H E Roelf Meyer

HE Roelf Meyer: Lessons From Apartheid South Africa For Anglophone Conflict Resolution

Cameroon can tap from how South Africa resolved its apartheid conflict to solve the current crises especially the Anglophone conflict.

The Anglophone crisis that started in 2016, is trailing humanitarian, socio-political, economic and cultural scars.

Recent statistics show that more than 4000 people have died, about 75,000 refugees are in Nigeria and about 750,000 internally displaced persons within the country.

HE Roelf Meyer, Minister of Constitutional Development under Presidents Federick de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, Chief Negotiator for the National Party Government to end apartheid in South Africa has this to say about the Anglophone crisis. “We have learnt that there is on-going conflict and killing of people on a weekly basis, the crisis is not stopping, rather escalating and that is a big concern for us and for the people of Cameroon.”

However, he stresses that everybody should focus on what should be done to bring the conflict to an end.

The man with a mission to broker peace around the world maintains that there is no conflict that cannot be resolved. He highlighted three key issues which South Africa, 30 thirty years ago did, that could be helpful for Cameroon.

“To have an inclusive approach; build trust across the divides and take the responsibility to look for peace within and not wait for other to do it”.

If these basic principles are in place, Cameroon can also address its conflict (s) successfully, Meyer emphasized.

Meyer and his delegation are on a mission to inspire the Cameroonian people to find their own solutions to the Anglophone conflict.

In his talk on the theme, “Sharing Experiences in Negotiation, Mediation and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts,” he emphasized to students of the Heritage Higher Institute of Peace and Development Studies that each conflict is unique and has to be respected as such.

HE Roelf Meyer and officials of the Higher Institute for Peace and Development Studies

Taking students down apartheid (-a white regime) history lane, he said it started longer than quoted, right from the first white settlers that set foot on African soil and later became institutionalized. This white segregation finally ended in 1994, replaced with democracy and Nelson Mandela the first president.

The fight against apartheid started as a non-violent conflict, and it was not until the 1960s that the African National Congress, ANC party started a military wing to fight apartheid. A similar situation with the Anglophone crisis that started peacefully.

Meyer who has brokered a score of peace deals talked of how the late Nelson Mandela offered exceptional friendship to the whites in South Africa. “The white people put him in jail for twenty-seven years, yet he came out and showed generosity.”

Going by the peace crusader, the starting point of any conflict resolution lies in the willingness of the people to talk to each other, to establish dialogue.

Analyzing what dialogue means, he said, it can actually start with two people, one on one, then to groups of people meeting each other, discussing and dialoguing.

In the case of South Africa, “talks started at a couvert level, not in the public space by intelligence unit. We knew the conflict could not be solved through military or security means and talks with Nelson Mandela started while he was in prison.”

Meyer maintained that there might be a window of opportunity, and Cameroon should ready to use it, or it might slip off as has happened with some conflicts which have dragged on.The reality he said, is that negotiations should be with people with divergent views.

Going by him, “when there is a complete breakdown in negotiations, it is because people do not share the same vision for the future. It is only possible to find a common vision, if people sit and talk about it. And once the vision is there, then the details can be worked out.”, he stressed.

He also posited that the youths should be given the opportunity to come forward to exercise their capabilities, taking an example with himself in his 40s negotiating peace in South Africa.

“The past is important but not the vision for the future, concentrate on the future. The South African solution which Cameroon can tap from is to draft a new constitution as South Africa did,” he concluded.

Prof. Willibroad Dze-Ngwa, Director of the Higher Institute of Peace and Development Studies organized the talks for students of Peace and Conflict Studies on April 20.