Cameroon Prime Minister, Joseph Dion-Ngute, on Monday, said the restoration of peace and security in the two crisis-stricken English-speaking regions of Cameroon was the top priority of the government.
Dion-Ngute said this at the opening of a national dialogue to end close to three years of conflict in the regions.
“This dialogue offers us the opportunity to find in the model of our country’s founding fathers the strength to transcend our differences and to make our cultural diversity a source of wealth for our people. “Our common intelligence and individual responsibility must lead us to defend peace at all times and in all places, at all cost and to reject the horror of war. “The idea of peace must be the absolute quest for this important national meeting,” he said.
Dion-Ngute said the dialogue, expected to end on Friday would focus on eight themes including bilingualism, education, judiciary, decentralisation, reconstruction, as well as the development of conflict-affected areas. He added that the dialogue was also to see the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, re-integration of ex-combatants, and the role of Diaspora.
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Meanwhile, during the opening ceremony, former separatist fighters attending the talks sang the national anthem as a testimony of their willingness to embrace peace and re-integrated in the society. Yannick Kawa, leader of the ex-fighters told participants at the dialogue that peace was very important for the country. “We were treated as ‘second class citizens’. That is why we decided to pick up arms.
“We need to solve this problem. There must be a balance of power. We have decided to drop our weapons to give peace a chance,“ he said. Meanwhile, some leaders of separatists mainly based outside the country declined an invitation to participate in the talks accusing them of inclusiveness and insincerity.
However, unrest in the North-West and South-West sparked in 2016 by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting Francophone dominance. Armed rebels took over the movement in 2017, demanding independence for an English-speaking state, “Ambazonia.“
According to the UN, more than 530,000 people have been displaced internally since then,