By Andrew Nsoseka
Southern Cameroons stakeholders who participated at the high-level leadership retreat in Toronto, Canada from October 29 to November 1, have released what they call the Toronto Declaration, outlining the different thematic and specific agreements reached at by the participating stakeholder.
The retreat brought together various separatist leaders, moderates, church leaders and Civil Society actors, amongst others who are stakeholders in the ongoing Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon. It was predicated due to the division, mistrust and divisive tendencies amongst the various leaders that made things more difficult when it came to consulting and talking about resolving the crisis.
In the leaders retreat, organised and coordinated by the Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations, CDN they have in their Declaration, stated amongst other things that recognising the importance of collective engagement in matters of negotiations founded on trust, they will create space to build from their different strategies to engage in external negotiations as one entity, representing the people of the Southern Cameroons and their ultimate interest.
While noting that they will harmonise and standardise strategies for negotiation with the Republic of Cameroon, the Southern Cameroons leaders said it will all be done with Southern Cameroonians “at the centre of our engagement within and outside the Southern Cameroons, including any international entity(s)”
They stated that the decision to work as an entity, is as a result of calls “and desire from all Southern Cameroonians to work together in the attainment of their collective aspiration by putting them first so that our shared values are channelled in a constructive and consistent approach”.
Here, the declaration states that they will; “henceforth work together to build trust, respect, tolerance and courtesy, work with humility towards consensus during this first stage of the internal dialogue and negotiations; unify our efforts for the defence of the legitimate rights and aspirations of the people of the Southern Cameroons; commit to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on communications etiquette and the use of social media that would be elaborated on and undertake more information and awareness activities; minimise the use of aggressive, confrontational, hostile and discourteous language amongst ourselves and Southern Cameroonians, and strive to use language that builds on the gains we have made; promote team and trust building efforts that seek to bring us together to foster the aspirations of the people of the
Southern Cameroons; set up frameworks and metrics for collaboration among ourselves; use all appropriate means recognised under international law to pursue the self-determination quest for our people; set up a working platform supported and facilitated by the CDN where the Leadership meets periodically to share views, information and to address disagreements.”
On Education, access to Humanitarian Aid and Human Rights protection, the declaration said they recognise that over 700,000 children are out of school and less than 30 percent of schools, especially in rural communities are not operational and that in the quest for freedom, the right to life, and the right to education, access to humanitarian aid, and human rights are inalienable.
Here, they agreed to “promote the rights of children to education, especially through community schools; encourage parents to consider safety and security conditions in making educational choices for school children; support provision of access for humanitarian workers and assistance to all victims of the armed conflict and call on aid workers to abide by international humanitarian law, especially in armed conflicts; safeguard the rights and dignity of all Southern Cameroonians, especial children and women; meet to elaborate a detailed framework and metrics to enhance the education, humanitarian access, collaboration, and the rights of all Southern Cameroonians.”
On guiding principles for negotiations, the Declaration stated that the leaders have agreed to explore and enhance avenues to build a team for internal and external negotiations; create space to build from their different strategies to engage in external negotiations as one entity, representing the people of the Southern Cameroons and their ultimate interest; put the Southern Cameroonian people at the centre of their engagement within and outside the Southern Cameroons, including any international entity(s); harmonise and standardise strategies for negotiation with the Republic of Cameroon; leverage Southern Cameroonian and external expertise through a process designed and adopted by the stakeholders of the struggle; support and strengthen their platform to enhance collaboration, inclusivity and to defend their shared demands.
Another highlight of the declaration was the framework for International Mediation, where the stakeholders discussed the Switzerland facilitation process, noting the lack of progress and commitment from Cameroon. Here, they agreed to collectively ensure that international mediations are credible and meet internationally recognised standards;
engage to improve the internationally facilitated process by the Swiss government and commit to a multilateral mediation process as a viable way to achieve a genuine resolution of the conflict; open communication with officials of the Swiss facilitation team and other international parties; collectively ensure credible guarantors for mediated negotiations with the Republic of Cameroon; engage to build a framework for international mediation to guide their collective and individual engagements in mediated negotiations; reconvene to reassess progress in alignment with the collective aspirations of the people of the Southern Cameroons.
The leaders also agreed to use the CDN as a platform to facilitate the implementation of the agreements and to lay out a progressive and inclusive plan to build on the gains from Toronto 2021; and to facilitate internal meetings between Southern Cameroons leaders and groups; facilitate external meetings between Southern Cameroonian leaders/groups and international stakeholders.
The various groups represented at the Toronto Retreat included Ambazonia Governing Council (AGovC) Interim Government – (IG CARE) Ambazonia Military Force (AMF) The Terminators of Ambazonia (TTA) Psalm 91 Bafut 7 Kata Ambazonia Prisoners of Conscience Southern Cameroons Congress of the People (SCCOP) Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) Southern Cameroons Civil Society Consortium (SCCSC) Indigenous People of Ambazonia (IPOA-GovC) Ambazonia International Policy Commission (AIPC) Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Activists Front (SCAAF) Diaspora Ambazonia Community (DAC) West Cameroon Association (WCA) Southern Cameroon Women’s League (SCAWOL) Southern Cameroons European Women (SCEW) Global Takumbeng South West North West Women’s Taskforce (SNWOT) Southern Cameroons Youth Congress (SCYC) Ambazonia Youth Council (AYC) Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHDRA) Reach Out Cameroon Humanitarian Relief Initiative (CHRI) Bali Cultural Association (BCA) Bui Family Union (BFU) Baptist Church Association of Pentecostal Churches Presbyterian Church Other Clergy Refugees Traditional Rulers The Synergy.