(AP) - Yaounde, Cameroon
Cameroon President Paul Biya announced the National Dialogue earlier in September when he also called on all the Separatists in the South West and North West English-speaking regions to surrender and be forgiven. Nearly 3 000 people have died since 2017 in regions. This number includes 300 defence and security personnel. The violence has forced more than 500 000 people to flee their homes.
Separatists want international mediation
The National Dialogue being led by Cameroon's Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute extends through Friday in the capital, Yaounde. Prime Minister Ngute asked the more than 1 000 delgates at the Yaounde conference centre Monday if they would want to make history by bringing peace or war.
The Separatists have refused to attend the talks, demanding that the government release their leader Julius Ayuk Tabe, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in August by a military tribunal that found him guilty of crimes including secession and hostilities against the state.
The rebel groups also say they would only agree to such negotiations if they take place in a foreign country with UN mediators and in the presence of world powers such as the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
In his national address at the beginning of September, President Biya denied any marginalisation of English-speaking regions, saying he has always appointed Cabinet ministers from the troubled areas.
English-speaking regions feel marginalised
On Monday, the prime minister said by solving issues of marginalisation, even without the presence of the separatists, many fighters would give up their struggle.
The violence first erupted in 2016 when teachers and lawyers protested against alleged discrimination at the hands of Cameroon’s French-speaking majority. English speakers make up 20 per cent of the country’s 24 million people and have long complained of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority.
The government responded with a crackdown that sparked an armed movement for an independent, English-speaking state called Ambazonia.