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.