Cameroonian deputies adopted a decentralization bill on Wednesday granting special status to the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, where a deadly conflict between the army and separatists has been going on for more than two years, according to national radio.
These regions will now be allowed, if the law is approved by the Senate and promulgated, to develop public policies in the fields of education and justice, said Cameroonian radio.
This special status is the main recommendation agreed to by participants in a major national dialogue convened by President Paul Biya in early October to end this crisis which has left more than 3,000 people dead.
When many voices were raised to criticize the lack of legislative follow-up given to this great dialogue, the National Assembly met in extraordinary session on Friday to finally examine this bill.
In these regions live most of the English speakers in Cameroon, who feel aggrieved compared to the French majority of the country. The crisis started in November 2016, mainly with demands from teachers or lawyers, demanding more representativeness for English speakers. Most demanded a return to federalism, but a minority demanded the independence and proclamation of a new state, Ambazonia.
But in the face of the intransigence of Yaoundé and the repression of peaceful demonstrations, the conflict has intensified. At the end of 2017, part of the separatists took up arms.
Since then, fighting has raged between the army and these armed groups, taking the population in pincers. Over the past two years, more than 700,000 people have had to flee their homes.
After more than two years of conflict, Yaoundé decided at the end of September, under international pressure, to organize this dialogue to resolve the crisis.
The boycott of this meeting by the main independence leaders did not prevent the participants from advocating decentralization by the creation of this « special status ». A proposal far removed from the aspirations of the federalists, for the more moderate, and independence for the armed groups, but which had raised hopes of a return to the price after two years of inaction.
However, these discussions have so far failed to bring peace. Worse, fighting and violence against civilians has intensified, several NGOs reported in early December.
Legislative elections are to be held in Cameroon in February 2020, but the two main opposition parties have announced their intention to boycott the poll, which has been made less credible in their eyes due to the fighting in these two regions.