Ambazonia Crisis: “Canadian capitalism and federalism will make Cameroon the envy of the continent” 0

The Southern Cameroons crisis which has resulted in the death of thousands and the displacement of more than a million Cameroonians is gradually losing steam and there is hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel following the Canadian government’s announcement that it was happy to play a leadership role in upcoming negotiations and talks between the warring factions. The Canadian government has opted to openly lead the talks which will ultimately bring peace to the country, especially to the two English-speaking regions and many Cameroonians welcome Canada’s leadership role. Dr. Joachim Arrey, himself a Canadian and a native of Ossing in the Southwest region of Cameroon, has been relentless in his call for peace and has never stopped to urge the Canadian government to play a key role in any talks given the country’s experience in dealing with its own linguistic minorities and he had this to say when the Cameroon Concord News Group editor, Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai, sought his opinion after the announcement by the Canadian foreign affairs minister. 

Cameroon Concord News: It is always a pleasure to see you, especially at this time when Cameroonians are looking forward to a resolution of the conflict. What is your view about the Canadian government’s announcement?

Dr. Jaochim Arrey: Thank you, Mr. Editor, for giving me the opportunity to share my perspective on the Canadian government announcement regarding the resolution of the conflict in the Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions. Let me clearly state that I am very happy that Canada has come out openly to help find a long-lasting and peaceful solution to the conflict in Cameroon which has blighted the lives of many Cameroonians. Canada has always indicated its interest to play a key role but disagreements between the warring factions did not let Canada, an honest and neutral peace-broker to help pull Cameroon out of its mess. Canada was among those countries financing the Swiss-led peace mediation process which began in 2019, but the Cameroon government pulled out of the process last year. This was disappointing. Canada has unquestionable experience in the organization of referendums and inter-governmental negotiations and its offer should be taken seriously by all the parties. Canada has once been caught up in a socio-political mess like the one in which Cameroon finds itself when Quebecers wanted to walk away from the Canadian confederation. This experience will surely come in handy when the North American country will be mediating. 

Cameroon Concord News: Do you think this process will deliver any hope?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: There is hope on the horizon. Cameroonians cannot afford to miss this golden opportunity. I know Canadians for their patience and determination. There will be challenges, but Canadian negotiators are very astute and experienced when it comes to conflict management and resolution. Let us not be deceived. If Canada has come out with such a statement, know that the whole world is behind the Trudeau government when it comes to the Southern Cameroons crisis. There have been several behind-the-scenes talks in Mont-Tremblant in Quebec and in Toronto in Ontario, and despite the massive disagreements between the warring factions, Canadian negotiators kept their calm and they have been steering the ship to peaceful shores. The world is standing behind Canada. The Cameroon government, which has not yet issued any statement after the Canadian foreign affairs minister said that Canada would lead the negotiations, must seize this opportunity if it really wants peace to return to the country. The separatists have already sent out a press release and they all, at least most of them, agree that Canada is a trusted partner and are in favor of peace talks which should reduce tensions in the two English-speaking regions in the months ahead. Even the Vatican is involved in the process. On Sunday during an address, Pope Francis urged the signatories to the Canadian-mediated peace process to “persevere on the path of dialogue.” Tibor Nagy, the top U.S. diplomat on African affairs during the Donald Trump Administration, has also chipped in a tweet, hoping that the talks would result in peace. He however warned that the Cameroon government might engage in delaying tactics. The process will be an uphill climb and time is of the essence. Both parties must demonstrate flexibility and there is a need for substantive actions such as a ceasefire and prisoner release to ensure that support for the peace process does not collapse.  The government must demonstrate a lot of good will. It should release Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and his team as a demonstration of its seriousness and sincerity.

Cameroon Concord News: One of the issues which resulted in the escalation of violence was the form of the state. Do you see that happening?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: I don’t think the form of the state has been cast in stone. Cameroon was initially a federal system, and it was changed by an individual who thought a united republic would bring more peace and unity to the country. After many decades, it is obvious that a highly centralized system has failed the people of Cameroon. Things are falling apart. Corruption and abuse of power are blighting the lives of our young people. The form of the state will be on the table and to the best of my knowledge, Canada is not for secession. Canada will never support any group which stands for secession. Canada will use its own experience to engineer peace in Cameroon. The most likely form of government which will emerge from these talks will be a federal system which will grant the people the right and opportunity to run their own affairs. The federal government will only be in charge of natural resources, the military and foreign affairs. I am hopeful and I stand for a federal system.

Cameroon Concord News: Which form of federalism do you stand for?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: Ultimately, it is the people of Cameroon who must decide on the form of the state they think will deliver the best possible development results for their country. For me, I stand for a ten-state federal system which will engineer sustainable development in all the nooks and crannies of the country. I want the Southwest region, my own region, to be free from any form of fighting. As a people, we should never forget how we got entangled with French Cameroon. We must be bold and audacious when it comes to sharing our perspective on the new Cameroon which will emerge after the talks. I really admire the Canadian federal system which has brought the best living conditions to Canadians. It is cost-effective and nobody gets left behind. Canada is run on capitalism, but Canadian capitalism is different from American capitalism. Canada’s capitalism is known as Compassionate Capitalism, and this has brought prosperity to many, and life is simple in Canada. I have spent 25 years of my life in Canada, and I can speak without fear of contradiction that Canadian capitalism and federalism will make Cameroon the envy of the continent. 

Cameroon Concord News: You are versed with the Canadian and American systems. I am sure people like you should lend a hand to the peace efforts. Will you be willing to lend that hand if given an opportunity? 

Dr. Joachim Arrey:  Cameroon is the country of my birth, and I can do anything to make it a better place for our young people. I have had more than my fair share of life and I think it is a responsibility for me to help rebuild Cameroon after having worked for over thirty years in Cameroon, Canada and at the international level. I must be quick to add that my services to Cameroon will always be honorary (free-of-charge). As Cameroonians, we must seek to rebuild our country. Nobody will do it for us. Let us all support the peace process. It is not about any individual, it is about the country, a country blessed with natural and human resources which if well harnessed could transform our country into an earthly paradise. 

Cameroon Concord News: Thank you Dr. Joachim Arrey for your time.

Dr. Jaochim Arrey: I should be the one to thank you for the excellent job you and your team are doing to bring the latest news on Cameroon to the world. Have a great day!