A statement issued on Friday by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, whose government is mediating in the talks has pointed out that: “The parties to this agreement are the Republic of Cameroon, the Ambazonia Governing Council and the Ambazonia Defence Force, the African People’s Liberation Movement and the Southern Cameroons Defence Force, the Interim Government, and the Ambazonia Coalition Team. The parties further express the hope that other groups will join the process”.
The statement added that “Canada welcomes the agreement by the parties to enter a process to reach a comprehensive, peaceful and political resolution of the conflict”.
The announcement of the dialogue, which has been welcomed by human rights advocates and diplomats, comes as a surprise given that just on December 31 in his end-of-year speech, President Biya played down the conflict to "terrorist threats".
He was probably influenced by lies that have been peddled to him with rehearsed rhetoric of the "situation is normalising".
After the meeting by all 10 regional governors to evaluate the security situation in the country before the Christmas and New Year festivities, the governors of the North West and South West regions said peace was in the regions.
Governor Lele L'Afrique of the North West region said: "The security situation has improved a lot, allowing many people to come back to their various villages...The Diaspora are also coming back to celebrate their weddings. The administration is functioning very well. The traditional rulers are coming back, political activities have resumed in many areas. Globally, the North West is faring well".
His South West counterpart, Bernard Okalia Bilai, said civilians, who are returning, are finding peace.
"After five years, families are coming back…The populations in most of the areas are the ones arresting some terrorists, helping us to seize weapons. They are the ones inviting the forces of law and order, to say this man is a suspect," Okalia said.
But just after that, two officials of Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, were killed in Bamenda by suspected separatist fighters who have proscribed the holding of senatorial elections in the two regions.
Amidst the absurd political fabrications, this very column warned that the fact that the separatists have been weakened and in splinter groups does not mean they are down and out. We are delighted that President Biya, often inundated by his political acolytes with praises like "man of peace", has at last accepted to dialogue with aggrieved compatriots. They took to arms due to the incompetence of government officials to hit the rod while it was hot. The Canadians have confirmed it has cost the country over 6,000 lives - civilians, separatist fighters and defence and security forces, not the 3,000 that has been touted for years. They have also acknowledged that "nearly 800,000 people have been displaced as a result of this crisis, and 600,000 children do not have full access to education".
The statistics drip with blood, insecurity and far from a "terrorist threat" or peace,
It is also an unequivocal demonstration that the Major National Dialogue, which was termed by articulate critics as a "monologue", with other appendages like special status, has not brought peace. The military, through history and empirical research, has never solved a political problem like the one in the two warring regions.
The list of separatist groups the Canadian have listed for the rendezvous represents the cream of those beating the drums of war from the Diaspora and their jungle caves.
Being a process to a dialogue and peace, the Canadians have said as of now the agreement ... “is a critical first step toward peace and a safer, more inclusive and prosperous future for civilians affected by the conflict".
The statement that has gone viral in the international media added that both Ambazonia activists and government "have also agreed to form technical committees to begin work on confidence-building measures".
Confidence-building measures are traditionally the crux of a peace agreement in a conflict. What guarantees will the Yaounde regime give that those who yesterday were branded and mocked as "terrorists" or placed on "wanted" lists shall not be prosecuted when dialogue is successful? Will those detained and jailed in connection to the conflict be let off the hook?
Are all the three issues in contention - decentralisation, federation and separation be put on the agenda during the technical committee deliberations? If there is no consensus, will a referendum be conducted to break the deadlock?
Confidence-building measures or confidence- and security-building measures are generally meant to lessen anxiety and suspicion to reduce fear. In this case, it is the Amba leaders who should fear the government. So, the burden is on Yaounde to provide an atmosphere of freedom, even when the dialogue would eventually be held in Canada. For the purpose of transparency, the names of those negotiating for the government and separatist fighters should be public knowledge.
While The Guardian Post congratulates the Canadians for their initiative, we hope both parties will deliberate at the technical committee with sincerity, truth and facts without recourse to one party attempting to impose its will on the other.