through local partners, the IRC has distributed 800 specialized kits for women, which include sanitary towels as well as 400 household kits that contain basic items needed for cooking, sleeping and staying clean. Providing safe access is secured, the IRC will scale-up its work to support displaced communities in the area in the coming weeks.

Since 2016, the IRC has been working in the Far North of Cameroon, supporting those affected by the Boko Haram crisis, to meet their basic needs and overcome the trauma they have experienced including through specialized services for women and girls as well as water and sanitation facilities.

The full assessment can be downloaded here.

Source:  rescue.org

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As Cameroon-watchers await the official results of this month’s elections amid court challenges, the outcome is highly predictable—victories for the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) and for the long-serving incumbent president, eighty-five-year-old Paul Biya. But the country’s future is utterly uncertain. It is as though Cameroon’s story is diverging in two radically different directions: one in which past is prologue and citizens and external partners find comfort in familiar faces and continuity; and another in which security is elusive, disintegration persists, and Cameroon becomes unrecognizable to those who knew it before.

The October 7 elections were held against a backdrop of increasing instability as the state battles both Boko Haram in the north and Anglophone separatists in the west. Alarmed by reports of horrific extrajudicial killings, and by the displacement of roughly a quarter of a million people, some of Cameroon’s external partners, including the United States, are grappling with tough questions about the wisdom of ongoing security assistance and cooperation. In some areas, voters were too worried about their immediate security to go to the polls. Others have lost faith in the legitimacy of the exercise, and some of the government’s choices, like its embrace of international observers of dubious credibility, suggest there is indeed reason to doubt the integrity of the process.

Those who value a stable partner in Cameroon over the long run should be interested in supporting a third possibility beyond an unsustainable status quo and a descent into chaos—one in which reforms create a more inclusive society, generational change refreshes the ranks of leadership, those responsible for abuse are held accountable for their crimes, and the connective tissue between government and citizens is strengthened by far more than pro forma electoral exercises. Right now, this third path is far more fantasy than reality. It will take a recognition that these election results settle none of Cameroon’s outstanding questions, and strong internal and external support for real political dialogue, to create space for a better future.

Author: Michelle D. Gavin

Source: cfr.org

WASHINGTON – A coalition of African political organizers Tuesday offered advice on how to oust Cameroon President Paul Biya in preparation for next week’s official presidential election results, which Biya opponents suspect have already been manipulated to show a Biya landslide.

The results of the Oct. 7 election in Cameroon were leaked Monday, allegedly by the government, a week before the official announcement is to take place. The leak placed Biya, who has been president of Cameroon for 36 years, as the clear winner of the election. The opposition claimed his regime manipulated the numbers.

African liberation leaders from The Gambia and Libya, which have histories of successfully overthrowing dictators, met with the Cameroon Alliance for Coalition at the National Press Club to share strategies for mobilizing the opposition in country.

The opposition is fueled by crises all along the nation’s borders. Boko Haram, the extremist Islamist terrorist group, has extended beyond Nigeria into the northern region of Cameroon. The western part of the country is struggling to contain a growing secession movement led by the minority English-speaking population who says they are not treated fairly in the economy.

“Nothing is new on Earth. What is happening in Cameroon has happened in other countries, so we can learn from how they’ve handled it,” said the Cameroon Alliance for Coalition Founder Sylvie Qwasinwi Ngassa Bello.

Mosadeq Hobrara, a key player in the Arab Spring uprising that successfully overthrew Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, explained that social media like WhatsApp and Facebook were crucial components to their populist movement.

“Social media is dangerous for dictators. You can use it to overthrow them,” said Hobrara.

Fatu Camara, a Gambian journalist said, hashtags were used to organize the opposition that overthrew Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh in 2016. Camara and other opposition leadership used WhatsApp and Facebook to communicate directly outside of government control.

Both Camara and Hobrara emphasized the importance of outside help from friends and family who fled the country. Because of them, the Gambian opposition received phones with internet access. The Libyan diaspora stormed embassies across the world to bring global awareness to their struggle, he said.

Author: Bryan Wood 

Source: dc.medill.northwestern.edu

The twin factors of conflict and violence continues to adversely affect countries in East and Central Africa region, according to a September 2018 report by Geneva-based International Displacement Monitoring Center, IDMC.

In a list of the top 10 countries affected by instability leading to mass displacements, six African countries made the ranking with a combined displacement figure of over 3.5 million. The period under consideration being the first half of 2018 – January to June.

Ethiopia’s internally displaced figure of 1.4 million put it top of the ranking, 200,000 more than that of Syria. Democratic Republic of Congo came in third with 946,000 displaced.

The other Central African country on the list was Central African Republic in sixth spot with 232,000. Somalia (5th with 341,000) and South Sudan (7th with 215,000) completed the list for East Africa.

The sole West African country that made the list was Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation recorded an internally displaced figure of 417,000 as a result of Boko Haram attacks in the North East and communal clashes along the middle belt.

The non African nations listed were Syria (2nd – 1.2 million), Afghanistan (8th – 168,000), India (9th – 166,000) and Yemen (10th – 142,000).

Comparative review of figures January – June 2017 and 2018.

Ethiopia – 213,000 (2017) now 1.4 million
DR Congo – 997,000 now 946,000
Nigeria – 142,000 now 417,000
Somalia – 166,000 now 341,000
C. A. R. – 206,000 now 232,000
S. Sudan – 163,000 now 215,000

The above figures indicate that all the countries with the exception of DR Congo grew their internally displaced population as per figures of 2017 vis-a-vis 2018.

In the Central Africa region, there is also the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon that has caused internal displacements and caused others to flee across the border into Nigeria.

Much of Southern Africa remains relatively peaceful except for recent cases of violent attacks in parts of Mozambique. West Africa’s insecurity in the Sahel region is seen in combat between state actors and terrorist elements.

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