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In armed war periods human rights of all sorts are diminished, although actors seek to comply with humanitarian law principles. Regrettably, respect for human rights and consideration in many contemporary wars, as was the case with the English-Speaking War of Independence in Cameroon, and mass murder, violation, deportation and imprisonment are widely used. The main objective of this study was to show the role of human rights in the resolution of conflicts with the case of the Cameroonian Anglophone War of Independence. In particular, the study aims to examine the concept of the human rights approach and the relationship between it and conflict resolution, to highlight the role of different human rights NGOs in prevention and resolution of the An English-language war of independence, to critically examine the challenges that people and activists face in the course of armed conflict and conflict resolution. The research design employed here is the mixed method approach. That is to say, both the quantitative and qualitative research designs have been used in this study. The findings revealed that majority of the respondents that is 9.9% and 60.6% strongly agrees and agree respectively that Human right approach has an inherent and direct relationship with conflict resolution. There is no gainsaying the fact that a strong and capable human rights NGO community is a sine qua non of any democratic and free society, and thus human rights NGOs in Cameroon must be supported at all levels so that they are better capable of achieving their noble goal of creating a better Cameroon and ensuring sustainable peace during the crisis.



1.1 Background to the study

Peace is not a natural attribute of man. Disputes and crisis are bound to occur; states just like man are conflict prone. The universal declaration on human rights was signed in 1948 with its aim to achieve universal status. The importance of the universal approach was to ensure the full realization of these rights to all human beings, but the vast differences between countries and peoples have given cause to numerous translations and interpretations of the language of the rights.The relationship between the pursuit of human rights and dispute resolution is compatible by and wide and one usually advances the other. This is because armed conflict inevitably leads to serious death, torture, detention, degradation of livelihoods, loss of wellbeing, to name a few, abuses of human rights. Similarly, where citizens are incarcerated, persecuted, discriminated against by the state on the grounds of class, race, or religion, and removed from political involvement, abuses of human rights will cause people to denounce the state, causing tension. So protecting human rights is generally good for making peace and making peace is generally good for protecting human rights Ram Manikkalingam, (2006)

Human rights have long been seen by the international community to be essential for peace with justice, in particular because they contribute to more sustainable and positive responses to structural and cultural violence Ram Manikkalingam, (2006). Controversial amongst power-holders in conflict affected states, as well as sidelined by key geopolitical actors in the international system, even basic rights appear weakened as geo-political and geo-economic forces have sharpened recently, coinciding with a loss of legitimacy for liberal forms of peace building

The UDHR’s preamble declares that human rights are the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace. Its opening articles provide that every individual is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth without distinction with respect to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. It then enumerates a list of fundamental rights to security of the person, equality before the law, nationality, the means to escape from state abuse, political rights, and the rights to food, health care, education, work, family, ownership of property, and participation in cultural life (UDHR, 1948).

It should be noted that the role of human right in the causes, dynamics and consequences of conflict illustrates the place of human rights in conflict resolution. If human rights are parts of the problem, they must be part of the solution. This is both well-known historically and politically. For instance, when John Locke argues in the Second Constitutional Government Settlement that safeguards individuals’ fundamental rights as a mechanism for civil society that helps prevent a state of war, he draws on this connection. Similarly, the connection between war and the infringement of human rights is self-evident in the UN Charter, born out of the devastation of World War II, that systemic abuses of human rights are not only a result of war, but may also be a source of it Ram Manikkalingam, (2006).The Preamble of the UN Charter, 1945 provides that;

“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind and, to reaffirm our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small,..”

Groups and organizations around the world fortify demands for political, economic, or social change in their specific context with reference to human rights values, principles, and standards. Human rights norms have become an important component of the global policy framework for thinking about and dealing with violent conflict, partly due to a concernwithprotectingciviliansinallstagesofconflict.Asnotedinthis volume’s introduction, multiple declarations and reports now highlight the importance of connecting human rights and conflict resolution. The lines between human rights and peace work have also become blurred because of rising ambitions, expanding conceptions, and diversifying practices in this fields Julie Mertus(2011). Nevertheless, human rights and conflict resolution efforts often remain rather separated in the institutional set-up  of organizations working in these realms, whether multilateral, bilateral, or non-governmental. They tend to be housed in different units and championed by different persons. Human rights advocates and conflict resolution practitioners may thus overlook how their respective efforts interrelate. The extent to which human rights and conflict resolution are linked in practice should therefore not beoverstated Julie Mertus(2011).

The UN has a considerable potential in conflict resolution and conflict prevention. However, it is obvious that the UN has limited mandate when it comes to violent conflicts often referred to as “internal conflicts” like the Anglophone war of independence, nevertheless, the UN has been involved in ethnic conflict like in Congo, Cyprus, and Lebanon and observer missions to Palestine and Kashmir. It can be said that the UN has develop peacemaking initiatives and strategies in the resolution of conflictRupesinghe, K. (1987).

The German government and the traditional Douala chiefs signed a treaty in July 1884, establishing a protectorate called Kamerun. Its territories were shared out after the German defeat at the end of the First World War. The League of Nations appointed France and Britain as joint trustees of Kamerun. The Anglophone problem and a number of other weaknesses in present day Cameroon have their roots in the colonial period, Crisis group (2017),the process leading to the reunification of Cameroon is the heart of the Anglophone war of independence. The 1961 constitution instituted a bijural legal system largely dependent on our colonial past. Thus, the former west Cameroon adopted the British inclined common law system otherwise known as the adversarial system while the former East Cameroon adopted the French inclined civil law system known as the inquisitorial system. For example case law and codified law respectively. Barely eleven years after the adoption of the federal constitution,  was a referendum organized in 1972 leading to the unitary constitution The autocratic nature of Ahidjo’s regime helps to explain why the inhabitants of Cameroon voted massively for the draft constitution, and hence the immediate establishment of the United Republic of Cameroon A. W. Mukong(1990, P.18).

From the above paragraph, it can be seen that the root of this issue can be traced back to 1961, when the political leaders of two realms with separate colonial legacies one French and the other British decided on the creation of a federal state.” Contrary to assumptions, this did not allow for an equal relationship between the two sides, let alone for the protection of the cultural heritage and culture of either of them, but turned out to be the same. Gradually, this generated an Anglophone consciousness: the sense of being ‘marginalized,’ ‘exploited,’ and ‘assimilated’ by the Francophone-dominated regime, and also by the Francophone community as a whole. (KONINGS & NYAMNJOH 1997, P.208)


Only in the early 1990s did some members of the English-speaking establishment begin to publicly protest the perceived fundamental status of the English-speaking and make demands for self-determination and sovereignty. Initially, although the most powerful organizations called for the government’s return, President Paul Biya’s continuing reluctance to negotiate relevant constitutional amendments pressured some Anglophone activist to take a secessionist stance. Via a political offensive that portrayed the Anglophones as an exploited minority whose territories had been ‘annexed’ by the francophone-dominated regime, they sought to obtain foreign support for their demands. (KONINGS & NYAMNJOH 1997, P.208)


The Government has not surprisingly devised various strategies to safeguard the unitary state, including attempts to minimalize or even deny the existence of an `Anglophone problem’, to create divisions among the English-speaking elite, to remunerate some allies with prestigious positions in the state apparatus previously reserved for Francophones only, and to repress all actions designed to change thestatus of the Southern Cameroons.

Several authors have tried to explain the emergence and development of what has been called the “Anglophone war of independence”. Its cause may be traced to world war one after the German Kamerunprotectorate (1884-1916), Britain and France emerge as victors. Britain and France sign the treaty of London partitioning Cameroon between them. Significantly, the British territory was much smaller than the French, comprising only about one fifth of the total area and population of the former German colony. Importantly, it laid the historical and spatial foundation for the construction of Anglophone identities in the territory, the population of Anglophone Cameroon begins to see themselves as a distinct community define by differences in languages, inherited colonial tradition of education, law, public administration and world view. Ngoh, Victor Julius (1979)

The reunion of Southern Cameroons with La Republique du Cameroun has never proven to be a healthy one as Anglophones hold that they do not feel the warmth of belonging in the union (Achanken, 2014; Anjoh&Nfi, 2017; Konde, 2012 ; Konings&Nyamnjoh, 1997; Nfi, 2014). The reunion has been the cause of a series of petitions, protests and counter-reprisals from the GOC since the union came into existence. The Anglophone crisis under study now has its roots in the 1961 Plebiscite and has always been referred toas

„‟The Anglophone Problem‟‟ as a reference to the problems highlighted by the Anglophones in Cameroon (Konings&Nyamnjoh, 1997). These problems have been tabled at different instances to the GOC first as proposals and later as petitions by the various leaders of the Anglophone movements.

Anglophones have without success sought adjudication in international courts as evidenced in the landmark case pitting the Southern Cameroons National Conference (SCNC) Vs the GOC in the African Court of Human and People‟s Rights in Banjul, the Gambia. Anglophones have used protest march to express their plight to the GOC, they have even solicited support from some regional and international bodies, all of these moves have not bear forth any lasting solution, and today, the crisis has escalated into a full-scale armed conflict. The crisis has turned the Anglophone regions into war zones leaving civilians at the mercy of belligerents. With the advent of armed conflict in January 2017, the population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is increasing in thousands. Many with possibilities have relocated to other safer regions in Cameroon, while others have migrated to Nigeria to seek refuge. A large number of persons have sought refuge in bushes and forests (CHRDA, 2018). From the actions of the belligerents, the plight of civilians will get worse if serious action is not taken to substantially reduce the level of violence and possibly put a halt to hostilities. With the scale of devastation growing at a fast pace, a repeat of the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides of 1994 and 1995 respectively is eminent in Cameroon if nothing is done to solve the Anglophone crises.

1.2 Statement of the problem

The world today seems decidedly different. Pessimism, tension, and turmoil seem to reign. However, controversy about the role of human rights in war and conflict resolution has continued to be a problem during conflicts. Human rights of all sorts are diminished in periods of armed war, even though the actors are seeking to conform to the principles of humanitarian law. Unfortunately, in many contemporary wars, like the Anglophone war of independence in Cameroon, the respect of human rights and regard is almost non-existent; and mass murder, rape, imprisonment, torture and deportation are widespread.A good and recent example of torture and disregard for human right is the recent torture of a civilian who is claimed to be a brother to an “Amba boy” in the Ndu subdivision of Cameroon MIMI MEFO(2021).The topic of connecting human rights and conflict resolution has been on the scholarly, policy and practitioner agenda for quite some time. Especially in the 1990s, the Cold War ended and focus turned to violent struggle between states. Normative considerations have become more common in international relations; attempts to end armed war by negotiated peace agreements between rivals have become essential to maintaining a “new world order” marked by law, democracy and international cooperation. Policy makers, academics and professionals have gradually understood that peace negotiations are important from a human rights viewpoint. The war in the former Yugoslavia (1992–1995) and the genocide in Rwanda (1994) acted as a trigger, considering the gravity and scope of abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law perpetrated in both cases.Efforts to end widespread conflict and to create peace and security should not be overlooked. Human rights also mattered in other respects: whatever was negotiated in the peace talks would inform the post-establishment government and human rights structures and provide space to redress previous violations.Hence, “peace” became increasingly linked to the notion of justice. Conflict resolution was no longer measured simply by the absence of bloodshed but by the “moral quality of theoutcome.”

The second problem identified in this research paper is the limited scope for human rights norms during armed conflict. First of all, it should be noted that aggression or civil war would not inherently breach international guarantees of human rights per se. In fact, a number of international treaties allow for the prospect of temporary derogation of some (but not all) rights in situations of national emergency, and human rights law has never had the ambitious objective of ending all conflict Hurst Hannum (2006). Similarly, international humanitarian law governs only the conduct of war, not its legality. Of course, this limited scope for human rights norms does not detract from the broader purpose of the United Nations to “maintain international peace and security which is now interpreted as encompassing the goal of preventing or halting almost any conflict, whether international or domestic.

The Cameroon National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms which is the main body to punish perpetrators of violations of people’s right through torture, illegal arrest, Extra judicial killings is impeded in its duty in this respect. This is due to two reasons. Firstly, the National Commission for Human rights and Freedoms is not independent from the government. This is evident for the fact that the government appoints its key personnel and funds the commission. With this scenario, it becomes difficult for the commission to report against violations that will lead to public disorder. Some human rights violations in the Anglophone war of independence are not always reported by the commission.

1.3 Research questions

The research questions of this study are divided into main research questions and specific research questions

1.3.1 Main research question

The main research question of this study is to critically examine the place of human rights in conflict resolution taking the case of the Anglophone war of independence in Cameroon

1.3.2 Specific research question

The questions which this research seeks to answer are:

  • What is human rights approach and how does it relate to conflict resolution?

  • What is the role of the various human rights NGOs in the prevention and resolution of the Anglophone war of independence?

  • What are the challenges faced by human right actors, activist and NGOs in conflict resolution especially in the resolution and prevention of Anglophone war of independence?

  • What policy recommendations can be made to help Cameroon to protect human rights during an arm conflict?

1.4 objectives of the study

1.4.1 General objective

The purpose of this work is to bring out the the place of human rights in conflict resolution taking the case of the Anglophone war of independence in Cameroon.

1.4.2 Specific objectives

The specific objectives are:

  1. To examine the concept of human rights approach and how it relates to conflict resolution?
  2. To bring out the role of the various human rights NGOs in the prevention and resolution of the Anglophone war of independence
  3. To critically examine the challenges faced by human right actors and activist during an arm conflict and during conflict resolution
  4. What policy recommendations can be made to help Cameroon to protect human rights during an arm conflict?


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