The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Veronica Michelle Bachelet, has warned that if the clear window of opportunity is not exploited to sue for peace, the crisis could completely spiral out of control and affect the not only the stability of Cameroon, but also that of the entire Sub-region.
In a statement released on May 6, the rights Chief pointed out that she welcomed Cameroon’s willingness to cooperate in finding a workable solutions to “major human rights and humanitarian crises”, caused by months of serious unrest and violence across the West and North of the country.
During her three days meetings and consultations in Yaoundé, she met President Paul Biya to discuss the human rights challenges facing the country.
“I believe there is a clear – if possibly short – window of opportunity to arrest the crises that have led to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, as well as the killings and brutal human rights violations and abuses that have affected the Northern and Western areas of the country,” Bachelet said.
In the report, she cautioned that the path towards peace will not be an easy process. “It will take significant actions on the part of the Government, and substantial and sustained support from the international community – including us in the UN.”
Situation May Spiral Out Of Control
The report notes that with ten or more separatist movements in the Northwest and Southwest Region, the situation could spiral “completely out of control, if measures are not taken to reduce tension and restore trust.”
Bachelet further said that it is essential to tackle root causes of violence, for the sake of long-term stability.
The report also talks about reported cross-border incursions by armed groups and criminal organisations along Cameroon’s border with the Central African Republic, CAR, as communities continue to be terrorised and attacked by Boko Haram and other extremist organisations.
“In several Regions, civilians and soldiers have been killed and mutilated, and entire villages have been burned. Children have been abducted and forced to join the armed groups and have even been utilised as unwitting suicide bombers by Boko Haram,” Bachelet said.
Talking about the Anglophone Regions, the rights Chief said, “Schools, hospitals and other key infrastructure has been targeted and destroyed by the various separatist groups and Government employees, including teachers who have dared to continue teaching, have been targeted and killed or abducted.”
On the way out, the report suggests that everyone – Government, opposition and civil society …“can make important contributions to a drive for peace, if they can discuss options openly and freely.”
The UN Human Rights Chief pledged to provide advice and assistance to the Government to help ensure that military operations are in compliance with international human rights standards and violations are prevented when they (military forces) are engaged in counter-terrorism operations and combat against armed groups.