By Simon D.
Last night, in a speech that came as a surprise to most Cameroonians, the president of the republic finally took time to address the crisis that has been rocking the North-West and South-West Regions for the past three years and still counting.
A majority of the people particularly from the crisis-stricken regions, prior to the speech were optimistic that he will announce a cease-fire, free those arrested and then call for an inclusive dialogue. In the end, most people expressed disappointment as to the fact that the speech dwelt mostly on what government has done to solve the crisis and laid the blame squarely on separatists for causing atrocities.
Despite the fact that towards the end of the speech, he announced a certain dialogue from September ending, that leaves much to be desired as to where, and who shall call the shots in the so-called national dialogue.
The format of the dialogue leaves many questions.
- WHO TO DIALOGUE WITH?
Before announcing the convening of dialogue, Mr. Biya said, ” Talking about dialogue per se, the issue has always been, with whom”? This is an indication that there is a likelihood of dialoguing with the wrong persons or groups, intentionally or unintentionally. There have been calls to dialogue with those calling the shots on the ground. There is no gain-saying that those calling the shots are the separatists.
2. WHEN TO DIALOGUE?
The date set aside for the dialogue is best known to Mr. President. “…I have decided to convene, from the end of this month [September], a major national dialogue…” By using the preposition “from”, it entails an elastic time limit for the convening of the dialogue. That means dialogue can be convened from September ending or thereafter. We all know that the government of Cameroon has no respect for time frames. Besides, delegations will be sent to meet the diaspora and the prime minister will “Carry out broad-based consultations to solicit a wide range of views…” All these before this month end?
3. KEY HOLDERS SIDELINED?
According to the President, “A major national dialogue that will, in line with our CONSTITUTION, enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the people of the North-West and South-West Regions” will be convened. For the fact that the dialogue will be held in line with the constitution, focusing on issues of national unity, national integration and living together, it is logically obvious that separatists will not be part of it because they do not agree to the above agenda. Who then shall participate in the dialogue and how do government intend to solve the crisis?
4. TRIPARTITE CONFERENCE 3 IN THE MAKING?
Looking at those listed by the Head of State as those to participate in the so-called dialogue, one begins to see another tripartite conference in the making or some sort of a CPDM convention. In a crisis with two contenders, government and separatists, one would have expected that the two will sit in for dialogue. What is the essence of inviting politicians, parliamentarians, businessmen, armed forces etc? Besides, the mentioning of “armed groups” being invited makes the whole issue ambiguous.
Generally, the manner in which the so-called dialogue has been announced suggests that real dialogue, with a solution to this crisis, is still far-fetched. Truly as the President puts it, “Since the outbreak of the crisis in the North-West and South-West Regions, the term dialogue has never been so much talked about, used and even misused”.