Peace Magazine: Under the Baobab Tree

Peace Magazine

Under the Baobab Tree

• published Jan 08, 2024 • last edit Mar 30, 2024

Justice Mukete Tahle Itoe is a Judge in Cameroon. He holds a PhD in International law from Selinus University in Italy and specializes in refugee and migration law. Justice Mukete coordinates the activities of the Refugee Welfare Association of Cameroon (REWAC), website: www.rewac.org, a humanitarian organization that defends vulnerable migrants. On December 22, 2023, he and Metta Spencer discussed the civil war in Cameroon.

Cameroon ‘s civil war has caused the internal displacement of over 700,000 persons and 6,000 deaths since it began in 2017. Three conflicts are going on, the largest of which is a separatist demand by many of the English-speakers. Halfway through 2023, only 19.2 per cent of the required funds for the humanitarian response in Cameroon had been received. Dr. Itoe described the suffering that results.

“Cameroon is made up of ten regions, “ he explained. “Eight of the regions are French-speaking and two are English speaking. “ Of the 30 million Cameroonians, he belongs to the 20 percent who speak English. Some of those are demanding secession and the creation of a new state called Ambazonia. Dr. Itoe himself does not favor independence but is seeking support abroad. “It should be a decision taken by the majority of the population, ‘ he said. “As I say, we have to sit under the baobab tree.

In Africa, when there is a dispute within a family, we will hold a meeting under a baobab tree.

We express grudges. We look for a way forward. We come out with compromises, and we embrace ourselves. “

But this current conflict is harder. Cameroon had been a German colony, but after World War II the UN divided it as trust territories for France and Britain to administer. In 1960 the French-speaking part became independent and in 1961 the two sections formed a federation, managed from the capital, Yaounde.

However, in 1972 the federation was abandoned in favor of a unitary government. Though that was done constitutionally, the English-speakers had not foreseen the consequences.

Instead, as Dr. Itoe explained, “The argument was that the federal structure was very heavy, that there were not enough resources to run three government Ð the French, the English, and the Federal. So, they put it into a unitary form.”

“Then lawyers and teachers became concerned that their heritage from the British the English system of education and the common law legal system would be swallowed up by the civil law system. That ‘s how the conflict started. “They cared about the rule of law the protection of the rights of an individual; the principles of habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence. These are the things which incarnate the protection of the of the rights of man.”

Since 2017 this dispute has been involved what Dr. Itoe calls atrocities. The displaced persons and refugees live a precarious existence, frequently experiencing arbitrary arrest or gender-based violence. “We ‘re talking about rape. We ‘re talking about sexual violence, about forced marriages. More than 90 percent of the victims are women. “

Dr. Itoe heads a humanitarian organization for refugees. He clearly hoped I ‘d know how to help him. I mentioned that Canada had offered to mediate, but that was declined. I could not encourage his hopes that our audience will help much.

But he wants to raise awareness in Canada about Cameroon. I will try but I think that ultimately Cameroonians must find their own path. “How about doing a Truth and Reconciliation process?” I suggested.

“That is for politicians to do during the final decision-making process to resolve the crisis, “ he replied softly. “I am here as a humanitarian actor to expose the atrocities, expose the breach of international law and humanitarian law and attract support from international development agencies, the EU, and civil society. That is why I am here Ð not about holding a series of talks under the baobab tree. “ “You are right, of course, “ I said. “And wish I could think of a solution that would meet your requests. I can ‘t. But I think that ultimately, you ‘ll find the solution there Ð under your baobab tree. “

Friends, if you have a promising suggestion, please contact Dr. Itoe after watching the whole video discussion here: https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-579-under-the-baobab-tree.

Published in Peace Magazine Vol.40, No.1 Jan-Mar 2024
Archival link: http://www.peacemagazine.org/archive/v40n1a4.htm
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