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International Community Dignitaries Call for Ceasefire in Cameroon, Putting “health first”

Respected leaders from the international community under their umbrella body, the Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon (GCPJC), have called on warring parties in the Central African nation to reach a ceasefire if the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the country can be effective. 

GCPJC members who include retired U.S. ambassadors to Cameroon like John Yates and Harriet Isom, UK members of parliament such as Harriet Baldwin and Andrew Mitchell, the former Prime Minister of Canada Joe Clark, the former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos, Dr. Denis Mukwege of DR Congo, and the former President of South Africa FW de Klerk, among others issued a collective statement Monday, June 22 calling on the government and separatist rebel forces in Cameroon “to put people’s health first” by ending the protracted conflict that has affected the country’s Northwest and Southwest regions since 2016.

“We challenge the government and military of the Republic of Cameroon to call a ceasefire in the two Anglophone regions,” they state in their collective letter and reiterate, “We challenge all non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in the two Anglophone regions to call a ceasefire.”

They continue, “It takes bravery to call a ceasefire, of course, but that’s what it means to put people’s health first. We challenge everyone involved in the fighting to respect human life and protect health workers, patients, and health facilities.”

Signed by Members of the informal group of academics, activists, journalists, and other concerned citizens around the world, GCPJC members remind President Paul Biya-led administration of its “special responsibility to protect its citizens under international law.”

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“Citizens cannot be protected from COVID-19 and other catastrophic health threats in an active war zone,” they say and urge that “there be a ceasefire to: protect human life, health workers, patients, health facilities, and ambulances and allow unfettered access of humanitarian aid to the North-West and South-West regions.”

They “emphasize that COVID-19 cannot be reduced while infrastructure is being attacked, populations are harmed and displaced, and medical and humanitarian aid cannot reach all parts of the North-West and South-West regions.”

They are all the more concerned, they underscore, because “the rate of coronavirus infection in Cameroon is among the highest in Africa.”

The “respected leaders from the international community” indicate the need to “protect human life, health workers, patients, health facilities, and ambulances,” noting that the ceasefire will also “allow unfettered access of humanitarian aid to the North-West and South-West regions”

Their call for a ceasefire echoes that by other world leaders including Pope Francis and the United Nations Chief, António Guterres who have appealed for an end to armed conflicts amid COVID-19 crisis. 

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In a recent interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Archbishop Andrew Nkea of Cameroon’s Bamenda Archdiocese decried that the call to end the prolonged violence has been disregarded.  

Archbishop Nkea said that while many leaders of those advocating for secession have expressed their understanding of what is at stake and agreed to sign a general ceasefire, these leaders “don’t actually have much influence on those fighting on the ground.”

In their June 22 message, GCPJC members go on to challenge the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and UN Secretary-General, the African Union and Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Commonwealth, and La Francophonie to “use all instruments of power at their disposal to urge the Republic of Cameroon to call a COVID-19 ceasefire.”

“Ensure that Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict is on the agenda of the forthcoming UN Security Council meeting and all UNOCA (United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa) sessions before the UNSC,” they add.