On 10 September, President Paul Biya delivered a rare “address to the nation” in which he spoke of the Anglophone Crisis facing Cameroon. Beginning in 2016, the situation in the country’s two English-speaking regions has quickly spiraled from protests by teachers and lawyers into a bloody separatist war.
In the speech, many hoped Biya might acknowledge his government’s role in this rapid deterioration, which has seen brutal crackdowns of peaceful demonstrations, arbitrary arrests and alleged human rights violations by security forces. They also hoped the president might recognize the marginalization that Anglophone Cameroonians have faced for decades.
Instead, the address took on a defiant tone. Biya started by insisting the government has already fully addressed the demands made by protesters in 2016. This was the first time since that year that the government has referred to those demands and the claim that they have been implemented is questionable. Biya then claimed that protesters’ grievances are unfounded anyway as the country has always had an Anglophone Prime Minister. While this is true, the premier has also always been side-lined.
The president then became even more combative in talking about the war of secession that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced at least half a million people. He claimed that despite his government’s reforms, radical elements have hijacked the situation for their own interest in calling for an independent state of Ambazonia. He listed several atrocities separatist fighters have committed including murders, rapes, kidnappings, the preventing of children from going to school, and the razing of healthcare facilities. Biya failed to mention the many similarly horrific acts carried out by the military such as the burning down of scores of villages in January 2018 and killing of civilians.