IRI Experts Discuss Stabilizing Cameroon through Democracy for Brookings

Stabilizing Cameroon Requires a Sustained Solution for Democracy, Rights, and Governance

By Patrick W. Quirk and Daniella Montemarano

As regional and international partners focus on countering Boko Haram in West Africa’s Lake Chad Region, another crisis is playing out in southern Cameroon, where the armed conflict between the government and separatists has killed more than 3,000 and displaced close to 600,000. After nearly two years of violence, the two sides are at a stalemate, even with sustained Swiss-led efforts to broker peace. Despite stalled progress, there are further steps that regional governments, France, and the United States can take now to facilitate a peaceful transition and post-conflict recovery.

To maximize the probability of success, however, these disparate actions must be guided by a political strategy for stabilizing southern Cameroon. The United States can play a lead role in defining this strategy and supporting the lead actors to implement it.

Three core pillars, in particular, should comprise the strategy in order to resolve the crisis: conflict prevention and mitigation to protect civilians, investigate extra-judicial killings, and help stabilize conflict-affected areas; preparation for potential dialogue between the government and separatists; and, pending those talks, a framework for an inclusive political transition that respects core tenets of democracy and governance.

Central to all of these must be a focus on democracy and governance to address the democratic deficits underlying the broader crisis. The U.S. government should make strategic short-term investments to increase citizen participation in local governance, while supporting long-term stabilization and redress of political and security grievances. Below, we outline these democratic deficits and ways to address them.

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