Published On: Fri, Jan 20th, 2017

Open Letter to Dr Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union

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Your Excellency,



it is with great pain that I address this message to you, to call your attention to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of Cameroon on the Anglophone population of the North West and South West regions of the country. I am aware and I do appreciate your recent public statements in this regard, especially your offer to mediate in the crisis and your call for respect of the rule of law. The question I ask is whether there no practical measure the African Union, which you represent, can immediately take to stop the carnage and human rights atrocities the government is inflicting on innocent civilians that are legitimately claiming their universally guaranteed human right to self-determination and equal existence?
Your Excellency, when you talk about respect for the rule of law in Cameroon it is quite ambiguous because just like under the heinous apartheid system that existed in South Africa, the government of Cameroon is using its repressive domestic laws to inflict pain and misery on the minority Anglophone population. Cameroon is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as other international human rights treaties, which it has ratified and is obligated to comply with. In the instance where domestic laws fail to meet universal human rights standards, international human rights law ought to apply. I believe this is what the rule of law ought to imply and in this instance, requires the African Union to take decisive action in accordance with Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union to stop the crimes against humanity and a possible genocide.
Your Excellency, at this moment as I write to you, internet connection has completely been shutdown in the entire North West and South West regions of Cameroon while the rest of the Francophone part of the country is fully connected and serviced with internet, thus depriving the Anglophone population of the basic right to communication, in violation of the human rights to freedom of expression and access to information. Families back home cannot get in contact with their relatives abroad and there is total blackout as to what might be happening back there, especially following the heavy crackdown and massive arbitrary arrests and detention of civil society leaders and activists who stood up to speak on behalf of the subjugated peoples.
Without any means of protection against the government’s use of lethal force to suppress any form of peaceful protest, the civilian population has only been able to use social media to circulate images and videos of the atrocities and human rights abuses committed by the government, which has in fact attracted an increasingly appreciable amount of international media attention and reaction from human rights organisations. With internet connection shutdown, social media communications cut off, and civil society leaders arrested and locked up, there is genuine reason to be suspicious that the government of Cameroon is planning a genocide on the minority Anglophone population with the intention to conceal the atrocities from being exposed to the rest of the world.
Your Excellency, Africa has not fully recovered from the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the memories of which will remain a scar on the African conscience for a very long time. I wonder if the African Union is going to sit back and watch another genocide unfold on the African continent before it takes action. Coming from South Africa and with your experience as a staunch activist against the apartheid regime, I am convinced that you do understand what it means for a subjugated people to rise up against a repressive government to claim their legitimate right to self-determination and equal existence.
Your Excellency, I believe that you are cognisant of the fact that it took a lot of international support and pressure to liberate the oppressed black peoples of South Africa from the apartheid regime. I also believe that you are conscious of the fact that it requires the same amount of international pressure to liberate the Anglophone population of Cameroon from subjugation, which they have endured for 56 years.
Your Excellency, as a Human Rights Advocate coming from that part of the country with my own personal experiences, my humble appeal is that if the African Union cannot immediately intervene to stop the crisis from degenerating into a genocide, it can in the meantime bring some international pressure to bear on the repressive government by calling for an international boycott on Cameroon to compel the government to comply with the human rights commitments it has undertaken under the African Charter and other international human rights instruments. I believe this would add to your legacy of achievements as Chairperson of the African Union before you leave office.

About the Author

- Human Rights Advocate University of Pretoria SOUTH AFRICA