Statement on the Status of Cameroon, December 2018

The North American Association of Scholars on Cameroon, with the support of the Board of Directors of the African Studies Association, calls upon the international community to condemn, in the strongest possible manner, the inhumane atrocities and violations of human rights taking place in Cameroon.

We unanimously and unequivocally condemn the use of armed violence and resulting loss of life, destruction of property, including the burning of schools and entire villages, and displacement of citizens  which began over two years ago and intensified in November 2017. As scholars engaged in the study of Cameroon, we note that the current crisis is an expression of the increased marginalization of the Anglophone citizens of the country, representing 20% of the population. We recognize the right of the government to provide for the safety and security of its people, however we deplore the violence perpetrated by both government forces and armed separatists. Unfortunately, there is no official method of confirming the numbers of killings taking place; however Amnesty International estimates that 400 persons were killed as of September 2018 by both security forces and armed separatists. The BBC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have confirmed the authenticity of videos capturing brutal killings of civilians under war-like conditions. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than 160,000 persons have been internally displaced since November 2017. The United Nations Refugee Agency documents 30,000 registered refugees from Cameroon who have fled into Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Benue and Taraba states. Four of every five registered thus far are women and children.

To the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, governments with vested interests in Cameroon, the World Bank, and International Monetary Fund: expressing concern about the brutalities being committed against innocent civilians is excessively insufficient. As guardians of humanitarian principles and human rights and promoters of good governance, peace, justice and respect for the sanctity of life – all values entrenched in the charters of every major international organization and multilateral institution – you must defend the lives of the  innocent Cameroonians who are suffering through no fault of their own. The combatants must be held accountable for the violence being committed against their own citizens. Concerned citizens have written to all governments in question and have held protests in Canada, the US and EU states to no avail. It is now time for action. We note that the US government, along with the UK and several others, has finally called for an immediate cessation of violence and talks with no preconditions. We ask leaders of all factions to seize the moment and begin a dialogue to bring an end to the crisis peacefully without any more loss of lives and property.

If there was ever a moment for the president to show leadership, now is the moment. The government’s recent effort to create a demobilization program is a symbolic step; however, a more comprehensive plan of action that includes a community building strategy allowing for the return to villages and government funding of rebuilding would benefit all concerned. Failure to resolve the issue is commensurate with sacrificing the next generation. Children are living in the midst of the greatest possible instability with no homes, little food, no access to schools, health care or other basic needs. The willingness of all parties involved to negotiate and settle the crisis will determine whether children go to school, see the doctor, or play on the playground. No one should ever be allowed to take those joys or the promise of the future away from children.

The North American Association of Scholars on Cameroon is a coordinate organization of the African Studies Association, the flagship membership organization devoted to enhancing the exchange of information about Africa. We adhere to the ASA’s Policy Statement Concerning Human Rights and Policy Statement Concerning Academic Freedom. The members of the NAASC stand ready to provide their expertise as scholars and concerned humanitarians in support of any consultation, dialogue or research required to facilitate an end to the decimation of our beloved Cameroon.

Contact the North American Association of Scholars on Cameroon at naascameroon@gmail.com.