Virtues Of Dialogue

Delegates who left the Yaounde Conference Centre on Friday 4 October 2019 after five days of discussions on how to get out of the conflict in the North West and South West Regions were so full of excitement and almost euphoric about the future. The heated and yet convivial debates that took place in the eight committees that examined the various concerns all went to reinforce the sense of maturity and republican spirit recommended to participants at the start of the Major National Dialogue convened by President Paul Biya to tackle the issues.     
The growing discomfort that the crisis in the two regions has created for the entire country left many sceptical about the possible outcome of the dialogue. Thousands have had to flee for safety in other parts of the country as internally displaced persons or simply moved abroad as refugees. Ugly stories of awful killings and torture and even worse, the cynical display of such images in the social media have left many wondering if such pictures in any way reflect Cameroon. Even if the genesis of the crisis can be found in trade union demands, the consequences have gone beyond every stretch of the imagination and attracted attention even across the national borders.     
It is difficult to know if any real account of the violence can be available, but at one point in the life of a nation, differences must have to be ironed out for tranquillity to return. That was the purpose of the Major National Dialogue chaired by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute that saw the participation of the cream of society in Cameroon and citizens based in other countries who felt concerned by the fast degrading situation in the country particularly in the North West and South West Regions.     
For the past three years of the conflict all indications have been that values differ in the country, yet as citizens designed by history to live together, the people have the obligation to fashion out principles around which their common coexistence must be defined. Politically, the Constitution is the best instrument of social contract for the nation. And the Decentralised Unitary State as provided for by the 1996 Constitution has worked out well for some and not others. It therefore became obvious that such differences in opinion be examined within a framework that guarantees peace and security, especially at a time that guns have started circulating in the wrong hands.         
In the process no one can count the number of times that people have expressed the desire to see dialogue prevail over atrocious killings that have been witnessed in the affected regions of the country. Offers of mediation have also been made by numerous well wishers. However, any head way in the conflict can only come from a total commitment by Cameroonians to ensure that there is a return to peace throughout the national territory. This must have explained why the final report of the five-day discussions on the Major National Dialogue underlined the usefulness of the pre-dialogue consultations held by the Prime Minister to determine the “suitable framework for this dialogue, but also to solicit contributions and opinions from a broad spectrum of Cameroonians, including those who continue to perpetrate acts of violence and terror across the country, notably in the South West and North West Regions.” Such an approach definitely justified the quick fix made in conceiving the areas of concern for the dialogue and the satisfactory moods that characterised the end of the deliberations.          
The necessary compromise that emerged from delegates at the confab reflected the fact that those present took full note of the “losses suffered by students, parents, businessmen, medical and health personnel, civilians, military personnel as well as Cameroonians” over the past three years. Such wounds have to be healed through the outcome of the dialogue in order that Cameroon should be able to move on with the various development projects that have been earmarked over the years. 



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