79 school pupils freed after being abducted in troubled English-speaking region of Cameroon
Biya has promised to pursue policies of decentralisation to address “frustrations and aspirations” in English-speaking regions, his first public acknowledgement of resentments that have spilled over in the country’s anglophone Northwest and neighbouring Southwest Region.
In 2016, anger at perceived discrimination in education, the judiciary and the economy fanned demands for autonomy in the anglophone regions.
But Biya refused any concessions and a year later, radicals declared an independent state – the “Republic of Ambazonia” – taking up arms soon after.
Separatists have since attacked troops and police, boycotted and torched schools and attacked other state symbols, prompting a brutal official crackdown.
At the start of the school year in September, several secondary schools were attacked, a headmaster was killed and a teacher was badly mutilated.
At least 400 civilians and more than 175 members of the security forces have been killed in the year to September, according to a toll compiled by non-governmental organisations.
More than 300,000 other have fled the violence, some crossing into neighbouring Nigeria.
Around a fifth of Cameroon’s 22 million people are English-speaking – a minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period.
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