Cameroonian President Paul Biya has vowed to do everything possible to hunt down the separatists in crisis-hit regions of Northwest and Southwest.
In a televised New year message Tuesday night, Biya said the security situation in the two anglophone regions is one of the country’s the most urgent problems at the moment.
“For those who persist in going down the wrong road and continue to use violence, we will have no other choice than to combat them in order to protect all our fellow citizens,” President Biya said.
“Our defence and security forces will, once again, perform their duty with restraint, but without weakness. I wish to reassure them of my full support and high esteem,” the president added.
Armed groups continue to push for a secessionist agenda in the restive English-speaking regions.
Biya, in power since 1982, said measures have been taken in recent months to urge the separatists lay down their guns and be integrated into society.
Cameroon’s three-year armed conflict has claimed over 3,000 lives, with half a million people displaced from their homes and 40,000 more having fled to Nigeria, according to the International Crisis Group but the government disputes the figures.
“Cameroon to date has only 152,000 internally displaced persons in the Northwest and Southwest regions,” Territorial Administration minister, Paul Atanga Nji told a press conference at the weekend in Yaoundé.
In October, Biya called for a national dialogue to end the crisis but key separatist leaders were not invited.
“I noted with satisfaction that all Cameroonians welcomed many of the proposals made during the Major National Dialogue,” Biya said.
As part of the proposals from the dialogue, the parliament adopted two bills; one on the promotion of bilingualism and another granting a special status to the troubled regions.
The veteran leader said he was convinced that the effective implementation of the language law will strengthen Cameroon’s bilingual nature, a task however complicated by the different cultures, education and judicial systems in the two regions.
“The special status granted the Northwest and Southwest regions takes into account the specificities of the Anglophone education sub-system, Common Law and traditional authorities,” the president said in what he said was a new Cameroon, “a Cameroon that is adapted to present times and looks to the future.”
Separatist fighters are yet to react to the president’s address.