Cameroon MPs ponder longer House boycott

Wednesday November 13 2019

Cameroon's Social Democratic Front chairman, Ni

Cameroon's Social Democratic Front chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi, speaks during a presidential campaign rally at Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde on October 5, 2018. His party boycotted the opening of Parliament on November 12, 2019 in protest over the crisis in western Cameroon as the government prepares legislation to grant the English speaking regions Special Status. PHOTO | NDI EUGENE NDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NDI EUGENE NDI
By NDI EUGENE NDI
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Lawmakers from Cameroon's leading opposition party have threatened to boycott the entire remaining session of Parliament this year in protest over executive inaction on the armed conflict in Western Cameroon.

The Social Democratic Front representatives sat out the re-opening of the country's two houses of parliament - the National Assembly and the senate - on Tuesday, November 12.

It will be the third and final session of the legislative year during which Parliament will scrutinise proposals on government spending for 2020 before dissolving for legislative elections in February.

They accused President Paul Biya of "throwing into the waste paper" recommendations of September's Major National Dialogue on resolving the conflict in the two English-speaking regions of the country.

"Nothing has happened to make us feel that some action is being taken (to resolve the conflict), SDF Parliament Group leader in the National Assembly Paul Nji Tumasang said after the Tuesday boycott.

Mr Tumasang said the members reserved the right to boycott the entire session if measures are not taken to end the violence that has claimed more than 3,000 lives.

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Half a million others have been displaced from their homes and 40,000 more fled to Nigeria, according to data from the International Crisis Group which the government says is exaggerated.

The legislators said the executive had subjugated Parliament's role by suppressing debate on the Anglophone region, home to 16 per cent of Cameroon's 26 million people.

"The major national dialogue has not resolved any problem. The recommendations, not resolutions were dutifully handed to President Paul Biya. He has thrown them into the waste paper basket," Mr Tumasang contended.

At its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in August the party led by Ni John Fru Ndi said it would whip its lawmakers to boycott the November session if the Yaounde regime failed to provide a definitive solution to the problem.
The session, however, will examine bills related to the crisis in the Anglophone region amid optimism that recommendations of the national dialogue, especially those requiring more resources for the region will be presented for approval.

"The house will scrutinize any proposed bill that may be tabled within the framework of the implementation of the resolutions of the Major National dialogue,” National Assembly Speaker Cavaye Yeguie Djibril told Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute on Tuesday.

Special status

Biya, president since 1982, promised the resolutions from the dialogue would be diligently examined "with a view to implementing them."

George Ewane, the spokesman for the national dialogue, said that experts were working on a special status for Anglophone Cameroon and the enabling legislation.

"We would like the bill to be put to parliament during the next parliamentary session," he said.

It is unlikely that SDF - which only sustained another boycott in November 2017 over the crisis for a couple of days - would opt out on scoring propaganda points during a debate of such political significance.

Biya, 86, also made reconciliatory gestures in the wake of the dialogue by releasing more than 333 detainees and 102 political activists who were facing politically related charges.

They included Maurice Kamto, President of the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC), who had been in jail for eight months after challenging Biya in the 2017 election.

Separatist demands

Anglophone Cameroon leaders, however, agitate for a federal system of government with a rotational presidency and demand the government speaks directly to political representatives of the armed groups.

"The grand national dialogue does not seem to have brought a new and lasting solution to the demands of the anglophones regarding the shape of the state," Mr Kamto said upon his release.

One of the influential separatist chiefs, Julius Ayuk Tabe, who was sentenced to life imprisonment at the end of August with nine of his supporters by a military court dismissed the dialogue as a "non-event".
Government spokesman Rene Emmanuel Sadi has ruled out talks with armed groups saying: "We don't envisage any dialogue more inclusive than the one that took place in Yaounde."

French French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Cameroon on October 30 to encourage President Biya "to follow up on this dynamic" in reference to the goodwill from the dialogue.

A week earlier Cameroon reported that atrocities had resumed in Barmenda, the capital of the North West region while people still living in camps had weapons.

"We're not necessarily dealing with separatists, but with bandit groups who take advantage of the situation," said George Ewane, the spokesman for the national dialogue.

Ewane said that 58 fighters had laid down their arms in the South West in October despite most separate leaders boycotting the five day talks that started on September 30, with 1,000 delegates.

Additional reporting by AFP

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