Cameroon to 'wipe out' Anglophone activists

Cameroonian President Paul Biya, 84, addresses the press at the Yaounde airport on November 30, 2017 on his arrival from the EU-African Union summit in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. NDI EUGENE NDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Cameroonian authorities have vowed to “wipe out” activists pushing for the independence of English speakers in the country.

Defence minister Joseph Beti Assomo said security forces would ensure the implementation of a presidential prescription for the problem.

Mr Assomo told the state broadcaster on Saturday that the army had “taken necessary measures according to the head of state’s instructions” to guarantee peace and security in the crisis-hit English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions.

“We cannot disclose the details of such measures, but military and security forces have been on the field and will continue to secure the two regions. We are not sending the army to war against another country. This is an internal problem and we will handle it with all responsibility to maintain the link between the army and the population,” Mr Assomo said.

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President Paul Biya on Thursday said Cameroon was a victim of repeated attacks by a group of terrorists masking as a secessionist movement.

He said measures were being taken “to wipe out these criminals and ensure peace and security are safeguarded throughout the country”.

President Biya made the declaration at the Yaounde-Nsimalen airport as he arrived from a European Union and African leaders’ summit in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

At the request of the president, the Defence minister held a “high-level security” meeting in Yaoundé on Friday during which the situation of the country in general and the Anglophone regions in particular was examined.

Forced into exile

Growing tension in the two English speaking regions led to the killing of at least five police officers and five soldiers within a month, the latest of which took place in the Southwest between November 28 and 29, according to the government spokesperson.

Tens of civilians have been killed by government troops, hundreds others arrested and many more forced into exile in the year-long revolt that began as a lawyers’ and teachers’ strike.

Courts and schools in the two English speaking regions have been ineffective since lawyers and teachers began a work boycott in November last year, protesting the influence of French over English in courtrooms and classrooms.

The country’s linguistic divide dates back to 1961 when the British-administered Southern Cameroons united with Cameroon after it gained independence from France in 1960. It was a federal state until 1972.

Were confronted

Violence erupted early this year when separatists joined the protests and demanded an outright independence of the Northwest and Southwest, which prior to reunification were administered as part of Nigeria, as a UN trust territory under British control.

Last October 1, protesters gathered in towns across the two English-speaking regions to mark a symbolic declaration of independence of what they call the Republic of Ambazonia and were confronted by police firing teargas canisters and live ammunition.

President Biya, 84, who has ruled Cameroon for 35 years, has maintained that Cameroon is one and indivisible.

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