AFRICA/CAMEROON - Continuous clashes in the English-speaking provinces: it is urgent to open a political confrontation

Thursday, 20 September 2018 violence   justice   armed groups   independence   politics   human rights  

Bamenda (Agenzia Fides) - In the English-speaking provinces of Cameroon, tension continues to rise. The clashes between separatist groups and the army are more and more frequent and the civil population suffer the consequences. It is dangerous to go out on the street in any hour of the day. Activities have stopped or are slowed by the clashes. And we cannot see a possible political solution. It is the concern expressed to Fides sources by the Catholic Church in Bamenda, one of the main centers of the English-speaking provinces. Asking for anonymity for security reasons, Fides sources say: "For two or three weeks there have been continual clashes: Cameroon's armed forces face the sudden assaults of the separatists". There have been several deaths on both sides. How many? Difficult to say. But the situation continues to get worse".
The English-speaking provinces have always claimed their own autonomy. In particular, they ask to be able to use English, instead of French, as a language in public deeds and in schools. They also demand that the British common law system is applied in the courts instead of the rules of French origin in place elsewhere in the country. If in the first years after independence, some form of autonomy had been recognized, over time the English-speakers saw their spaces erode.
"At present - Fides source continues - there are three different positions: there are those who want autonomy, within a federation with the French speakers, there are the separatists who want a secession from Yaoudé. Finally there is a grey area, of people that I would call 'neutral', who ask to be able to use English and that their traditions are respected, but without tensions".
Since 2016, discontent has become more and more frequent. On October 1, 2017, the most extreme fringes pushed to declare the independence of the two English-speaking provinces from Cameroon and the birth of the Republic of Ambazonia. This caused the worsening of tension in the two provinces. "The central Government - says the source - says in words that it wants peace and stability in the region, but does nothing to open a table of confrontation, where soldiers are continuously sent and tension increases".
The situation is therefore increasingly tense.
"Every day all the activities stop in protest, people do not leave the house, everything is blocked. It is a form of protest that has been going on for a long time. To overcome the crisis, dialogue and openness are needed. But at the moment there is not a glimmer of hope". (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 20/9/2018)