He clearly refused to humble himself to acknowledge that there are the bad policies of his government that have brought us to this point. The failure to admit that his government has not been able to live up to the expectations of the population was so conspicuous and was still persisted unsuccessful policies of regionalism and decentralization. According to Paul Biya, the state is doing its best and only people with bad intentions want to sabotage the efforts of the government, but because of his generosity, it is important to dialogue. However, it is impossible to solve a problem, if you don't first admit that there is one. Today, Cameroon is facing a plethora problems in almost all aspects (security, political, socio-economical, judicial, etc), yet Paul Biya still thinks that the performance of the government has been good and they are just the secessionists complaining, which is completely wrong.
From every indication, the dialogue he has called for will probably look like the tripartite conference of the 1990s that was a complete sham. I only hope he proves me wrong. It also reveals that the only reason for his speech was to respond to the pressure of the international community’s call for dialogue. Unfortunately, the situation is different from that of the 90s because there is an ongoing war in one part of the country with people carrying arms, making the dialogue to be more complicated.
As it is the case with many conflicts, it is always said that beginning a war is easy but ending a war is one of the most complicated things in conflict resolution. For violence to effectively end, the warring parties involved must be at the heart of negotiations to lay down their arms. Unfortunately, most often these people, especially the rebellious side, benefit a lot from the violence making it difficult for them to come on the table for dialogue. Therefore, any way out of this conflict must involve all the stakeholders of this conflict, whether direct and indirect.
In this regard, for this to happen, some trust-building must take place for both sides to call for a ceasefire and dialogue without fear. This trust-building can only be done through concrete actions from the government so that people with grievances may freely express themselves without any fear of being arrested. Therefore, the fact that peaceful protests are not encouraged and are still brutally quelled by the security forces including the impartiality of justice system, which still tries civilians at the military courts, and the failure of Paul Biya to address these issues, makes it difficult for trust-building to take place.
It is important to emphasize here that if the problems of civil liberties, the non-release of political prisoners, and the bias of the judicial systems are not addressed, it will be extremely difficult for the dialogue that has been called by the president to bear any fruit. The situation may instead worsen as we have witnessed the past 3 years.
Considering the various crises the country is facing today, can one confidently say that Paul Biya really intents to listen to Cameroonians and effectively respond to the needs of the people? Or is this another ploy from him to please the international community in order to relieve himself from external pressure, something he has not been used to during his 37 years in power? What about the internal pressure? When will Cameroonians finally realised that this conflict is dragging on a d their country is sinking down the drain because they have no government of the people, by the people, and the people and that is it time to take things in their own hands? Whenever the case, only actions will speak louder than words.
*Wanah Immanuel Bumakor*
Spokesman of the ACT movement
Specialist in Peace Studies and Conflict Management