Switzerland is acting as a facilitator in the crisis in north-western and south-western Cameroon at the request of the parties involved. To this end, a second preparatory meeting with various Cameroonian opposition groups took place in Switzerland this week.
Tensions are running high - there was a reported attackexternal link on Wednesday on a Swiss public television RTS journalist, allegedly by bodyguards, in front of the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, where the Cameroon head Paul Biya is staying.
On the facilitator issue, the Swiss foreign ministry, working with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogueexternal link, said in a statementexternal link on Thursday it was “committed to finding a peaceful, lasting negotiated solution to the crisis in north-western and south-western Cameroon”.
The aim of the three-day meeting which ended on Thursday was to prepare the future peace negotiations between the Cameroonian government and the political opposition.
The foreign ministry said it was concerned about the continuing violence in the north-western and south-western regions of Cameroon, which is taking a heavy toll on the civilian population.
“Switzerland has long been committed, both at bilateral and multilateral level, to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis and to promoting respect for human rights in Cameroon,” it said. “Switzerland is also committed to providing humanitarian aid to the affected local population and has supported Cameroon in dealing with multilingualism.”
Facilitation is an instrument of Switzerland’s traditional good offices. Politically neutral Switzerland also already holds several protecting power mandatesexternal link globally, for example acting as a diplomatic messenger between Iran and the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The incident involving the RTS journalist happened on Wednesday afternoon, as opponents of Biya demonstrated outside the hotel, RTS reported. Several men ran out of the hotel to chase the demonstrators away. The journalist who remained in front of the hotel was reportedly manhandled by the men, who forcibly took his equipment while the journalist was filming. This was later returned to him after three hours of negotiations involving the Swiss police. The journalist has filed a complaint against the men involved.
A Swiss foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that Switzerland had taken "diplomatic steps" with Cameroon following the incident.
"The ambassador of Cameroon was summoned to Bern and informed by the Swiss foreign ministry that such incidents are unacceptable, and that freedom of the press is protected and must be respected," Georg Farago told swissinfo.ch.
"Switzerland recalls that it is very committed to freedom of expression and the press as well as to respect for the rules in the public sphere."