By Boris Esono (Buea-Cameroon)
As the year 2018 draw to a close, the president of the Republic of Cameroon has reiterated the need for secessionists to lay down their weapons. He has also indicated that he will continue to dialogue with people of goodwill to bring about lasting peace to the South West and North West Regions. The head of state was speaking December 31, 2018 during his annual end of year address to the nation.
According to President Paul Biya, some of the objectives such as the establishment of democracy were achieved while those related to security were only partly achieved due to serious internal and external threats.
Given that the situation in the Far North has been stabilized and our Eastern boarder under control, I (President Biya) will focus on the situation of the North West and South West Regions.
He said: “I am very sensitive to their worries about their safety and their aspiration for a return to calm and normal social life. If my appeal to war mongers to lay down their weapons remains unheeded, the defense and security forces will be instructed to neutralize them. I am well aware of the distress these rebels are causing the populations of these regions. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.
“In a spirit of national harmony, I decided to set up a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration committee to avoid the use of extreme measures. The duty for this committee is to organize, supervise and manage the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-fighters such as Boko Haram and fighters in the Anglophone regions willing to respond favorably to the hand of peace extended to them. ….This is to pave the way for a return of calm and normalcy.
“…. At the same time, the promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism will be fast tracked. I intend to continue the dialogue initiated with people of goodwill to bring about lasting peace. My wish is that national unity will be strengthened” President Biya added.
On the issue of the withdrawal of AFCON 2019, he said all efforts will be put to make sure that all the roads, stadia and hospitals earmarked will continue until they are completed. It should be recalled that Cameroon was stripped off hosting the AFCON 2019 by CAF due to security reasons and the slow nature of preparation for the tournament.
“Our country was poised to host the great African football jamboree in 2019. Based on certain information, CAF decided that the date should be shifted. We have taken note of the decision and all investment relating to the organization of the AFCON will be carried out”.
Many have reacted to the head of state’s address with mixed feelings. While some are cheering, others say the head of state is beating around the bush especially with the issue of the Anglophone crisis.
Sama Abang-Mugwa talking over a local TV station said “the tone the head of state used to me was not the best. What the military is doing is very inhumane. If the head of state can say XYZ was killed, it will mean he is closer to the action and closer to the people. People will know that he is feeling what they are going through”.
Akoh Baudouin, Humanitarian activist, said he was very disappointed when it comes to the address. “My expectations were not met. I expected the Head of state to call for cease fire to ease the humanitarian efforts. However no door was left open for dialogue to take place since as the president called for the separatists to be neutralized. This crisis is slowly leading to an urban crisis were a lot of people are displaced from their towns to the bushes”. “There are a lot of people who are displaced with one type of injury to another. 2019 will be a very difficult year for humanitarians with all the atrocities being committed” he added.
To Benoit Balla there are two ways of reading the speech. “Many people are saying that the door is closed for dialogue but as the Head of state said he will open the dialogue with people of goodwill while the recent commission will continue with their work. The head of state touched on the issues affecting Anglophones and this is comforting to these people in the two regions”.
Dr. Suh Fru Norbet said it is important to note that dialogue does not only mean sitting down with people but it also means putting in place committees to talk to the people. “For example the Bilingualism and Multiculturalism Commission moved to the Anglophone regions to chatter a way forward for peace to reign. It was quite a reassuring speech that will go a long way to bring back peace in the regions”.