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US Diplomat's Remarks Stir Controversy in Cameroon

FILE - Tibor Nagy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 14, 2019.
FILE - Tibor Nagy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 14, 2019.

There have been mixed reactions in Cameroon to the meeting between the top U.S. diplomat to Africa, Tibor Nagy, and opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who says he was the rightful winner of the Cameroon's October 2018 presidential election.

Nagy also gave an interview in which he said Cameroonian officials are not doing enough to solve the separatist crisis that has killed more than 3,000 people in the country's English-speaking regions. While some see Nagy as someone proposing solutions, others say he does not know the true situation and should hold back his opinions.

Before beginning a five-nation tour of Africa last Wednesday, Nagy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, spoke to Radio France Internationale. In the interview, he said his mind bleeds because the separatist crisis in Cameroon has persisted and there seems to be no solution in sight. Nagy said Cameroonians in the volatile north- and southwest regions love their country, but are not happy with the system of government.

"What the people in the southwest and the northwest want more than anything else is decentralization. They would like to have control over their own lives, their own historical heritage," Nagy said.

Armed groups in the two English-speaking regions want to separate from the rest of Cameroon, alleging discrimination from the country's French-speaking majority.

Ernest Ateba, spokesperson of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, said Nagy does not have the mandate to speak to Cameroon.

He said America should respect Cameroon's sovereignty and understand that Cameroon organized a successful national dialogue that unanimously created a special status for the English-speaking regions, which is gradually being put in place with the expected local council and parliamentary elections and an eventual election of representatives to regional assemblies and assemblies of chiefs.

Separatists have also criticized Nagy on social media for saying that Cameroonians are unified. They say they are fighting for an independent state they call Ambazonia.

Before leaving for Africa, Nagy met in Washington with Cameroon's opposition leader Maurice Kamto. Kamto maintains that he won the October 2018 presidential election and his victory was stolen by Cameroon's longtime leader, Paul Biya.

Roger Justin Noah, a spokesman for Kamto's Cameroon Renaissance Movement party, says Nagy and Kamto discussed the political situation in Cameroon and the crisis in the English-speaking regions.

He said Tibor Nagy, just like their leader Maurice Kamto, shares the view that Biya never respects his promises and that the solution to the crisis in the English-speaking regions is the convening of a true national dialogue in the presence of all English-speaking leaders, including those who were arrested and sent to prison, and their colleagues in the diaspora who have been declared wanted by Cameroon. He said during the dialogue, people should be allowed to speak freely and should not be arrested for having contrary views to those of Biya.

Minister of Communication Rene Emmanuel Sadi said calls by Kamto for another dialogue are to distract people.

"We do not foresee a more inclusive dialogue than the historical one from the 30th of September to the 4th of October 2019. The absence of an extremist minority which did not want to take part although invited, could not put asunder the great success of this historic gathering of worthy sons and daughters of the Cameroonian nation," Sadi said.

Cameroon is not on Nagy's itinerary, which includes stops in the Central African Republic, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan.