Letter to Congress Regarding Cameroon, October 4, 2019

Year Published
  • 2019
  • English

October 4, 2019

The Honorable Jim Risch
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510                                 

The Honorable Robert Menendez
Ranking Member
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Risch and Ranking Member Menendez:

As  Chairman  of  the  Committee  on  International  Justice  and  Peace  of  the  United  States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I write to express my general support for House Resolution  358  approved  in  July  and  Senate  Resolution  292  under  consideration.  Both measures call on the Government of Cameroon and armed separatist groups to respect the human  rights  of  all  Cameroonian  citizens,  to  end  all  violence  and  to  pursue  an  inclusive dialogue to resolve the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest  provinces.

Committee staff and  I conducted a solidarity visit to the Catholic Church in Cameroon in August his  year. We  had  an  opportunity  to  engage  Church  leaders on  the  state  of  the conflict in the two provinces concerned and what the Church had done and intends to do to help  stop  the  violence  and  end  the  conflict. We also solicited their input regarding the Congressional resolution on Cameroon,and it seems appropriate to offer our recommendations for your kind consideration.

Church leaders expressed support for the resolution.  Their only suggestion was to limit the scope of  the  resolution  to  issues  that  pertain  directly  to  the  conflict. They  believe  that clauses that mention the past elections, the arrest of opposition leaders, the crack down on political expression and others will distract attention from the country’s biggest threat, the conflict in Northwest and Southwest provinces.   These other issues are valid concerns but represent second tier threats to the country.

As you are aware, the Government of Cameroon sponsored the National Dialogue process the week of September 30-October 4, 2019.  I recommend that the Senate Resolution refer to this event, express its approval of the initiative, and urge the Government and Anglophone leaders to conduct an inclusive, transparent, and good faith effort to build confidence among the parties concerned, address legitimate grievances, and agree to peaceful solutions to the crisis.   The resolution could recommend that the parties commit to a longer-term structure and  process  to  continue dialogue  and  negotiations  beyond  the  current  process.    This extended process could include outside facilitation and mediation groups  acceptable to all parties  to  help  them  overcome their  differences  and  develop  the  compromises  needed  for durable solutions.

As  you  finalize  Senate  Resolution  292  I  wish  to  highlight  certain  clauses  that  it  seems important to retain.

  • Page  two  of  S.  Res.  292  refers  to  the  Rapid  Intervention  Battalion  (BIR).   United States support to the BIR and its reported actions in the two Anglophone Provinces outside of the Boko Haram field of action make this reference very pertinent.
  • Page three mentions the role that France has played in Cameroon.   Church leaders consider France a key player in the conflict and hope it will contribute to a peaceful end to the conflict.
  • Paragraphs  three  and  six  on  page  five  raise  important  findings  that  enrich  the resolution.

Too much bloodshed and suffering have already occurred in a violent conflict that started in 2016, but  the  roots  of  which  go  back  decades.    This  is  a  conflict  that  could  have  been avoided  years  ago  and  can  be  resolved  now  if  parties  come  to  the  negotiation  table  with good will and with the interests of the common good at heart.

The Committee on  International Justice and Peace is committed to continue to work with you to pass this resolution and contribute to its fulfillment in the months to come.

Sincerely yours,

(The Most Reverend) Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services, USA
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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