The 84 year old Cameroonian dictator, Paul Biya, has told the Italian President Sergio Matterella that despite the ongoing crisis in Southern Cameroons which has seen Francophone troops killed and rounded up hundreds of people in a sweep through Anglophone communities, a majority of Cameroonians still love to live together.
Hundreds of Southern Cameroonians have fled the Anglophone regions around Bamenda, Jakiri, Kumba and Buea and are seeking sanctuary in neighboring Nigeria and Ghana, while hundreds more are sheltering in rural areas.
The Monday meeting with President Sergio Matterella was the first with a European leader ever since the wave of arrests followed by numerous assaults by troops, tanks and helicopters to regain control of Southern Cameroons.
The city of Bamenda, the capital of the North West region is the latest focus of a military crackdown on Southern Cameroonians that have swept the nation for nearly five months and continue despite the deaths of hundreds of civilians. The Biya regime has banned most foreign correspondents and shut down internet services making it difficult to verify accounts of events.
Mr. Biya was speaking on day one of his three day State visit to Italy where he is expected to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries. Paul Biya said his government was already engaging in dialogue to break the deadlock in the current crisis but insisted that the government is only doing so within the ambit of the constitution which he has regularly amended to guarantee his continued stay in power.
In his speech, Biya highlighted terrorism, illegal immigration, durable development and climate change and observed that the bilateral ties enjoyed by Cameroon and Italy could greatly change the situation in favor of peace and unity.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai in Rome