Cameroon National Dialogue “not inclusive, disappointing”: An Archbishop’s Impressions

Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda, Cameroon
Credit: Public Domain

At a time when various stakeholders in the recently held Cameroon National Dialogue are digesting the resolutions reached during the five-day meeting, a Church leader in one of the crisis-hit regions of the Central African country has expressed his disappointment with the way the sessions were conducted and criticized the constitution of the participants as "not inclusive."

“I was disappointed and indeed not satisfied with the way this dialogue was carried out,” Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda told ACI Africa in an exclusive interview Monday, October 14.

“It (National Dialogue) was not inclusive. In the pre-consultations, we, the Bishops, had requested the protagonists at home and abroad, including the imprisoned leaders of the Separatists and the Amba boys should participate. This was not the case,” Archbishop Fontem Esua added. 

He lamented the inability of the National Dialogue to take into account the desires of the affected Cameroonians saying that the various sessions “did not address the specific and profound aspirations of the people of the Anglophone regions, which concerned primarily the form of the state and government.”

“The first phase has been more of a monologue in the sense that all participants were handpicked by the government,” Archbishop Fontem Esua said in reference to the members named in the eight different commissions during the dialogue and added, “In fact, except for a few most of them were government administrators, civil servants, council workers.”

The Archbishop of Bamenda who was part of the commission on decentralization during the talks revealed that the idea of a Federal system of government clamored by most Anglophones as a solution to the crisis was not discussed and that “the suggestions on this topic (decentralization) were not included in the final resolutions.”

He further regarded the process leading to the resolution as manipulated saying, “It seems that the contents of the resolutions were already decided on.”

In his considered view, the resolutions “did not flow from the discussions, and therefore were not democratically agreed upon.”

The Major National Dialogue presided over by Cameroon’s Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute ended with several resolutions adopted including a special status for the two Anglophone regions of the country.

“The reference to a special status mentioned in the constitution, which would grant a certain autonomy to the Anglophone regions is within a typical French Centralized system of government and does not therefore answer the profound aspirations of the Anglophones who inherited a British system and culture of self-government and indirect rule,” Archbishop Fontem Esua said.

To the Archbishop, “the national dialogue has just begun.” 

“The mention of granting the Anglophone Regions a special status, which would guarantee their autonomy is a welcome opening to Federalism which is the lesser evil to separation,” he said.

The Prelate once again echoed the wish of the Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical province, which covers the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon to see a neutral body moderate in a subsequent dialogue with no taboo questions.

“There should be a neutral moderator,” he said and added, “there should be frank discussions with no taboo questions and the dialogue should address questions concerning the profound aspirations of the Anglophones. There should be the search for the truth in the spirit of honesty and humility.”

The Archbishop’s sentiments seem consistent with the reaction of the leader of the Separatist movement, Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe who has been quoted as describing the National Dialogue as  a non-event by Jeune Afrique Economie.

“Major National dialogue was a meeting of French Cameroon citizens to solve their national problems. To us it is a non-event” Sisiku told Jeune Afrique in its publication of Sunday October 13.

On his part, however, the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya was positive about the National Dialogue, congratulating the delegates for their sincerity during the deliberations and expressing satisfaction with the resolutions.

“I can assure you that all of them (resolutions) will be considered attentively and diligently with a view to implementing them, taking into account their relevance and feasibility as well as the capacities of our country,” Biya said on Twitter on October 4.


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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