After two years of clashes with no attempt to settle for compromise solutions, the Cameroonian government has reportedly resolved to hold peace talks with representatives of the minority English speaking regions in an effort to seek possible lasting solutions to end the escalating crisis.
The crisis, which started in 2017 as a protest for equality and justice by the minority English speaking Cameroon has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced in the Northwest and Southwest regions. The protests received a government crackdown which led to a full-blown crisis, a condition which has till date, continued to worsen where activists and armed groups have been fighting for separation.
Economic activities in these regions have been disrupted, educational activities have stopped, male youths are a target for the military who now stay alert for suspected anti-government movement by rebel groups. While many Anglophone citizens are in agreement with the fight for justice and the motion for separation, the negative impacts of the struggle have hit them one way or another. However, the majority voice still clamours for secession.
It appears that the cry of Anglophone Cameroon has reached the right quarters as the government has finally moved to action with peace talks, as opposed to using military power to suppress armed separatist groups, and state infrastructure such as telecoms to disrupt communications in the Anglophone regions. In the heat of the ongoing crisis, observers and international communities have repeatedly urged the Cameroonian government to adopt a more sustainable approach to resolve the crisis. President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982 and was re-elected in the last elections in October 2018, has finally responded to the rising pressure to address the crisis.
The encouraging news about President Biya’s search for peace was disclosed by Cameroon’s Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute during a peace mission in Anglophone regions last week where he met with community leaders and other key groups. The visit from the 9th to 16th of May is in line with the government’s resolution to address the ongoing violence in the country. However, the president is only open to discussions on topics that promote unity and not separation.
“I am here in Bamenda with a message of peace and hope from President Paul Biya,” Ngute said in Bamenda last week on what was his first visit to the Northwest region. “With the exception of separation or secession, the Head of State is prepared to hold a dialogue where every other topic can be discussed,” he said.
While Biya’s latest move to end the conflict through peace talks is a lauded development, he specifically excluded discussions of separation which, unfortunately, is the primary cause that the Anglophone regions are fighting for. This raises concerns as to whether the dialogue will lead to a mutual end. Nevertheless, there is high hope that the dialogue will promote a level balanced interest between the equality the minority yearn for and the supposed decentralisation proposed by the government.