The negotiation PM – Can he fix the damage?

The appointment of Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute as PM is strategic and circumstantial, perhaps with little weight placed on his achievements in his previous role at the Presidency and more on his negotiation skills and network as the longest serving Minister Delegate in charge of the Commonwealth and his role in the allocation judgment of the contested Region of Bakassi Peninsular by the European Court of Justice in favour of Cameroon. Like it or not, Cameroon, once considered as one of the safest countries in Central Africa is at a very delicate point at home and beyond, and there is a desperate need for a ‘Negotiation Prime Minister’ with international legal experience to be the ‘Handy-Manny’ of a shattered country increasingly surrounded by national and international enemies and a few friends of self rather than collective national interest. The President and indeed, the government needed a ‘new’ face and reliable personality with experience of the root causes, culture and people of the two English speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions.

It appears H.E Dion Ngute maintains a long standing network with the UN and other potential stakeholders who would be key in any final negotiation settlement to rescue the country or at least repair SOME of the big damages that Cameroon is struggling to cope with, including the ongoing dirty war between government forces and Ambazonia armed separatist fighters and the shocking withdrawal of the 2019 CAN hosting rights.

The deteriorating ‘Anglophone Conflict’ requires a meaningful and effective peaceful negotiation before active fighting spills over to other Regions hosting Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs. All sides must now realize that this horizontal war cannot be won by either side using military tactics even if sustained for decades. Innocent citizens and ordinary Cameroonians are paying the ultimate blood price as both sides refuse to unilaterally lay down their arms or withdraw government forces from the affected Regions. The Ambazonia war is taking a different shape, unfavourable to all sides involved. Ambazonia armed fighters initially supported by local and Diaspora communities are controlling huge territory and gradually creating ungovernable spaces in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Local infighting between Ambazonia armed groups, inexperienced fighters and Diaspora leadership splits is resulting in a disorganized ground fighting, human rights violations, kidnappings for ransom , extortions, beheadings and other dangerous terror related activities that is reversing gained sympathy and support from the local population and the international community. The PM will have to balance these factors carefully when the government decides to engage the key stakeholders of the conflict in a neutral environment.

A meaningful negotiation should commence, one that addresses the real ‘Anglophone problems’ that have kept the country disunited for more than four decades, rather than exclusively addressing the resulting effects in the hope that causation factors will disappear under the carpet. A genuine process will require the participation of carefully selected credible national and Diaspora stakeholders, especially those with ´big dogs in the fight.’

Negative international image

The negative international image hanging over Cameroon, the pressure on the national economy and social life is mounting at high speed and any effective solution requires a head of government with plenty of solution orientation skills. But in the complex circumstances, someone who can distance himself from the immediate scene of the damage and say, ‘it was not me in charge when things hit the fan but I am here to fix the situation, give me a chance.’

This is a strategic Presidential appointment at a time when the key leadership of various Ambazonia armed separatist groups, viz;  Ambazonia Defence Forces, ADF, of Dr Cho Ayaba ; Southern Cameroons Défense Force, SOCADEF, of Dr Ebenezer Akwanga and the Ambazonia Security Council, ASC, of the Interim Government, IG, under Dr Samuel Sako are split over leadership control – rendering a negotiation process even more complex with the potential for spoilers should key stakeholders be left in the cold. The current negotiation dynamics should involve a support pre-negotiation mechanism to unite the ´Ambazonia’ leadership without freezing out either moderate voices or those who prefer armed struggle as the only viable solution.

This is perhaps the last PM under the current centralized structure and his role is the most critical in deciding the future of Cameroon, one that should be embraced with celebrations of business as usual.’

The President, the newly appointed PM, the people of Cameroon at home and abroad and the international community will not rest peacefully until the current conflict is buried below and not above their heads once and for all. It is down to H.E. Dion Ngute to play his best and most challenging role in the history of Cameroon as the ´Negotiation Prime Minister.’

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