Cameroon to pursue crackdown on anglophone separatists

2018-03-16 10:21

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Libreville - Cameroon's long-ruling President Paul Biya on Thursday convoked a rare cabinet meeting and vowed to push ahead with a military crackdown on English-speaking separatists in the francophone country.

The west African country has had a tortuous colonial history that saw it pass from German rule to French and British hands and the anglophone minority complain of being marginalised by the French-speaking elite.

"The efforts (of the security forces) must be continued, especially to ensure a return of normal economic and social activity," Biya told the first cabinet meeting held since 2015.

On October 1, separatists declared two regions as the self-proclaimed republic of "Ambazonia", marking a turning point for the country's English-speaking minority, which makes up around a fifth of the population.

Biya dispatched troops, combat helicopters and armoured vehicles to root out the dissidents, forcing tens of thousands to flee to neighbouring Nigeria.

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At least 28 soldiers have been killed in the violence, according to an AFP tally, and two state employees have been kidnapped.

The civilian death toll remains unclear, as non-governmental organisations and independent media are barred from the area.

Though the original Ambazonia leaders have dissociated themselves from militant offshoots -- they claim their struggle is peaceful - there are a growing number of attacks against the government.

The government early this month created a ministry of decentralisation and development during a cabinet reshuffle. Decentralisation has been one of the key demands of separatist moderates, while more radical activists are demanding complete independence.

Biya on Thursday said this was a "rapid response to recurring demands" and added that "necessary measures" would be taken to ensure that peaceful and fair elections will be held this year.

The 85-year-old Biya, in power since 1982, has not yet said whether he will stand for re-election, though his party regards him as "the natural candidate".

Read more on:    cameroon  |  west africa

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