By Maxwell N. Achu.
The author is a Cameroonian Diplomat and Civil Society Activist. Maxwell N. Achu is a Conflict Transformation Researcher and an expert in Positive Peacebuilding across the African continent, and beyond. He presently resides in Accra, Ghana where he is currently the Country Director for Humanitarian Group Action International, a nongovernmental nonprofit and apolitical organization. In addition, other analogous research work carried out by the author within the context of peace building are; Governance in Africa, Roles of Religious bodies in Peacebuilding, Positive Peace and the Media. The author is also working on a new book: The Quest for Creative GOVERNANCE (publishing in process). In this two part essay, the author provides an original and critical reflection of the causes of conflict in Cameroon, and possible solutions through peace-subservient institutions.
On the short and long term causes and effects of the “Anglophone crisis”
Just like in Ethiopia, the unrest in the Republic of Cameroon is rooted in the country’s history, which dates back to many years.
Conflicts and violence are core impediments to peace and developments. Despite the international community‘s efforts to curb the uprising of conflicts and violence within the international level, persistent violence-prone policies still exist within national territories, which spurs discontentment and grievances and hence proliferates violence. In the case of Cameroon, these conflicts feeds on gender violence and leave refugees and broken infrastructures in their wake. Violent territories have become breeding grounds for far-reaching networks of violent radicals even as far as organized crimes.
Already plagued with low incomes, poverty, rapid urbanization, unemployment, income shocks and inequality between groups, violence will only exacerbate dysfunctionality of the “weak” socioeconomic institutions in Cameroon, just like in other sub-Saharan African countries. “Strong” institutional legitimacy is therefore key to stability. Confronting these challenges, with the current uprising inclusive, effectively means that institutions need to change. It is in this light that, this peace proposal suggest some specific actions and ways of implementation as well as measuring results. However, it will require a layered approach, meaning some problems must be addressed at the regional level as well as the national level.
The stakes are truly high notwithstanding. To this effect, this paper calls to mind that civil conflicts have a toll on the GDP of Cameroon however. It cost the average developing country roughly 30years of GDP growth, and countries in protracted crisis can fall over 20 percentage points behind in overcoming poverty. To this effect, we must have strong incentives on clear peace roadmaps, which is what this proposal seek to offer.
This peace initiative advocates for a political community with shared identity, interest and mutual obligations. Without this, the Government of Cameroon (GoC) may be seen by the “Anglophones” to lack legitimacy, reasons why some activist advocate for separations.
This peace proposal paper aims to consolidate political stability (given the election year), while creating an enabling business environment for enhanced and accelerated growth. It advocates for nonviolence in the resolution of social unrest, especially as violence breeds only violence and violence attacks persons not policies. Dialogue, according to this paper is the weapon of the strong.
- Conflict risk assessment and predictability in Cameroon.
This paper will not overemphasize the economic benefits from improvements in peace in Cameroon, but will highlight the impact of this uprising to the nation’s economic stability, which grossly hampers political performance as well as institutions’ credibility to deliver. The Economic Value of Peace, a framework by the Institute of economics and Peace covers 163 countries and independent territories – representing 99.5% of the global economy and population.
No conflict from the onset can determine the ramifications it will bring. Statistically, the smallest start-up of social unrest always almost bring disproportionate consequences. The primary example of this is the case of Syria where the civil war, which started simply by a graffiti on the wall, has devastated the country and economy, with violence and conflict costing an equivalent of 54.1% of GDP as at 2015. Conversely, pre-empting the outbreak of violence can achieve peace and reap significant economic gains. The economic impact of violence in Sri Lanka has decreased 66% since 2009 due to conflict risk assessment and pre-emption, resulting in a peace dividend of $48 billion PPP, which is equivalent to 20% of the country’s 2015 GDP.
In the case of Cameroon, it will be instructive to understand the economic losses caused by the “Anglophone” crisis. It will also be important to identify which types of other related violence have the greatest effect on Peace indicators, as the GoC and related-policymakers can better understand how a lack of peace is affecting not only economic growth but also poverty levels, social mobility, education, the control of corruption or life expectancy. This highlights that by identifying the appropriate violence containment strategies, policymakers may be able to lower economic costs of violence by nurturing the tangible drivers of peacefulness.
Due to the difficulty in forecasting the onset of large-scale violence, it is important to better understand and conceptualize new approaches to measuring the risk of it. While some risks can be foreseen and planned for, profoundly destabilizing events such as “Anglophone civil unrest, conflict onset and the collapse of entire countries have, all too often, caught the world by surprise.
The collective failure of the people of Cameroon to have predicted the onset of such man-made events, like the Syrian civil war, has substantial impacts on human wellbeing, economic development and geopolitical stability of the country Cameroon. It is thus not surprising that a key question for Cameroon policymakers, business and civil society today is, how can the likelihood of big risks such as conflict onset be better understood, and what can be done to mitigate the risk of these events occurring.
It will interest Cameroonians to know that, looking at the 30 most at-risk countries according to the Positive Peace Deficit model in 2008, 22 countries experienced significant declines in peace; with Cameroon inclusive. The country that experienced the largest deterioration in peace was Syria, which ranked 99th out of 163 countries in the 2008 GPI, and fell to last in 2016. This was a noteworthy prediction. Many in the international community considered it a relatively stable country. Consequently, few other forecasts placed it significantly at risk of conflict.
Following the positive predictive value of the Positive Peace Deficit model, Cameroon is at high risk of further violent escalation. If a potential conflict risk country like Cameroon can be identified up to (7) seven years in advance, then meaningful interventions can potentially be staged. Given the high costs of conflict compared to prevention, the potential of acting upon these models with this level of positive predictive accuracy has the potential to guide resource allocation and lead to better and more cost effective decision-making.
This conflict risk assessment indicates that Cameroon lacks the attitudes, institutions and structures to maintain their current levels of negative peacefulness and Cameroon is particularly vulnerable to internal or external shocks. Research by Department for International Development (DFID), Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) all suggest conflict prevention and peacebuilding interventions can be highly cost-effective when successful. This is because, in the case of Cameroon, the economic impact of the “Anglophone” uprising, instability and structural and cultural violence in general is large when compared to the size of the investments to prevent such impediments. IEP’s research on the cost of violence and conflict to the global economy finds that the economic losses from violence were 12.6 per cent of world GDP in 2016, or approximately $2,000 for each person on the planet. IEP analysis shows the cost-savings ratio of peacebuilding or the actions that lead to conflict prevention is 1:16 on average.
Applying IEP’s global cost of violence model to the risk predictions underlines this point. The global cost of conflict (homicide) in 2015 was US$742 billion, a very large sum. In a utopian world, if all peacebuilding interventions were 100 per cent effective, and guided by a 100 per cent accurate risk model, then the cost savings would be the cost of the peacebuilding interventions themselves, subtracted from the US$742 billion cost of conflict.
This paper calls for inclusive peace strategy to enable the implementation of proper measures for the effective avoidance of the “conflict trap” as well as the consequences that comes with violence and conflicts.
For purposes of brevity, this paper will not narrate the historical roots of the conflict, as it does not seek to feed on the conflict formation process. Rather it will analyze the status quo to paint the picture as it is, as well as propose solutions to redressing and amending these impairments to peace.
Like in Mali where the Tuaregs decry marginalization from the central government against the northern part of the country, so too are the “Anglophones” claiming the same infringements on their participation in the state of affairs in Cameroon. The “Anglophones” decry extensive social exclusion, social and economic injustice and a structurally divided society which underpin discrimination. According to the “Anglophones”, the abandonment and outright neglect of some parts of the country, pushes disgruntled and frustrated citizens to dominate the local context without proper regulations, which leads to violence. This could be substantiated in the peripheral regions of Colombia before the turn of the 21st century or the present day Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, this paper follows a crosscutting and holistic research to understand and report the technical problem, by going deeper in the deep rooted structural and cultural violence within the Cameroon society. It does not limit to the physical or direct violence exacerbated by the recent “Anglophone” uprising.
- Absence of peace culture:
Cameroon lacks the entrenched culture of peace to strengthen its resilience to such civil shocks. The society is making no efforts in bringing subconsciously, peace cultures to the forefront. A society, which is wired adequately with a peace culture, like in Botswana and Ghana, will ensure that equality must be the preferred mode of interaction, as opposed to the Cameroon “Francophone” mainstream dominance. One of the major instruments of implanting a peace culture is through “massive peace education”. Cameroon cannot boost of any form of intensive peace education in the context of peacebuilding to promote a peace culture. Education is the most efficient medium to uproot the subconscious violent-culture and implant the necessary peace culture. The United Nations with several resolutions has buttressed the vitality of this medium to enhance peacebuilding skills through peace learnings. The UN supports this claim in various resolutions:
UN General Assembly: In its resolution 53/243 of 13 September 1999 adopted by the UN General Assembly on the Declaration of a Culture of Peace, Solemnly proclaims the present Declaration on a Culture of Peace to the end that government, international organizations, and civil society may be guided in their activity by its provision to promote and strengthen a culture of peace…
In the same context, resolution 60/3 on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the world commends the relevance for the promotion of peace culture through EDUCATION and encourage activities related to specific areas identified in the Programme of Action on a Culture of peace.
Security Council (SC): One of the most vital resolution on the enhancement of peace culture is the Security Council resolution 2250 adopted at its 7573rd meeting, on 9 December 2015. The resolution: Furthermore, recalling the UNESCO’s constitution that states that ‘since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed’. Any attempt to disrupt youth’s access to education to peacebuilding skills and abilities has a dramatic and tremendous impact on durable peace and reconciliation.
In fact, the environment in Cameroon does not reflect a relax conviviality for peace by peaceful means.
- The presence of deep-rooted structural violence
Violent deep structure are situations where the forms of relations between the segments/divisions of society are dysfunctional – between the old and the young, men and women, between races and ethnicities, between powerful and powerless, along every social cleavage. Cameroon deep violent structure is characterized by asymmetry, irregularity and lopsidedness of power between the different segments of her society. This automatically leads to violations of the basic needs of others. Cameroon does not have a well-outlined infrastructure, which promotes equity and reciprocity across the social cleavage that could facilitate the transformation of the “Anglophone” crisis, and prevent civilian killings. This discourages peaceful approach as widespread means of conflict resolution. This is accounted as failure of the political responsibility, to have mobilise the knowledge of nonviolence. The “Anglophones” claim that in such in-egalitarian structure, the time for parity has come. This leads us to one of the reason why NGOs in Cameroon are fragmented because NGO representatives can better negotiate in egalitarian setting as opposed to diplomats from an in-egalitarian state system.
Cameroon structural violent scenario can be analyzed from two dimensions; Development and Freedom. Concerning the dimension of Development, structural violence in Cameroon is epitomized in loss of citizens’ lives from hunger, preventable diseases and other related sufferings caused by unjust structure of the society coupled with weak economic power. Effects of such structurally violent society often seek humanitarian aid, food aid, alleviation of poverty and other related misery programs. Meanwhile, concerning Freedom, the structural violence in the Cameroon environment or context, legitimizes itself through excessive deprivation from freedom of choice, and from participation in decisions, that affect people – in this case – Cameroonians lives. This dimension of violence brings other effects such as oppression, occupation or some form of dictatorship, prevalent in mostly authoritarian and hybrid government types.
It is our objective that this peace plan will set the stage for complete eradication of structural violence, as well as build life-sustaining economy at the local and national level in Cameroon while ensuring that everyone’s basic needs are met. The long-term prospects of this peace agenda will further spur good governance; encourage effective citizenry participation and self-determination in decisions affecting their own lives. It is for this reason that the long-term peace project seeks to create institutions that promote cooperation, reconciliation, openness, equality and the culture of peaceful actions in collective situations. This will strengthen democratic institutions to be consensual, inclusive, transparent as well as accountable.
- Lack of shared and mutual interest
The third problem is differences in mutual interest as well as among goals, which have stimulated and encouraged attitudes to incline towards hatred, hence violence. “Anglophones” claim not to feel at home anymore because of the way their interests have been disregarded. They feel they cannot handle themselves anymore, and think their “Francophone” counterparts have no empathy for their plights. Lack of dialogue in series of past discontentment, especially towards legitimate claims have been suppressed. This underlying problem has been engraved mentally in the “Anglophones” and hence, frozen into structures. This mental polarization legitimizes the behavioral polarization as “Anglophones” see themselves as second-class citizens. After some time, the “Francophones” no longer see their counterparts as humans, but as objects to be killed, legitimized by slogans on social media like ‘there is no anglophone but anglofools. This is why the South and North West regions started with elementary practice of civil disobedience, of not establishing contact with the appointed enemy as well as their administration, hence, having some requesting for secession.
It is why this paper seeks to engage in positive cooperative relations. This peace strategy will not only move “Anglophones” into new action, but also new speech and new thoughts.
- Traumas of past wounds fuels the unrest
The fourth problem is related to the past. The “Anglophones” seem not to have healed from the trauma of discrimination and neglect caused by the Government of Cameroon, especially the wounds to the community legitimized by lack of good roads, schools, health services etc. The trauma of past failures still hurt, and not forgotten, similar to the Tuaregs who still fights in the Northern part of Mali owing their cause to their forefathers who were killed during the 1960-1963 Tuaregs rebellion. “Anglophones” are pained from many years of exploitation and outright cheating, and have not healed from such despicable acts.
In this regard, this paper seek to advocate that certain past mishap can be removed from the political agenda, liberating that agenda for cooperative and constructive acts. This peace proposal encourages the close of the old chapter and opening of a new one by presenting approaches to conciliation and appeasement. Dialogue will open the way for new experiences.
Direct violence is plaguing Cameroon given the circumstances. Perpetrated by both the military and the civilians, this impediment hampers cooperation and reduces the room for collective peace agreement. Redeployment and demilitarization of the South and North West regions will be a very good start. This paper calls for life-changing cooperation, peacebuilding, and conflict transformation as well as reconciliation and reconstruction programs. Given this background, In part II of this essay, I will analyse the institutional and attitudinal elements on the way forward for the restoration to normalcy of the state of affairs within the national territory of Cameroon. It is not a recipe for apportioning blames but of principles and options to a pacific settlement of disputes within the national territory.
 World bank Development report 2011
 Dr. Ishmael E. Yamson’s essays on Development Economics, Business, Finance and Economic Growth, page 123
 Global Peace Index 2016
Arboleda 2010; WDR team consultations with government officials, civil society representatives and security personel in Colombia, 2010
 Gambino 2010
- As per Art 1(a) of this Declaration, the UN defined ‘a Culture of Peace (as) a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviors and ways of life based on: respect for Life, Ending violence and promotion of practice of non-violence through..
- The Art 1(e) stresses Efforts to meet the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations (Cameroon students and peaceworkers)
- As per Art 4, EDUCATION is one of the principal means to build a culture of peace, and Art 7 highlights the educative and informative role, which contributes to the promotion of a culture of peace. Art 8 mentions the key role in the promotion of a culture of peace belonging to teachers, intellectuals’, health and humanitarian workers as well as non-governmental organizations.
- Urges member states to support, as appropriate, quality EDUCATION FOR PEACE that equips youth with the ability to engage constructively in civic structures and inclusive political processes,
- Encourages investments in building young people’s capabilities and skills to meet demands through EDUCATION opportunities designed in a manner, which promotes a culture of peace.