After three years of armed protests in the Anglophone region of Cameroon, lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday granting special status to the English speaking regions. The Devolution Bill, if approved by the Senate, will grant the two regions the right to develop their own education and justice policies.
The new bill, if approved by the Senate, will give more autonomy to Cameroon’s troubled Anglophone community.
What caused the crisis?
When teachers and lawyers took to the streets in protest in 2017 over the failure of the government to give adequate recognition to the English legal and education systems in the North-West and South-West regions of the country, as well as give them key positions in its administration, it responded with force with the view of silencing the region and dismissing their complaints.
Protest in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions
Instead of President Paul Biya to counter the protests with dialogue, he applied excessive force, causing them to turn violent
However, it had the exact opposite effect. Instead of crawling back home in defeat and surrender, the protests continued, and as is to be expected, it was overtaken by militants and separationists, who, instead of demanding for recognition and better representation in the government, began to demand secession and the creation of the State of Ambazonia.
In the face of the government’s refusal to yield, resentment continued to build and more separatist groups emerged. Currently, it is estimated that there are about ten armed groups operating in the Anglophone regions and that they are responsible for some of the atrocities committed there.
Will the new bill change anything?
As the fighting continued and the militants refused to back down, President Paul Biya decided to heed the counsel of analysts and the international community and called for a national dialogue which was ignored by leaders of the separatist groups, many of which are either in jail or exile.
Now, the lawmakers are seeking to have the Devolution Bill go into law to grant more autonomy to the Anglophone regions. But it might not be enough.
In the first place, the Senate has to approve of the bill for it to become law. Once it has been passed, the government must prove that its intentions are genuine by respecting the bill. And the best way it can do that is to release all jailed separatists and invite those who have been forced into exile back home.
Anything short of these, as well as further dialogue and collaboration with leaders of the main separatist groups to put an end to the fighting and armed militant activities in the region, would be a complete waste of time. The government has resisted too long for the mere mention of a bill to end the war.
Culled from Quenu.Com