Cameroon’s main Anglophone separatist leaders boycotted peace talks launched by the government, calling them a ‘charade’ and vowing to continue fighting.
The country’s President Paul Biya commenced the week-long national dialogue in efforts to calm the violence that erupted in 2017 after the government cracked down on peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers in Cameroon’s English speaking regions.
Rebels in Cameroon’s Anglophone region have been fighting to establish a breakaway state that they call Ambazonia. Anglophones complain they are marginalized by the French-speaking majority.
More than 1,800 people have since been killed in the fighting and over 500,000 displaced, according to United Nations estimates.
Present at the talks in the capital Yaoundé were opposition parties, civil society groups and representatives of the Catholic Church and also Prime Minister Joseph Dion.
Dion said the talks were held to end acts of violence and to enable the Northwest and Southwest regions to regain the “necessary serenity”, adding that “all men and women who love peace” had been invited.
However a leading member of Ambazonian Governing Council, Cho Ayaba said the separatists did not recognize the government’s authority to convene dialogue.
“No Ambazonian will take part in Biya’s charade,” said Cho Ayaba.
Cameroon’s main opposition party is also declining to attend this week’s talks until the government meets its demands which include the release of their leader Maurice Kamto.
The country’s linguistic divide goes back a century of the League Nations’ decision to split the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors at the end of World War One.