At least 2,000 people have died in the insurgency that began in 2017 in the country’s North-West and South-West regions, where Cameroon’s English-speaking minority is concentrated. English-speakers have accused the French-speaking majority of marginalizing them politically and economically. A government crackdown on a 2016 strike organized by Anglophone teachers and lawyers precipitated the creation of a violent, separatist movement to form a new independent nation called Ambazonia.
Undeterred by international criticism, Biya actually appeared to be stepping up his attacks on the separatists in the months after his October 2018 reelection, as Robbie Corey-Boulet reported in April for WPR. The situation further deteriorated last month when a military tribunal sentenced an Anglophone separatist leader and nine of his followers to life in prison. Separatists have responded with attacks on government security forces and kidnappings of officials perceived to be allied with the regime. They have also instituted a broad shutdown of shops and social services in the Anglophone region. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes.
“We should all know that we are Cameroonians, appointed to serve Cameroon, not our tribes or linguistic groups,” Biya proclaimed in his speech. But even as he announced the dialogue, Biya refused to confirm whether separatist representatives would even be invited.
The process is also set to address other national emergencies, including the Boko Haram insurgency along Cameroon’s border with Nigeria and post-election violence that occurred following Biya’s latest victory.
Culled from World Politics Review