By Guy Feugap, National Coordinator, Cameroon for a World BEYOND War
World BEYOND War has created a website for Rohi Foundation Cameroon.
I was recently in Bertoua, in the Eastern region of Cameroon, where I had an exchange meeting at the Center for the Promotion of Women Entrepreneurship of the FEPLEM association, which works there with WILPF Cameroon.
The exchange was with some women learners from the functional literacy program of this center.
I was there with 2 other members of WBW Cameroon. There, refugee women and girls, victims of the conflict in the Central African Republic, are trying to learn how to integrate into the community, and apart from learning to read, write, express themselves in French and practice computer skills. They want to interact with the community and learn to work, including farming and cattle raising activities.
It was very impressive to listen to their testimonies. One of them said that she already knows how to express herself in public and is able to coach her children and help them revise their lessons. A way to ensure social cohesion and reduce tensions between communities is to educate these women and many others to become ambassadors and leaders in their communities to build peace.
Statement by the “Cameroon Women for National Dialogue” platform, following the escalation of armed violence, abduction and killings of school children in Cameroon:
Mindful of the need to act and participate in the search for peaceful solutions to the conflicts that are destroying lives in Cameroon and particularly in the North-West and South- West regions, a women’s movement has formed around a platform dubbed “Cameroon Women for National Dialogue”. This was during a pre-consultation workshop of women’s organisations held in Douala on September 16, 2019, in order to make women’s voices heard during the Major National Dialogue called by the Head of State.
After nationwide consultation, the memorandum entitled “Women’s Voices in the National Dialogue”, was published on September 28, 2019 in order to have women’s perspectives included in the quest for sustainable solutions for peacebuilding in the ongoing conflicts in Cameroon. One year later, as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325, we unfortunately note an upsurge in militarized violence whose consequence remains the barbarity observed. Several reasons explain so much violence in a context where due to the Covid-19 pandemic, multiple calls for ceasefires are directed to the parties in conflict. This is the finding from the women of the platform, who met on November 4, 2020 in Douala, to stand affirm to our demand from the first day by asking the government to address the root causes of the conflicts in a holistic manner and through inclusive and franc dialogue. This statement reiterates the evaluation report related to women’s participation in the Major National Dialogue, published in October 2019.
Shocked by the murders and dehumanizing practices, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Cameroon and the women gathered under the platform “Cameroon Women for National Dialogue”; call on all political leaders to stop their use of violent political rhetoric, end their reliance on repressive military strategies, restore human rights and urgently promote peace and development.
Cameroon has entered a dangerous period of spiraling violence. Earlier in the year, the military killed villagers and burnt down their homes in Ngarbuh. The last few months has seen crackdowns on peaceful protests. Last 24 October innocent school children were killed in Kumba. Teachers were abducted in Kumbo, the school was burnt in Limbé and teachers and students were stripped naked. The violence continues uninterrupted. It must end.
Research conducted recently by the United Nations Development Program in Africa shows clearly that repressive government responses, including government attacks on friends and families, arrests and the killing of family members, and the absence of due process, increase rather than decrease the likelihood that people join separatist and religious extremist groups.
These repressive approaches represent the logic of militarised masculinities in which men in positions of power use force to show that they are powerful, tough, dominant, in control and that they are unwilling to negotiate or compromise and quite unafraid to inflict harm and kill ordinary citizens. In the end, these strategies are counter-productive. All they do is increase resentments and retaliation.
Research by UNDP also shows that economic insecurity, chronic unemployment, glaring inequalities and poor access to education increases the likelihood that men become involved in armed groups. Instead of using the armed forces and the police to crackdown on protest, we call on the government to invest in education, employment, and reaffirm their commitment to due process and the rule of law.
Too often, politicians use language in ways that heighten tensions and add fuel to the fire. Each time political leaders threaten to “crush” or “destroy” separatists and other oppositional groups, they heighten tension and increase the likelihood of resistance and retaliation. As women, we call on political leaders to end their use of incendiary and violent rhetoric. Threats of violence and the use of violence only accelerate cycles of destruction and death.
WILPF Cameroon and the platform call on men from all walks of life to reject notions of manhood that equate being a man with the use of violence, aggression and power over others, and instead to champion peace—in our homes, communities and political organisations. Further, we call on men in all positions of leadership and influence—political leaders, religious and traditional leaders, celebrities from the worlds of sports and entertainment—to lead by example and cultivate peace, non-violence and to seek solutions through negotiations.
We ask the National Commission of Human Rights to monitor adherence to national and international laws and to hold political leaders and all political organisations accountable when they fail to advance peace.
About the escalating violence, we must prioritise peace and development over violence and the threats of violence. Repression and retaliation and the logic of “an eye for an eye” achieves nothing except pain and blindness. We must reject the logic of militarisation and dominance and work together to find peace.
Done in Douala, on November 4, 2020
Republic of Cameroon — Peace-Work-Fatherland
République du Cameroun — Paix-Travail-Patrie
ADVOCACY FOR THE EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RELEVENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE MAJOR NATIONAL DIALOGUE AND THE INCLUSION OF WOMEN’S VOICES IN PEACE PROCESSES
By the PLATFORM FOR CAMEROONIAN WOMEN’S CONSULTATION FOR THE NATIONAL DIALOGUE
EVALUATION REPORT RELATED TO WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION
« Les processus de paix qui incluent les femmes en qualité de témoins, de signataires, de médiatrices et /ou de négociatrices ont affiché une hausse de 20% de chances d’obtenir un accord de paix qui dure au moins deux ans. Cette probabilité augmente avec le temps, passant à 35% de chances qu’un accord de paix dure quinze ans »
Laurel Stone, « Analyse quantitative de la participation des femmes aux processus de paix»
The Major National Dialogue (MND) held from 30 September to 4 October 2019 has focused national and international attention, raising diverse expectations. Women’s movements have been particularly active in pre-dialogue consultations. The data collection remains approximate as to the actual participation rate of women, during both the consultations and the national dialogue. It is clear that the recommendations of women from all backgrounds carried the hopes of a more effective consideration of their rights in various decision-making processes affecting the life of the State and their concerns in particular. One year after the convening of this dialogue, many fault lines remain in the resolution of conflicts in Cameroon, including: the low involvement of all stakeholders, lack of dialogue, denial of the conflict and the facts, the uncoordinated and violent discourse of the main actors of the conflict and public figures, misinformation, the use of inappropriate solutions and the lack of solidarity among Cameroonians, the extreme pride of the conflicting parties. This is the observation made by the women of the platform, who met on November 4, 2020 in Douala, to reaffirm their demand from the first day by calling on the government to address the root causes of conflict in a holistic manner and through frank and inclusive dialogue. This document reiterates the assessment report related to women’s participation in the MND, originally published in October 2019 and currently being revised.
Recognizing the seriousness of the conflicts plaguing Cameroon, particularly the three regions of the country (North West, South West and Far North) including insecurity and abductions in the East and the Adamawa region, tens of thousands of people are significantly affected by forced displacement, with women, children, the elderly and youth being the most affected.
To ensure that women and youth are involved in ongoing conflict prevention and resolution processes;
Recalling and stressing the need to include women’s voices in accordance with relevant national and international standards, particularly the UNSC Resolution 1325 and Cameroon’s National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the above resolution, through a framework of equal participation to provide constructive and useful contributions for another national dialogue process;
We, women leaders of the civil society under the banner of the “Cameroon Women’s Consultation Platform for National Dialogue”, including women from the diaspora and women from all walks of life, hereby request from the Government of Cameroon, to engage in meaningful national dialogue process by including the voices of women in the quest for sustainable solutions for the consolidation of peace in Cameroon as stipulated in the Cameroonian Constitution of January 18, 1996 as well as the Cameroon NAP of UNSC Resolution 1325 and other international laws;
Stressing the need for women’s participation in another dialogue process, we also engage women in the development of sustainable peacebuilding solutions for all the conflicts currently shaking Cameroon, while laying emphasis on the construction of a culture of peace throughout the country. This is in line with UNSCR 1325 and its related resolutions which emphasize the importance of women’s participation in all phases of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding;
Conscious of the importance of the following national legal instruments adopted and promulgated by Cameroon and the establishment of related implementing mechanisms to protect the human rights of women in general and more specifically in the field of Women, Peace and Security, and to ensure greater respect for bilingualism and multiculturalism and to achieve a process of disarmament, we hereby acknowledge that the Cameroonian government has made considerable efforts in protecting women’s rights however there are still gaps in terms of implementation and enforcement of certain aspects of these laws;
Moreover, recalling the pre-eminence of international legal instruments over national laws as set out in Article 45 of the Constitution of Cameroon; We hereby reaffirm our commitment to ratified international legal instruments, with a view to creating a content for an inclusive dialogue with the Government of Cameroon in order to seek lasting peace in response to the ongoing conflicts;
Cameroonian women responded to the call of the Head of State of last September 10, 2019 convening a Major National Dialogue and mobilized under the banner of the platform « Cameroon Women Consultation for National Dialogue » including some women from the diaspora and some partner organizations, as well as its networks of women from all walks of life, to develop and submit to the dialogue table a Memorandum1 containing some prerequisites for the conduct of another national dialogue and also taking into account the different conflicts affecting Cameroon.
From the call for the national dialogue on September 10, 2019 the platform “Cameroon Women’s for Peaceful Elections and Peace Education” coordinated by the Cameroon Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF Cameroon) organized with other partners, a pre-consultation of women’s associations to discuss the collective approach to making women’s voices heard in the announced national dialogue.
Created on 16 July 2019 with the aim of promoting women’s participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding processes in general, and in particular, in the conduct of peaceful elections, the platform has a committee of coordination composed of fifteen civil society organizations representing the ten regions of Cameroon.
The pre-dialogue consultation was in line with the National Action Plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSC) adopted by the Government of Cameroon on November 16, 2017, among other priorities women’s participation in peace processes. The consultation gathered opinions and contributions from women from all regions of Cameroon to ensure their effective participation in the dialogue process announced, in view of contribution to a lasting peace in Cameroon.
This advocacy document is justified by the overall assessment of conflict dynamics that have contributed to Cameroon’s current precarious political and humanitarian situation by highlighting the root causes of conflict; the gender conflict analysis which revealed important faults in the resolution of conflicts in Cameroon.
III- FORMAT AND METHODOLOGY
This document was is an edit of the advocacy paper written in October 2019 following five direct consultations conducted since July 2019, by the members of the Platform “Cameroon Women Consultation for National Dialogue “. These consultations were held in both rural and urban areas, particularly in the Far North, Littoral, Center, and West, bringing together women from all the regions of the country and some from the diaspora. In participation were women’s CSO leaders or those supporting women’s actions, women from North West and South West (NOSO), conflict victims, internally displaced people, women journalists, and young women. The consultations were reinforced by the setting up of the Women Situation Room Call Center, a permanent data collection mechanism via the tool free number 8243, and the consideration of the results of the “Gender Conflict analysis in Cameroon”. We also sensitized and mobilized women led associations; ensured that the technical capacity of women’s associations was strengthened through the organization of workshops; created platforms to share experiences and make meaningful contributions to national dialogue processes; consolidated the position of women by forming voluntary coalitions; Finally, we consulted with some CSO leaders of diaspora women, organized and participated in community planning meetings to ensure that women’s positions were approved and passed on to appropriate stakeholders and channels.
Our document has also been developed on the basis of regional and international best practices for organizing inclusive national dialogues. Based on best practices, we noted the need to ensure that the national dialogue consultation process is participatory, inclusive and enables equal participation of keys actors including women and youth.
IV- STATE OF POST DIALOGUE
1- Taking into account proposals made by women
➢ Regarding the general recommendations :
We welcomed and congratulated the appeasing measures taken by the Head of State, including the discontinuation of charges of 333 prisoners of the Anglophone crisis and the release of 102 prisoners from the CRM and his allies.
Also appreciated, in spite of the fact that the rate was low, the inclusion of women and youth among those involved in the MND. To illustrate this, we have the following examples of people invited to the dialogue from regions. South : (29 men and 01 women, that is 96.67% and 3.33% respectively); North (13 men and 02 women, 86.67% and 13.33% respectively) and the Far North (21 men and 03 women, 87.5% and 12.5% respectively).
➢ Recommendations related to women’s specific issues
Concretely, we noted the recommendations for education sector reforms and the taking of measures to grant a general amnesty to promote the return of refugees and displaced persons.
We also noted the idea of conducting a census of all IDPs and assessing their basic socio- economic needs (schools, health facilities, housing, etc) as well as providing « resettlement and reintegration kits » to refugees and IDPs.
Other positive points noted were:
• Voluntarily creating sustainable jobs for young people and women, especially in crisis-affected areas;
• Support communities and local authorities, especially displaced and returned women, because of precariousness, by facilitating access to resources to develop real reintegration opportunities (income-generating activities, etc);
• Compensation to individuals, religious congregations, chief’s palaces, communities, and private production and service delivery units for losses incurred, and the provision of direct social assistance programs to victims;
• The effective application of article 23, paragraph 2, of the decentralization orientation law which stipulates that the finance law fixes, on the proposal of the government, the fraction of the revenue of the State allocated to the General Grant of Decentralization ;
• Adoption of special measures for infrastructure reconstruction;
• Strengthening the autonomy of decentralized territorial communities and the establishment of a special reconstruction plan for areas affected by the crisis ;
• The establishment of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission made up of 30% of women in accordance with Resolution 1325, under the direction of the Africa Union, with the mandate among other things to conduct investigations into sexual violence, including violations of human rights, etc;
• The need to conduct a gender analysis in surveys and ensure a quota of women members of the commission;
• Ensure that sexual violence is part of the research mandate and above all a human rights-based approach that respects international and regional obligations in this area;
• Ensure that the commission is impartial, with control of the AU or international members and that abuses by all parties including security forces are investigated.
2- Analysis of the role and participation of women
➢ Representation of women
The participation of women from different perspectives and edges in the dialogue processes is of paramount importance as recognized bt the government in its NAP 1325. Indeed, the said national action plan in its point 4-1 vision and strategic orientations, states that by 2020, Cameroon’s commitments and accountability on Women, Peace, and Security are achieved through:
a) Women’s leadership and participation in the process of conflict prevention, conflict management, peacebuilding and social cohesion;
b) The scrupulous respect of international humanitarian law and legal instruments for the protection of the rights of women and girls against sexual and gender- based violence in armed conflicts;
c) Better integration of the gender dimension in emergency assistance, reconstruction during and after armed conflicts and in the treatment of the past;
d) Strengthening institutional mechanisms and the collection of quantitative and qualitative data on gender mainstreaming in the areas of peace, security, prevention,and conflict resolution.
In addition, according to UN Women, when women participate in peace processes the likelihood of peace agreements being maintained over a period of at least two years increased by 20 percent; the probability of an agreement remaining in place for at least 15 years increased by 25%. That is why, speaking of UNSC Resolution 1325, Kofi Annan says: « Resolution 1325 promises women around the world that their rights will be protected and that the obstacles to their equal participation and full involvement in maintaining and promoting a lasting peace will be abolished. We must respect this promise ».
On the 2019 major national dialogue, we noted that:
❖ 600 delegates took part in the MND exchanges; the presence of men has been much higher than of women;
❖ At the level of the positions of responsibility, only one woman was at the head of a commission on 14 women of the offices of the commissions;
❖ Also, out of the 120 people empowered in the facilitation of the national dialogue either as chairpersons, vice-chairs, rapporteurs or resource persons alone 14.
Once again, if not anxiously, the real participation of women in the important meetings of the political life of their country arises. In this case, the low representation of women in the MND raises questions about the rigor of the implementation of the commitments made by the government, in particular in its National Action Plan on Resolution 1325 and its international and regional obligations in the field of women’s rights.
V- RECOMMENDATIONS TOWARDS ANOTHER NATIONAL DIALOGUE
Considering the increasing security challenges and ongoing violence, we strongly recommend the convening of a second national dialogue, that should be considered a crucial step in setting the scene for future engagement. We suggest the following recommendations related to the form, the guarantees and the follow-up that we consider essential for peace.
1- Conducive environment
– Create a favorable environment in which people can express themselves freely without fear of reprisals and a climate necessary for the success of the peace process in Cameroon, in particular by continuing the measures of appeasement, including the general amnesty for all prisoners in various socio-political crises, as well as separatist fighters. This will allow a general lull;
– Build trust enhancement measures by ensuring that the conflicting parties agree on the method of conflict resolution and in terms of discussions through the signing of a commitment agreement;
– Ensure that all prisoners of conscience are effectively released as a confidence-building measure to ensure an inclusive dialogue in Cameroon ;
– Develop objective criteria to ensure that the dialogue process includes all factions and stakeholders; ensure that women are represented at the dialogue table;
– Conduct a consensual revision of the Electoral Code, which proves to be a cause of division between the Cameroonians and a conflicting element to be taken very seriously. – Develop a peace education program to promote a culture of peace and build lasting peace.
2- Follow-up of recommendations from the dialogue
– Establish an independent, inclusive, transparent, multi-sectoral follow-up committee of the dialogue recommendations under the auspices of the African Union and popularize those recommendations;
- – Develop and publicize a timeline for implementation of MND recommendations;
- – Create a monitoring-evaluation unit for the effective and efficient implementation of relevant recommendations from the dialogue;
– Intensify the implementation of the dialogue development-related recommendations without delay to strengthen resilience in affected regions and affected communities to help them recover as quickly as possible.
3- Participation of women and other relevant groups
– Ensure and enhance the participation and inclusion of women, youth in the consultative phase in preparation for dialogue, the dialogue phase itself, and implementation phase of recommendations and other subsequent phases;
– Adopt and implement holistic and innovative programs aimed at improving the situation of women, including indigenous women and women with disabilities, children, the elderly and youth affected by conflicts in Cameroon;
– Make provisions for the establishment of a specialized trauma facility to address sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings;
– Address the issue of over-centralized power by delegating power to the grassroots in Cameroon, ensure adequate participation of women in local governance, at all levels of the decentralization process (regional, municipal council…)
– Produce disaggregated data on the forthcoming dialogue to better account for the different components of society;
– Involve representatives of armed groups and Anglophone leaders, traditional, religious and opinion leaders as well as traditional mechanisms in the dialogue process to foster greater inclusivity and ownership of the process at the local level.
4- Humanitarian situation
– Conduct assessment of assistance needs: legal assistance (production of official documents: birth certificates and NIC to ensure freedom of movement);
- – Provide food assistance and building of shelters for the returnees;
- – Prioritize listening to women and girls who have been victims of sexual abuse for better psychological care;
– Establish crisis response systems adapted to the dynamics of conflicts in each region of the country
5- Continued dialogue and peace efforts
– Continue the dialogue by setting up a Justice Commission, a truth and reconciliation commission including a gender and human rights analysis in its mandate and activities;
– Negotiate and observe a ceasefire in the North West and South West as an important measure to consider;
– Add MINPROFF, MINAS, Civil Society Organizations, and women’s groups as members of the DDR Committee Council to better consider the specific needs of women and the most vulnerable groups.
Having focused national and international attention and raised expectations the Major National Dialogue, more than a year after its holding, have not convinced many actors as the security situation remains precarious.
In fact, cases of violence and killings continue to be reported and populations in crisis areas and affected areas are continuously facing the same realities that prevailed before the dialogue.
Schools in some localities remain closed and inaccessible, many women and girls are killed, ghost town imposed by the separatists to the inhabitants of the North West and South West. Cameroon has entered a dangerous cycle of violence. Early in the year the military killed villagers and burned their homes in Ngarbuh. In recent months there was a crackdown on peaceful demonstrations. On October 24, innocent school children were killed in Kumba. Teachers were abducted in Kumbo, a school was burned in Limbe after teachers and students were stripped naked. Violence continues uninterrupted. Attacks by the Boko Haram sect persist in the Far North region.
Thinking about thousands of victims of the crises affecting Cameroon, we wish through this document, to send across a strong plea for a reconsideration of the strategies for dialogu. We send the plea, while strongly recommending a more holistic, inclusive and effective conflict management plan in Cameroon as well as peace talks in a bid for the country to return to what it should never have stopped being « a haven of peace ».
1 – Memorandum of women for another national dialogue
WOMEN’S POSITION PAPER ON ANOTHER NATIONAL DIALOGUE IN CAMEROON
Recalling and re-emphasizing the necessity to grant women’s voices an equal participatory space to provide constructive and meaningful inputs within the framework of the National Dialogue process initiated by the President of the Republic of Cameroon since September 10, 2019 to date; we women civil society leaders under banner of “the Cameroon Women for Dialogue Platform” have produced this memorandum prior to the dialogue, to request for the Government of Cameroon to include women voices to seek to build sustainable peace building in conflict affected regions in Cameroon.
Underscoring the importance of granting women a chance to participate in nation building, we equally engaged women to seek sustainable peace building solutions for all the conflicts currently rocking Cameroon with a special focus on building a culture of peace in the country. Mindful of the following national legal instruments adopted and promulgated by Cameroon to protect the fundamental rights of women, we hereby acknowledge that the Government of Cameroon has made considerable efforts to protect the rights of women, however, gaps remain in terms of implementation and enforcement of certain aspects of these laws:
- The Cameroon Constitution of January 18th, 1996
- The Cameroon Penal Code Law No 2016/007 amended on July 12, 2016
- Ordinance N°.74-1 of 6 July 1974 to establish rules governing land tenure;
- The National Action Plan (NAP) of United Nations Resolution 1325;
- Decree No 2017/013 of 23 January 2017 creating the Bilingualism andMulticulturalism Commission ; and
• Decree N° 2018/719 of 30 November 2018 to establish the National
Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Committee
Moreover, recalling the pre-eminence of international legal instruments over domestic laws as articulated in article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon; we hereby reaffirm our attachment towards the following vital ratified international legal instruments, continental and global agenda in seeking to build content to effectively engage with the Government of Cameroon to seek lasting peacebuilding regarding ongoing conflicts Cameroon:
- The Constitutive Act of the African Union;
- The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (also known as the Banjul Charter)
The African Women Decade 2010-2020
The African Union Agenda 2063
The United Nation Council Resolution 1325, which recognizes and stresses the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security;
• The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820, which condemns sexual violence as a tool of war.
• The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against
Women, CEDAW 1979;
• The Convention on the Political Rights of Women of July 7th, 1954, which defines minimum standards for women’s political rights
• The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 which seeks to remove all obstacles to women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life;
• The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will its complimentary protocols;
• The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004) which promotes gender equality and protects women from violence and gender-based discrimination; and
• The Maputo Protocol of 2003, which addresses the political, social and economic rights of women and girls.
Recognizing the fact that Cameroon is severely affected by armed conflict in three regions coupled with insecurity and kidnappings in the East and the Adamawa regions with tens of thousands of people significantly affected by forced displacement with women, children, the aged and youths as the most affected. Ensuring women and youths are involved in the process of resolving ongoing conflicts and governance issues in Cameroon is the best option to guarantee sustainable peacebuilding and a culture of peace. In addressing these issues of armed conflicts in Cameroon, it is important that the root causes are tackled through a holistic approach.
Against this backdrop, we the “Cameroon Women Consultation for National Dialogue” Platform through its undersigned associations, organizations and networks, have agreed to rearticulate women’s voices in 2020 and the core content towards addressing ongoing conflicts rocking Cameroon and to provide an adequate humanitarian response towards affected persons including indigenous people and people living with disabilities, children, the aged and youths affected by conflict in Cameroon.
THE SCOPE, FORMAT, AND METHODOLOGY
The scope of this memorandum whose first publication was on September 28, 2019, is based on the gender conflict analysis in Cameroon. It takes into consideration the various conflicts and governance issues affecting Cameroon within the past seven years, from 2013 to date. It is a holistic appraisal of the conflict dynamics and governance issues that contributed towards the current political and humanitarian situation of Cameroon upon underlining the root causes of the conflicts, gaps within the rule of law, the consequences and possible exit corridors from the current situation.
A gender conflict analysis conducted from July 2019 to March 2020 revealed the lived experiences and grievances of men, women and girls from various sectors of Cameroonian society in their own terms, with a view to creating a space to support women’s efforts in conflict prevention, mediation and participation in conflict resolution, despite the major obstacles that remain to the effective participation of women in peace and security processes. By providing, inter alia, sex-disaggregated data, the report ultimately serves as a reference to the gender power dynamics, both during and in the aftermath of conflicts in Cameroon, for the development of appropriate evidence-based responses and strategies by national and international actors.
Worthy to highlight, this paper was initially drafted in 2019 upon conducting five direct consultations since July 2019 to date, with members of the “Cameroon Women Consultation Platform towards National Dialogue” further consolidated with the setting up of the Women Situation Room Call Center, an early warning mechanism for data gathering through the tool free number 8243, alongside the incorporation of the outcome from “the Gender Conflict Analysis in Cameroon”. Our paper was developed based on regional and international best practices with respect to the organization of an Inclusive National Dialogue. According to best practices, it is imperative to ensure a National Dialogue consultation process is participatory, inclusive, and that it allows equal participation of key actors including women and youths.
In a drive to develop a consensual common position under the banner of “Women voices” towards providing constructive and meaningful inputs in the National Dialogue process of Cameroon; we applied the following method to engage with women-driven associations, networks and women from all walks of life through a bottom-up approach: we sensitized and mobilized grassroots women-led associations; we ensured the technical capacity of women were regularly strengthened through organization of workshops; created platforms to share experience and to gather meaningful inputs regarding National Dialogue processes; we consolidated women’s position through the building of voluntary coalitions; and last but not least we engaged in community planning meetings to ensure the women’s position paper is endorsed and transmitted to the rightful stakeholders and channels.
THEMATIC ISSUES RAISED DURING OUR CONSULTATIONS WITH WOMEN
In the course of consultation with grassroots women in Cameroon, we discussed the following issues:
✓ Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict-Affected Regions and Host Communities;
✓ Limited Devolution of State Powers towards Diverse Linguistic, Ethnic and Political Entities in Cameroon that has contributed to inadequate Delivery of Local Social Amenities;
✓ Statelessness-limited Access to birth certificates in the Far North Region and Loss of birth Certificates in English speaking Cameroon;
✓ Poor access to education, Functional Literacy and Vocational Skills;
✓ Limited Access to land and Real Estate Property by Women in Cameroon;
✓ Skewed access to Positions of responsibility in both elective positions or appointments in the public service and the government;
✓ Incessant verbal and physical violence to all members of the society;
✓ Inadequate consciousness of the society on peace matters;
✓ A disengaged youth population suffering from acute unemployment.
In an attempt to provide sustainable peacebuilding solutions and a culture of peace in Cameroon, WILPF Cameroon and the members of the “Cameroon Women Consultation Platform towards National Dialogue” including women from the Diaspora commend the Government for thinking of the national dialogue as an outcome, although they deplore the non-significant participation of women.
The work that WILPF and partners have done regarding UNSC Resolution 1325, in collaboration with the Government and which enabled the Government to have a National Action Plan in November 2017, as well as through the gender conflict analysis concluded in March 2020, are the basis for concrete contributions to another dialogue as well as the peace process in our country. WILPF and partners rely on its networks of women and youths from all parts of Cameroon and the diaspora to request for another dialogue and will continue on the quest for sustainable peace even beyond this invaluable process.
As part of our contribution to this second national dialogue that we are seeking, we present the conclusions of the gender conflict analysis in Cameroon conducted between July 2019 and March 2020, which highlights the root causes of conflict, the various dynamics of conflict and the impact of conflict on men, women and girls. One year after the holding of the major national dialogue, many fault lines remain in the resolution of conflicts in Cameroon, including: the low involvement of all stakeholders, challenges to dialogue, the denial of conflict and facts, the uncoordinated and violent discourse of the main actors of the conflict and public figures, misinformation, the choice of inappropriate solutions and a lack of solidarity among Cameroonians, the extreme ego of the parties in conflict.
The second national dialogue should:
• Enhance participation and inclusiveness by including women, both young and old. This will be an acknowledgment of democracy on the part of the Government
• Embrace the comprehensive procedures and climate needed for a successful national dialogue. We strongly recommend that this process becomes a first step that lays down ground rules for further engagement.
• Create a conducive environment in which people can speak freely without fear of reprisals;
• Consider the critical importance of independence for the success of this national dialogue. Therefore, WILPF and partners emphasize its recommendation of calling in the African Union or any other international body to facilitate this critical process;
• Implement peace education in order to promote the culture of peace outside of schools;
• Institute a monitoring and evaluation system that can generate feedback for more long-term strategies.
RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT ISSUES AFFECTING WOMEN
• Put in place measures that will reduce impunity of perpetrators of gender-based violence;
• Concretize the institutionalization of peace education to promote a culture of peace in and out of schools;
• Institutionalize a simplified procedure to get access to legal birth certificates and national Identity cards which have been destroyed as a result of the crisis;
• Facilitate the proper implementation of decentralization laws and policies
• Institute a monitoring and evaluation system that can generate feedback for more long- term strategies;
• Outline and encourage the implementation of measures that support both formal and technical education;
• Enhance access and ownership of women to property;
• Ensure gender representation as well as an intentional focus on gender issues in all the Commissions envisaged after the dialogue;
• Incorporate Ceasefire of both sides as a primary consideration for a successful DDR process;
• Consider the establishment of a youth public agency with the mandate to ensure their participation in the development processes
• Adopt and implement holistic and innovative programs that seek to address the situations of women including indigenous women and women living with disabilities, children, the aged and youths affected by conflicts in Cameroon.