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Moving towards a ceasefire in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions

By Mathieu Olivier
Posted on Monday, 30 March 2020 15:11

A woman walks past Cameroonian elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) members as they sit on their military vehicle during their patrol in the city of Buea in the anglophone southwest region, Cameroon October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

On Wednesday, 25 March, the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces (SOCADEF), an Ambazonian armed group, agreed to the United Nations’ call for a ceasefire due to the coronavirus outbreak impacting the country.

The Cameroon government has yet to respond.

“SOCADEF are prepared to support the ceasefire and will ensure the security and free circulation of international observers and humanitarian organisations in Ambazonia […] in accordance with human rights law,” Ebenezer Akwanga, the leader of the separatist movement, wrote in a letter signed in Accra, Ghana, on Wednesday 25 March. It was addressed to Cameroon’s President Paul Biya.

The SOCADEF chairman, who also heads the African People’s Liberation Movement (APLM), seized the occasion to call on the “authorities and security forces of the Republic of Cameroon to respond to the call made by the secretary-general of the United Nations,” before adding, “we are ready to meet with representatives designated by the Republic of Cameroon to work out the appropriate implementation of the ceasefire.”

Protecting populations that are “already vulnerable”

On Monday, 23 March, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” to protect the most vulnerable civilians in conflict-ridden countries from the “fury” of the coronavirus pandemic. The mediators at the Switzerland-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre) did not pass up the opportunity to make a case for peace.

The Swiss organisation, which still hopes that a dialogue will take place between the Cameroonian government and Ambazonian leaders, launched an initiative on 23 March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. “The virus doesn’t respect borders or front lines,” said HD Centre executive director David Harland.

“Populations in war zones are already vulnerable and at huge new risk. And there is also a risk to the world, as those conflict-affected areas could become ‘super incubators’ for the virus unless we act now,” he added.

Moving towards dialogue?

The HD Centre contacted some Ambazonian armed groups, and SOCADEF were the first to adhere to the UN call for a ceasefire. According to our information, the Cameroonian government has yet to respond officially to the UN Secretary-General’s initiative.

“The idea was to use this as an opportunity to urge the Ambazonians to make a gesture of goodwill to the government,” said a source close to the matter, with the hope that “it could promote the beginning of a dialogue after the coronavirus pandemic is over.”

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