Cameroon has strongly objected to the holding of a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the worsening humanitarian situation in that country.

The Council met in an informal format also known as an Arria Meeting, outside of the Council chamber, amidst concerns a low-level conflict in the Anglophone regions of the Southwest and Northwest is exacerbating humanitarian needs in the country affecting some 4.3 million people.

Government has long rejected calls from separatists seeking independence rooted in long-standing claims of political and economic discrimination by francophone authorities against the minority English-speaking population.

The United States organised the meeting over the objections of the three African countries in the Council and the Cameroonian Government that argued the situation there in no way presented a threat to international peace and security.

Cameroonian ambassador, Tommo Monthe, says the objection has already been expressed by many council members.

“This Arria formula meeting does not enjoy the support of Cameroon. It goes without saying that the same objection has already been firmly expressed by many council members, in particular the African countries; and this due to its ambiguous nature which could be maliciously exploited by those who are minded to be malevolent and who choose for their own benefit to confuse this formula with formal meetings of the Council.”

But the situation in Cameroon is a complex one as it hosts close to 300 000 refugees from the Central African Republic and a further influx of people seeking safe haven as a result of the crisis affecting the Lake Chad Basin to its north.

In addition, there is a violent standoff between separatists in the Anglophone areas in the North and Southwest, leaving over half a million people internally displaced, medical centres impaired and hundreds of thousands of children out of school.

The UN’s Humanitarian Chief says they are seeking $300 million from donors while 13% of that need has so far been met.

UN Secretary-General of Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, says the crisis was one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa in 2018.

“The crisis in the northwest and southwest regions started with peaceful protests in the English speaking regions, but has now turned violent. It was one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa last year (2018). For the past three years, the population has been subjected to on-going violence and attacks by armed actors. The level of the crisis today is more alarming than ever.”

Oman Njomo runs a youth and women’s NGO known as Reach Out in the country. She says the UN could support greater efforts to encourage dialogue between the conflicting parties.

“The UN could support greater efforts to encourage talks and dialogue between the conflicting parties, who are brothers, for an eventual end to the crisis. For them to come up with a roadmap to achieving sustainable peace that builds more on our existing strength and influence.”

Human Rights Watch has called for the situation in Cameroon to be formally placed on the Council’s agenda. Cameroon Researcher, Ilaria Allegrozzi, says that they are asking the Council to put pressure on the Cameroonian authorities to hold those responsible for abuses accountable.

“We ask the Security Council to put now Cameroon on its formal agenda and to not only look at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Anglophone regions but also at the human rights abuses committed by both sides in the north and southwest. We are also asking the Security Council to put pressure on the Cameroonian authorities to tackle the issue of impunity and hold accountable those responsible for abuses.”

African countries have called for dialogue between the parties as the only means of addressing the current standoff and urged foreign interventions to defer to sub-regional efforts including those by the African Union.

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