President Paul Biya has proposed a national dialogue aimed at resolving the Cameroonian government’s conflict with Anglophone separatists. But the mooted dialogue will include neither separatists nor, it appears, other important English-speaking constituencies. Biya should allow greater Anglophone participation and neutral facilitation for the dialogue.
On 10 September, President Paul Biya proposed a national dialogue aimed at addressing the two-year conflict between his government and Anglophone separatists that has laid waste to Cameroon’s North West and South West regions. His proposal appears to be in part a response to domestic anger at his security forces’ failure to defeat the separatists and in part a response to mounting international concern over the crisis. The dialogue could be an opportunity for his government and Anglophone leaders to table potential solutions. As proposed, however, it will neither include separatist leaders nor leave much room for Anglophones who support federalism within Cameroon’s borders. It thus risks further frustrating Anglophones, widening the gulf between the two sides and empowering hardliners. To improve the dialogue’s prospects, the government should make greater space for Anglophones, particularly federalists who are willing to attend. It should also seek a neutral facilitator and accept the African Union (AU)’s and the UN’s offers to help. A successful dialogue should set the stage for further talks that will still be required between the government and Anglophones of all persuasions, including separatists.
Originally published on International Crisis Group
FORMER CRUZ AIDES WILL WORK FOR CAMEROON: Two former aides to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have signed on to represent Cameroon’s government in Washington despite recent allegations of serious human rights abuses by the government. David Polyansky, Cruz’s former chief of staff; Catherine Frazier, another former Cruz aide; and Jimmy Soni, a former Huffington Post managing editor who later worked for former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, will advise Cameroon’s government on public relations. They’ll promote a “positive and favorable image” of Cameroon’s government through digital ads and “by placing targeted op eds in conservative-oriented outlets in order to foster a robust and growing partnership narrative into the future,” according to a contract filed with the Justice Department.
— Cameroon has found itself saddled with a less-than-positive-and-favorable image in recent months. The Trump administration has stopped providing as much military aid to Cameroon’s government because of what Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of United States Africa Command, described in congressional testimony in February as the “alleged atrocities” it had committed. Mausi Segun, Human Rights Watch’s executive director for Africa, wrote last month that Cameroon’s government had responded to separatist threats by “burning hundreds of homes, killing civilians, and detaining and torturing alleged separatists in a gendarme-run prison in the capital, Yaoundé.”
— There’s a long history, of course, of Washington lobbyists and public relations hands representing governments accused of committing atrocities, dating back to Paul Manafort’s work for Ferdinand Marcos, the infamous Filipino dictator. Polyansky, Frazier and Soni are representing Cameroon through Clout Public Affairs, a division of Axiom Strategies, a consulting firm run by Jeff Roe, who managed Cruz’s presidential campaign. Cameroon also retains Squire Patton Boggs to lobby on its behalf.
— Asked about the Cameroonian government’s human rights record, Clout defended its work. “Clout is pleased to be working with Cameroon to highlight the strong and developing relationship between our two countries,” the firm said in a statement. The firm noted that Cameroon had “been a longtime partner to U.S. military operations in Africa, and serves as a key ally in the United States’ effort to combat the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which has for far too long victimized and ravaged innocent civilians in the region.” The contract is worth $55,000 a month.
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