Editorial: Recognition of Palestine State; Cameroon betrays Africa!.

Israel's relentless offensive in Gaza, which has left at least 36,439 Palestinians killed and 82,627 wounded in the Israel conflict with Gaza, has revived support around the world for Palestinian statehood.

Globally, the number of United Nations member countries that have announced recognition for a Palestine sovereign state stands at 145, of the 193 member-states.

At the last count, all African countries, with the exception of Cameroon, and Eritrea, have declared support for the Palestine nation.

In his speech, Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, said last week that: "Recognition of the state of Palestine is not only a matter of historic justice...it is also an essential requirement, if we are all to achieve peace. We are not against anyone, least of all Israel. It is the only way to move towards the solution that we all recognise as the only possible way to achieve a peaceful future: That of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with the state of Israel in peace and security”.

Australia too has floated the possibility of endorsing Palestinian statehood. President Emmanuel Macron of France has also said the question is no longer "a taboo for France," while insisting it must be done at the "right moment".

Eyebrows are said to have been raised, especially within the diplomatic parlance in Africa, as Cameroon's choice contradicts that of the African Union, which 52 out of 54 members have taken sides with the Palestine people.

The AU has attributed the recent hostilities in the Middle East to the “denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to an independent state”.

According to The African Report, quoting a diplomatic source in Yaounde, “Cameroon generally takes a positive neutral position in international meetings...it’s a form of political support characterised by positive votes or abstentions”.

This was the case in April 1987, when Cameroon refused to vote for an Organisation of African Unity Resolution, condemning Israel’s oppression in the occupied territories.

Similarly, in 1991, Cameroon voted for a resolution declaring null a 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.

Unlike many African countries, Cameroon has expressed unwavering support for Israel since the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023. This special relationship has been fostered by President Paul Biya since 1984.

He has shown firm and unambiguous support for Israel. Two days after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, he expressed his “sincere condolences” to Israel, a victim of the “Islamic Palestinian militant group Hamas”. 

In a letter to his counterpart, Isaac Herzog, on October 9, Yaounde said: “It was with real emotion that I became aware of the terrible human toll that was caused by this attack”.

According to The Africa Report, “The Cameroonian president made no mention of the approximately 560 deaths and 2,900 injuries that had already been recorded on the Palestinian side as a result of the Israeli response in Gaza”. 

Instead, he extended his wishes for the “speedy recovery of the injured,” and his hope for the “release of all citizens held hostage,” to the Israeli side only. A position that contrasts with the stance of the African Union.

Such unfaltering diplomatic relations are explained by firm bilateral cooperation. In 1986, Yaounde was host to the then Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, despite pressure and criticisms from some organisations, African and Arab countries.

It was the first visit by an Israeli PM, to Sub-Saharan Africa in 20 years of relations. A year later, Cameroon opened an embassy in Tel Aviv, and appointed Philippe Mataga as it first ambassador.

Cameroon’s security cooperation with the Israeli state expanded with military supplies to the army, training of personnel in Israel, and use of Israeli armored vehicles. 

Also, Cameroon's elite Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR, is equipped and trained by Israel. Cameroonian students have undergone training in Israel in agriculture and poultry production.

During the Ebola outbreak, the Israelis also trained personnel at six hospitals in Cameroon on how to combat the virus. It has indeed been a profitable bilateral relation, given that in diplomacy, national interest is paramount.

But isn't it also good diplomacy to support the people of Palestine on humanitarian grounds, whose human rights, the vast majority of the world, especially Africa, has taken a stance in support of a Palestine state?

Israel is nonetheless infuriated with the global support, but it will not sever diplomatic relations with countries that have recognised the State of Palestine.

That is why at The Guardian Post, we urge Yaounde to swim with the rest of Africa, especially that come September, one of ours, Philemon Yang, will be chair of the 79th United Nations General Assembly.



This story first published in The Guardian Post issue No3131 of Tuesday June 04, 2024


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