By Maxwell N. Achu, Diplomat,
(Peace Advocate, Conflict Transformation Researcher,
Academia, MA. International Relations) 2
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maxwell N. ACHU is a Cameroonian Diplomat and Civil Society Activist. He is a Conflict Transformation Researcher and an expert in Positive Peace building across the African continent, and beyond. He presently resides in Accra, Ghana where he is the Country Director for Humanitarian Group Action International, a nongovernmental nonprofit and apolitical organization.
The organization has as objectives to provide humanitarian and social services to “underprivileged” groups of persons. Most importantly, it also seeks to inspire and embolden youth involvement in nation and state building activities within the context of societal reconstruction through peace learning. The following paper is a partial reflection on a holistic and rigorous research conducted by the author on “Positive Peace for Africa”, a peace building project with objectives to implant a peace culture through education on the variables of the sustainable developments agenda 2030.
Conflict-risk Assessment and Predictability in Cameroon
• Technical problems
• The absence of a peace culture
• The presence of deep-rooted structural violence
• Lack of shared and mutual interest
• Traumas of past wounds (marginalization and discrimination) fuels the unrest
THE PEACE STRATEGY:
A) INCLUSIVE, CONSENSUS-ORIENTED, RECONCILIATORY AND COOPERATIVE DIALOGUE PROCESS (SHORT-TERM PEACE PROPOSALS)
• Conditions for dialogue
• What are the drivers to ensure effective accomplishment of these short-term peace proposals?
• Dialogue procedure
• Dialogue participants
• Pre-dialogue arrangements
• The dialogue
The First phase: This MUST involve understanding the “Anglophone crisis” and the whole conflict formation
– Step 1: entails understanding the GoC and the “Anglophones”, both behaviours and their relations in the context of the “Anglophone problem” (this analyses the present state of affairs):
– Step 2: entails understanding the assumptions; how they relate to “Anglophones” behaviours and how these behaviours interact with the “Anglophone problem” as well as the goals of the struggle. (Therapy of the Past)
The Second phase: Differentiating between legitimate (participation, solidarity, inclusivity and integration) and illegitimate (marginalization, segmentation, fragmentation) goals
The Third phase: involves the integration of “Anglophone” legitimate struggle goals with an overarching formula
– the construction of new integration, solidarity and participation goals (Therapy of the way forward)
– creating an action plan for the present (Therapy of the Present)
B) INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY TRANSFORMATION THROUGH RIGOROUS AND HOLISTIC POSITIVE PEACEBUILDING (LONG-TERM PEACE PLANS)
Just like in Ethiopia, the unrest in the Republic of Cameroon is rooted in the country’s history, which dates back to many years. This paper seeks to analyze the institutional and attitudinal elements on the way forward for the restoration to normalcy of the state of affairs within the national territory. It is not a recipe for apportioning blame but of principles and options to a pacific settlement of disputes within the national territory.
Conflicts and violence are core impediments to peace and development. Despite the international community‘s efforts to curb the uprising of conflicts and violence within the international level, persistent violence-prone policies still exist within national territories, which spurs discontentment and grievances and hence proliferates violence. In the case of Cameroon, these conflicts feed on gender violence and leave refugees and broken infrastructures in their wake. Violent territories have become breeding grounds for far-reaching networks of violent radicals even as far as organized crimes.
Already plagued with low incomes, poverty, rapid urbanization, unemployment, income shocks and inequality between groups, violence will only exacerbate dysfunctionality of the “weak” socioeconomic institutions in Cameroon, just like in other Sub-Saharan African countries. “Strong” institutional legitimacy is therefore key to stability. Confronting these challenges, with the current uprising inclusive, effectively means that institutions need to change. It is in this light that, this peace proposal suggests some specific actions and ways of implementation as well as measuring results. However, it will require a layered approach, meaning some problems must be addressed at the Regional as well as the national level.
The stakes are truly high notwithstanding. This paper calls to mind that civil conflicts have a toll on the GDP of Cameroon however. It cost the average developing country roughly 30 years of GDP growth and countries in protracted crisis can fall over 20 percentage points behind in overcoming poverty. 1 To this effect, we must have strong incentives on clear peace roadmaps, which is what this proposal seek to offer.
This peace initiative advocates for a political community with shared identity, interest and mutual obligations. Without this, the Government of Cameroon (GoC) may be seen by the “Anglophones” to lack legitimacy, reason why some activists advocate for separation.2
This peace proposal paper aims to consolidate political stability (given the election year), while creating an enabling business environment for enhanced and accelerated growth. It advocates for nonviolence in the resolution of social unrest, especially as violence breeds only violence and attacks persons, not policies. Dialogue, according to this paper is the weapon of the strong.
Conflict, risk assessment and predictability in Cameroon
This paper will not overemphasize the economic benefits from improvements in peace in Cameroon, but will highlight the impact of this uprising to the nation’s economic stability, which grossly hampers political performance as well as institutions’ credibility to deliver. The Economic Value of Peace, a framework by the Institute of Economics and Peace covers 163 countries and independent territories – representing 99.5% of the global economy and population.
No conflict from the onset can determine the ramifications it will bring. Statistically, the smallest start-up of social unrest always almost brings disproportionate consequences. The primary example of this is the case of Syria where the civil war, which started simply by graffiti on the wall, has devastated the country and economy, with violence and conflict costing an equivalent of 54.1% of GDP as at 2015.
Conversely, pre-empting the outbreak of violence can achieve peace and reap significant economic gains. The economic impact of violence in Sri Lanka has decreased 66% since 2009 due to conflict risk assessment and pre-emption, resulting in a peace dividend of $48 billion PPP, which is equivalent to 20% of the country’s 2015 GDP.
In the case of Cameroon, it will be instructive to understand the economic losses caused by the “Anglophone” crisis. It will also be important to identify which types of other related violence have the greatest effect on Peace indicators, as the GoC and related-policymakers can better understand how a lack of peace is affecting not only economic growth but also poverty levels, social mobility, education, the control of corruption or life expectancy. This highlights that by identifying the appropriate violence containment strategies, policymakers may be able to lower economic costs of violence by nurturing the tangible drivers of peacefulness.
Due to the difficulty in forecasting the onset of large-scale violence, it is important to better understand and conceptualize new approaches to measuring the risk of it. While some risks can be foreseen and planned for, profoundly destabilizing events such as Anglophone civil unrest, conflict onset and the collapse of entire countries have, all too often, caught the world by surprise.
The collective failure of the people of Cameroon to have predicted the onset of such man-made events, like the Syrian civil war, has substantial impacts on human wellbeing, economic development and geopolitical stability of Cameroon. It is thus not surprising that a key question for Cameroon policymakers, business and civil society today is, how can the likelihood of big risks such as conflict onset be better understood, and what can be done to mitigate the risk of these events occurring.
The 30 most-at-risk countries, according to the Positive Peace Deficit model in 2008, 22 countries experienced significant declines in peace; with Cameroon inclusive. The country that experienced the largest deterioration in peace was Syria, which ranked 99th out of 163 countries in the 2008 GPI, 3 and fell to last in 2016. This was a noteworthy prediction. Many in the international community considered it a relatively stable country. Consequently, few other forecasts placed it significantly at risk of conflict.
Following the positive predictive value of the Positive Peace Deficit model, Cameroon is at high risk of further violent escalation. If a potential conflict risk country like Cameroon can be identified up to (7) seven years in advance, then meaningful interventions can potentially be staged. Given the high costs of conflict compared to prevention, the potential of acting upon these models with this level of positive predictive accuracy has the potential to guide resource allocation and lead to better and more cost effective decision-making.
This conflict risk assessment indicates that Cameroon lacks the attitudes, institutions and structures to maintain their current levels of negative peacefulness and Cameroon is particularly vulnerable to internal or external shocks. Research by the Department for International Development, DFID, Institute of Economics and Peace, IEP, and United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, all suggest conflict prevention and peace building interventions can be highly cost-effective when successful.
This is because, in the case of Cameroon, the economic impact of the “Anglophone” uprising, instability and structural and cultural violence in general is large when compared to the size of the investments to prevent such impediments. IEP’s research on the cost of violence and conflict to the global economy finds that the economic losses from violence were 12.6 per cent of world GDP in 2016, or approximately $2,000 for each person on the planet. IEP analysis shows the cost-savings ratio of peace building or the actions that lead to conflict prevention is 1:16 on average.
Applying IEP’s global cost of violence model to the risk predictions underlines this point.
The global cost of conflict (homicide) in 2015 was US$742 billion, a very large sum. In a utopian world, if all peace building interventions were 100 per cent effective, and guided by a 100 per cent accurate risk model, then the cost savings would be the cost of the peace building interventions themselves, subtracted from the US$742 billion cost of conflict.
(To be continued)