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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ambazonians mock 'special status' of English-speaking area given by the Biya's regime

A measure to alleviate the bloody crisis in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon has gained ground among the moderates but has failed to overcome an obstacle of radical separatist resistance.

Nearly 1,000 delegates have stopped since Monday for the talks in Yaoundé, the capital, which are shunned by the main separatist leaders.

On the eve of the forum's closure, delegates on Thursday adopted a resolution recommending a "special status" for English-speaking areas "aimed at strengthening the autonomy of the administrative areas".

Most of the country's English speakers are located in two regions of western Cameroon - the North West Region and the South West Region -

Two years ago, decades of resentment of perceived discrimination turned into an armed campaign for independence, which was brutally repressed.

The International Crisis Group estimates that nearly 3,000 people have been killed in violence by both sides and more than half a million people have fled their homes.

Concession of Biya?

If Biya supported the forum's proposal, it would mean greater fiscal autonomy, the election of regional governors by locals instead of federally appointed appointees, and the restoration of traditional leaders in both regions.

If so, this could be an important political concession.

Biya, who has been in power for nearly 37 years out of 86, strongly opposed attempts to abandon centralized control.

Felix Agbor Nkongho, a prominent human rights lawyer, said a special status was a "first step" towards a permanent solution.

Edouard Epiphane Yogo of the Bureau of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Yaounde, said the statute, which would require a constitutional amendment, "could have major symbolic value".

"It would be a victory for those who absolutely want federalism and a victory for those who want decentralization."

But several separatists said they were not impressed.

Ebenezer Akwanga, a prominent leader, said the people such as Ambazonia - the country the separatists want to separate from Cameroon - did not need special status. "

We do not want to be part of Cameroon," he said. "Ambazonia is walking towards freedom and nothing can stop us."

Another leader, Chris Anu, said that the notion of special status was almost an insult.

"Do they suggest that we are a handicap?" he asked.

The goal, he said, was "nothing less than total independence for the peoples". southern Cameroon ", another name used by the separatists to designate their imagined homeland.

English-speaking activist Ayah Ayah Abine said the situation has polarized on both sides and she would not be resolved by "a combination of blurred words" on the status.

"Something really special is needed to end this conflict," he said. "Only negotiations between the two parties can put an end to it."

Release of prisoners

In another announcement on Thursday, the government announced that Biya had ordered the release of "more than 330 people" arrested in connection with the Anglophone crisis.

Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute said that Biya had asked for "a measure to calm the situation ... while we continue our work".

This movement was warmly applauded during the "dialogue" and many separatists also praised it, although they also called for a general amnesty.

At least 1,000 people have been arrested in the past two years.

On Friday, more than 100 detainees were released by two military courts, judicial and administrative officials told AFP.

The details as to which prisoners are eligible for release remain unclear.

But it seems unlikely that the main separatist leader, Julius Ayuk Tabe, sentenced to life imprisonment in August with nine supporters of the "terrorist" movement, will be released.

Yogo, at the Yaoundé Reflection Group, highlighted the difficulties their detention entailed.

"If you want to restore peace, it's usually the symbols that matter," he said.

In this context, "the symbol is not the number (of released prisoners) but the caliber" of those released, he said.

1/3 The five-day "dialogue" brought together politicians, religious leaders, traditional leaders and members of the armed forces, but the main separatist leaders boycotted it.