Restore peace and unity; ensure balanced regional development and apply decentralization
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Petition to the President of the Republic of Cameroon in relation to the current crisis in the NW and SW regions of the country
Since November 2016, Cameroon has been shaken by the crisis in the two predominantly English-speaking regions, North West (NW) and South West (SW), which started as two separate union strikes but rapidly transitioned into a separatist project. The crisis has been sustained by school boycott, “ghost towns” and threats of violence. These punitive measures have led to economic hardship and identity crisis for most citizens in these regions. But it is also noted that the predominantly French-speaking Cameroonians, initially supportive of the unions in their demands, have become confused by the uninformed support for separation of the predominantly English-speaking regions from the rest of the country. Separatists have further argued that the socio-economic problems of predominantly English-speaking Cameroonians can be explained by the relative well-being of predominantly French-speaking Cameroonians. This obviously strains the living together of all Cameroonians, since it is generally felt that socio-economic problems are not a result of our diversity but rather the consequence of corruption, government inefficiencies and inertia in the face of a rapidly growing population.
Once the divisive level of support for separation is sufficiently reduced and the danger of a civil war minimized, we must proceed to reflect on recent events as well as measures to guarantee balanced regional development in future. Fortunately, through the actions of many patriots and the government, this atmosphere for reflection is now being created with more children returning to school each day. The best way to carry out the post-crisis reflections and actions would be by engaging with law makers and the administration in Cameroon with a prescribed framework.
In light of the above, we of the social media community called “English Cameroon for a united Cameroon” are therefore calling on the Cameroonian parliament and senate as well as the executive branch to join hands and heal our nation. They should further seek to improve conditions in the regions, especially in NW and SW where there is evidence of structural problems that have unfortunately fostered a sense of alienation, much to the advantage of separatists and to the detriment of our harmonious living together. We demand that with effect from the official delivery of this petition:
1. A truth and reconciliation commission should be created to discover the immediate causes, the course and the mistakes of this crisis, making recommendations to the state. The main goals of this much-needed exercise are
1.1. to restore the trust between citizens and the forces of law and order, seeing that despite the extra ordinary security work done in the latter stages of the crisis, the escalation was caused by manifestly unprofessional behavior and excessive use of power even against female students. The distrust was further worsened by events in Kifem and perfect bilingualism in the security forces could be seriously considered as an effective tool to bridge the gap in trust;
1.2. to work out what degree of clemency should be accorded to all those alleged to have committed crimes relating to the crisis, considering the lack of civic education, lack of access to proper information, and the high percentage of misled Cameroonians in the diaspora whose actions would normally merit a ban to enter Cameroon. Some of the leaders who fled Cameroon, on a case by case basis and a commitment to national unity, should be granted freedom to return on promise of good conduct.
1.3. to reconcile our people and ensure that we avoid a similar crisis in future, either in the regions in question or elsewhere in the nation. Measures should be identified for effective reduction of support for separation to such a negligible level that the threat of separation no longer undermines the democratic process championed by legal political organizations.
1.4. to investigate the deaths registered in this crisis, establishing the exact number of deaths, the circumstances surrounding each death, and properly apportioning blame to those responsible. Clarity about those registered from September 22nd are of great importance to the healing process.
1.5. to explore the option of changing formal name of the country back to the “United Republic of Cameroon”, to increase the visibility of our complex history. Whatever good intentions were behind the change to the “Republic of Cameroon” are now largely misunderstood and exploited by separatists. These good intentions should follow the direction pointing to greater harmony, namely keeping the “United” in the country’s name. Adopting this option should have a fixed time line within which all official documents should be modified to bear same.
2. A task force for balanced regional development should be created, with special sensitivity to the two regions affected by this crisis. The goal should be to characterize and quantify socio-economic gradients in the country, recommending measures to reduce these. Beyond seeking fair distribution of resources and opportunities, the task force should also look to other models of emerging economies for inspiration on how to get the best results with our minimal resources, thereby eliminating wasteful spending and limiting the growing national debt.
3. To remain true to the rule of law, thereby showing a positive example to our citizens, we demand immediate concrete steps in implementing the provisions for the decentralized unitary state which are anchored in the constitution. This is a necessary first step toward bringing the government closer to the people while the citizenry is then educated on federalism such as its nature, merits, demerits, options for state-federal government power sharing and possible federal states in the case of Cameroon. The judgment whether to transition from a decentralized unitary state to a federal would then be up to the well-informed citizens.
4. The commission on bilingualism and multiculturalism should be empowered to explore the possibility of a national youth service program whereby students will receive a stipend for a year to render service to the nation in different parts of the country. The locations should be chosen with the aim of breaking down linguistic and tribal barriers while advancing our unity in diversity.
5. A think-tank on federalism should be formed before the next election season with the aim of educating the Cameroonian people on the merits, demerits and challenges to transition from a decentralized unitary state to a federal state. Various configurations of a federal state should be examined with respect to their ability to foster economic development without endangering the foundations of national unity. The think-tank should comprise non-partisan academics from the departments of economics, public law and political science at the universities of Buea and Bamenda as well as educators from ENAM. Broad outreach to the public to educate them on their findings is recommended.
We trust that all members of parliament, senators and the current administration will see the wisdom in meeting the demands in a timely manner. This plea should be viewed as coming from the yearnings of the whole nation for the restoration of peace and unity amidst. We do this in the hope that data-driven and timely policies will help us to preserve our heritage and emerge as a peaceful bilingual modern state with the best that Africa offers.
Petition initiated by English Cameroon for a united Cameroon
Note: 1.4, 1.5 and 5. were added later, based on input from citizens and the events since September 22nd, 2017.
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