By NOELA EBOB BISONG
The United States Senate, on July 31, 2019 introduced S. Res. 292, a resolution that calls on the Government of Cameroon and armed separatist groups to respect the human rights of all Cameroonian citizens, to end all violence, and to pursue an inclusive dialogue to resolve the conflict in the North West and South West regions.
The resolution has been forged by Senators Ben Cardin and Todd Young with Senators Dick Durbin.), James Lankford Chris Van Hollen, Ed Markey, Chris Coons, Tim Kaine , and Jeff Merkley.
Acknowledging that Cameroon receives United States foreign aid and participates in the Department of State-led Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and United States-supported efforts to counter Boko Haram, the US Senate, urges all parties to the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon, including political opposition groups, to agree to an immediate ceasefire; guarantee unfettered humanitarian assistance; exercise restraint and ensure that protests remain peaceful; and engage in inclusive dialogue with civil society to get to a political solution that respects the rights and freedoms of the people of Cameroon.
Also, it strongly condemns the abuses committed by Boko Haram, state security forces, and armed groups in the Anglophone regions, including extrajudicial killings and detentions, the use of force against nonviolent civilians and protestors, and violations of the freedoms of press, expression, religion, and assembly.
By the resolution, the US Senate affirms that the United States Government continues to hold the Government of Cameroon responsible for upholding the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, political views, or the regions in which they reside.
The Government of Cameroon is further urged to initiate a credible, inclusive, good, and full-faith effort to work with religious, cultural, and community leaders in the Anglophone region and the Cameroonian diaspora to engage in meaningful dialogue and address grievances and seek nonviolent solutions to resolve the conflict, including possibly involving an independent mediator in such negotiations. Also, that the Cameroon government should respect the fundamental rights of all Cameroonian citizens, including political activists, faith leaders, and journalists, ensure that any security operations are conducted in accordance with international human rights standards, including efforts to ensure security forces only use force under appropriate circumstances; investigate all allegations of human rights abuses, including religious freedom violations, committed in the Anglophone regions and take the necessary measures to prevent arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, deaths in custody, and inhumane prison conditions; promote the rule of law through more transparent accountability mechanisms; improve election processes and reform electoral institutions; promptly charge or release all those detained in the context of the Anglophone crisis, including all Anglophone activists arrested in Nigeria, and ensure that any future detainees are treated with due process, in accordance with Cameroon’s penal code and international human rights norms; ensure that detainees are treated fairly and humanely, with proper judicial proceedings, including a registry of those detained by the Cameroonian security forces, and with full access to legal resources; release human rights defenders, civil society activists, political prisoners, journalists, trade unionists, teachers, faith leaders and any other citizens who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained without trial or charge; and work with United States law enforcement to thoroughly investigate and prosecute Charles Wesco’s murder.
By the resolution, armed groups in Anglophone areas have also been urged to engage with government officials to peacefully express grievances and credibly engage in nonviolent efforts to resolve the conflict; immediately stop committing human rights abuses, including killings of civilians, torture, kidnapping, and extortion; end the school boycott and immediately cease attacks on schools, teachers, and education officials, and allow for the safe return of all students to class; and immediately release all civilians illegally detained or kidnapped.