A conflict resolution specialist who has successfully mediated in a peace process in the Philippines has taken her practice to the African country of Cameroon to assist in an ongoing conflict between the western Anglophone region and the Francophone majority, the expert told EFE in an interview on Friday.
Cynthia Petrigh, a key speaker at the "Women, Peace, Security" conference in Madrid, a program that made its debut on the United Nation's Security Council agenda in 2000, told EFE that conflict resolution was intrinsically gender biased and that women should be involved in peace processes.
"In most countries where I've worked, women were not given a seat in the peace process, they had to fight for it and they had to find a way to get included," Petrigh, a human rights expert with 19 years experience in peace processes and director of the Beyond Peace NGO, said.
"(Peace processes) are discriminative against women because the tendency is to think that the men who started the war, they are the ones who can solve the war which is a completely wrong assumption," the French expert said.
Petrigh added that involving women had to include both their physical presence during peace talks and negotiations and their active contribution to the process.
Having successfully mediated during peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government of the Philippines, she now plans to take her practice to the Southern Cameroons, a majority English speaking region in western Cameroon bordering Nigeria that unilaterally declared independence in 2017, triggering a civil conflict.
Petrigh is working with the South West/North West Women's Task Force (SNWOT), a coalition of female leaders who lobby for women to be key agents in the peace process of the Anglophone Crisis, who have launched a movement to end hostility and promote dialogue and peace.
The conflict resolution specialist recalled how members of the military were thrown off guard when the women staged a sit-in, bearing in mind, she said, that it is not easy to co-exist with militants and soldiers who have engaged in serious violations of human rights.
"In terms of how to frame it (the Anglophone Crisis), the government of Cameroon and many people don't feel comfortable talking about it," Petrigh said.
"First because we cannot pretend it's a foreign conflict spilling over the border, it's a Cameroonian conflict, and also because, to be frank, the government of Cameroon has not respected the initial deal of independence, which was to be a federation," she added.
An issue that started off as a power-sharing struggle, has now escalated into a violent conflict, in part, the expert said, due to the ensuing government oppression of Anglophone minorities which has triggered the insurance of armed groups such as the Ambazonians and their allies.
It is now important, Petrigh concluded, to avoid a full-blown civil war.
Cameroon was a German colony until World War I when it was placed under a joint Franco-Anglophone mandate controlled by the French and British governments.
In 1960 Francophone Cameroon became independent under the Republic of Cameroon.
The following year the British controlled Southern Cameroons federated with it to create the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
Following several name changes the country settled for the Republic of Cameroon in 1984.