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All eyes on Togo and Cameroon for dialogue in 2018, without dates for the talks

Togo and Cameroon have been in a crisis for a while, crisis which have extended into the year 2018. Lives have been lost in both countries. Their leaders however have promised dialogue this 2018, and their citizens are eagerly waiting.

President Paul Biya of Cameroon once again reiterated his stance on “dialogue” in his New Year address on Sunday. “I should make it very clear that, to my mind, dialogue has always been and will always remain the best means of resolving problems, so long as it is strictly in line with republican legality.”
Biya said in an address on national television. This is not the first time president Paul Biya has spoken about dialogue since the crisis began in 2016.

“It is in the same light that, at the onset of the crisis, I requested the Government to engage in a constructive dialogue with English-speaking teachers and lawyers to seek solutions to their demands. The Government took many actions following the dialogue, even going beyond the initial demands. Others are ongoing or in the pipeline,” he mentioned in his New Year address, to convince Cameroonians that he has always wanted dialogue.

The Anglophone crisis began in the year 2016, from a peaceful strike demonstrated by lawyers and teachers, followed by the arrests of activists of a course to change the situation of the marginalized English speaking people in Cameroon. The crisis became deep in September and October, when thousands of English speaking Cameroonians took to the streets and demanded their independence.

It was accompanied by killings of 15 people according to human rights organizations, the deployment of security forces to these regions, which abused the population, and many more deaths which are not recorded. It is alleged that in retaliation separatists began killing security officers in these regions, at least 16 security officers have been killed. Then the military began attacking civilians, even right in their homes, destroying their houses and leaving them homeless. The result of this is a mass migration of English speaking persons from the South West Region into Nigeria. At least 8,000 Cameroonians are said to have been registered in Nigeria. Public and private property have been ransacked and burned.

In Togo,  President Faure Gnassingbe broke his silence after months of protests against his rule, calling on the opposition to “dialogue” in his New Year address given late on Wednesday. “Dialogue must remain the preferred way of resolving disagreements between political actors,” Gnassingbe said in an address on national television, reiterating his controversial plans to revise the constitution. It was the first time Gnassingbe has spoken directly to the public since the crisis began in September. “I have no doubt that even today we are able to explore all avenues of dialogue and exchange of ideas to overcome grievances,” he said, without given a date for talks.

Gnassingbe, who has ruled Togo since 2005 after succeeding his father who led the country for 38 years, plans to hold a referendum on the revision of the constitution that imposes a presidential limit of two terms. The revision has been rejected by the opposition because it would not be retroactive, meaning that Gnassingbe could run again in 2020 and 2025. Since September, the opposition has been holding almost weekly protests demonstrating against Gnassingbe.

A total of 16 people, including teenagers and two soldiers lynched by the crowd, have been killed since the protests, according to reports. Public buildings and private houses – including those close to the government – were ransacked and burned.

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