About 200 people took part Tuesday in a march in the streets of Buea, capital of the English-speaking region of the South-West, to denounce the attempted secession of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
The march also aimed at denouncing the violence and hostage-taking of traditional leaders perpetrated in the South West for two years by armed men against armed groups in favour of secession was organised by the mayor of this city of more than 100,000 inhabitants, Patrick Ekema, of the ruling party in Yaoundé.
“We also want to criticize the barbaric acts carried out in the populations of the South West especially among the traditional chiefs and also to have the remains of the traditional chiefs killed by the Ambazonians (the name given to the English-speaking independence fighters), said Mr Ekema.
If you see us going out today, it is not because we want to please the communities, it is because we want peace.
“If you see us going out today, it is not because we want to please the communities, it is because we want peace. We’re not for violence and look at my placard, it says “Leave the southwest alone,” asserted Ekokole Barnabas, one of the demonstrators.
Clerics hope to moderate dialogue in Cameroon
Mr Ekema also condemned the conference planned for the end of August in Buea by Cardinal Christian Tumi which should bring together personalities from the two English-speaking regions in order to envisage a national dialogue with Yaoundé.
For Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the South West region, there cannot be talks without peace.
“We need peace. When peace will be back, the tranquility will be there, then the dialogue we are talking will continue,” he told the demonstrators.
The Catholic Church is the only actor capable of “promoting dialogue” between the insurgents and the government, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) research centre in April.
Religious also fear for their lives in English-speaking Cameroon. In late July, the priest of the Catholic parish of Bomaka, a district of Buea, was killed by unidentified individuals.
Number of refugees and IDPs increasing – UN
Security in the south-west and north-west regions has deteriorated considerably since late 2017 with daily fighting between security forces and armed separatists calling for the creation of an independent English-speaking state.
This escalating conflict has caused 21,000 refugees to flee to neighbouring countries and 160,000 internally displaced, according to the UN, which believes this figure is certainly underestimated.
UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein expressed deep concern last week about human rights violations and abuses in the English-speaking regions.
The UN has identified “armed elements” as well as “government forces” as responsible for these abuses.