AFRICA/CAMEROON - Hope for national dialogue to end the secessionist crisis in English-speaking areas

Tuesday, 8 October 2019 violence   dialogue  

Yaoundé (Agenzia Fides) - "Everyone was able to express their point of view and everyone returns home with a result", said His Eminence Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi Archbishop Emeritus of Douala, at the end of the great national debate that was held in Cameroon from September 30 to October 4, to try to resolve the crisis in the two English-speaking regions of the country (see Fides, 24/09/2019). His Exc. Mgr. Abraham Boualo Kome, Bishop of Bafang and President of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, said he "participated in the work sessions and noted the freedom of discussion in the various commissions. A dialogue based on truth is destined to bear good fruit".
Since 2016 the two regions, in the north-west and south-west, are prey to a secessionist crisis born from the request of the local English-speaking populations to be able to use the English language instead of the French language at school and in courts. A war that has already caused the death of 2,000 people, has forced more than 500,000 inhabitants of the two regions to flee, while over 600,000 children have not been able to go to school.
To facilitate dialogue, President Paul Biya ordered the release of 333 separatists and some political opponents, including Maurice Kamto, who came second in the 2018 presidential election. After four days of debate, a proposal was reached regarding the granting of a "special status" for the two English-speaking regions.
The dialogue was attended by some members of civil society but not the leaders of the separatist armed groups. The situation remains difficult, as demonstrated by the continuous kidnappings of civilians for the purpose of extortion by separatists. Among those kidnapped there is also Fr. Augustine Nkwain, Secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Bamenda, who was held for 24 hours before being released on 4 October. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 8/10/2019)