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Cameroon Women Appeal to the UN Security Council to Discuss Escalating Crises


At a women’s empowerment center in Cameroon’s northern town of Kousseri, a group of women are learning how to sew. (Moki  Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)

Female Cameroonian activists and opposition members have appealed to the United Nations Security Council, meeting Monday, to discuss possible solutions to escalating Boko Haram terrorism and the separatist crisis in the central African state. They are also asking the U.N. to force Cameroon to respect human rights, release political prisoners and negotiate a cease-fire with armed groups. The government has refused to respond to their appeal.

Twenty female leaders say in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that Cameroon, once the bastion of stability in Central Africa, is today conflict-ridden and on the brink of catastrophe.

They say that more than 10,000 Cameroonians have died in the Boko Haram conflict on Cameroon's northern border with Nigeria and the separatist crisis in the central African state’s English-speaking western regions. They accuse Cameroon’s government and rebels of gross human rights violations.

Edith Kah Walla is the president of the Cameroon People's Party and founding member of Stand Up for Cameroon, which advocates for a peaceful transition to rebuild Cameroon.

She says the women want the Security Council to include Cameroon on their agenda.

"We want the U.N. to give us help now," said Walla. "We do not want them to wait till the situation is so bad, and then to start telling us that they are bringing U.N. soldiers [peace keeping troops] here. We want them to act now. Our population is dying. Over a million children are out of schools. We cannot sit by as our country falls apart. There is no peace without respect for human rights, without justice."

Walla said the women want the U.N. to require Cameroon to respect human rights and release all nonviolent political prisoners linked to Boko Haram, separatists and the political crisis in the central African state.

The women say that for the sake of peace, U.N. member states should ask Cameroon to allow free public discussions on political transition. Cameroon’s 88-year-old President, Paul Biya, has been in power for close to 40 years and is accused of wanting to hang on to power until he dies.

Ejani Leonard Kulu is a Cameroonian political analyst at the U.N. University for Peace in Addis Ababa. He says it is very unlikely that the United Nations will take up the female leaders’ proposals.

He says the U.N. has already helped Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Benin contribute troops to a joint task force to fight Boko Haram.

"The U.N. is a partner in managing the crises in Cameroon," said Kulu. "If we should take Boko Haram, remember the Multinational Joint Task Force. It is financed and supported by the U.N. The crisis in the North West and South West, the U.N. has pronounced itself on several occasions that it is an internal problem which Cameroon can solve."

Kulu said Cameroon female leaders should have carried out advocacy with the five permanent members of the Security Council - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to ensure discussion of Cameroon at the Security Council.

In another letter, the female leaders ask International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to stop disbursing funds until the Cameroon government shows proof of transparent management.

Tomaino Ndam Njoya is mayor of the western town of Foumban, an official of the Cameroon Democratic Union and a former lawmaker in Cameroon’s National Assembly.

Njoya says the female leaders are not indifferent to the high wave of corruption and theft of public funds in Cameroon. She says many government ministers have been asked to explain what happened to a $335 million IMF loan intended to stop the spread of COVID-19. She says it would be unfair to continue to give loans to Cameroon when the government has not accounted for amounts already received.

Cameroon government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi did not respond when contacted by VOA about Njoya’s comments. In a release read on state radio, Cameroon promised to investigate corruption and punish those found guilty.

Cameroon, a majority French-speaking country, is facing several problems, including the separatist crisis in its English-speaking western regions and Boko Haram terrorism on its northern border with Nigeria.

Cameroon also suffers the spillover of the crisis in the Central African Republic, with attacks by rebels on its eastern border and political tensions from Biya’s long stay in power.

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