Cameroon: Separatist leader sentenced to life
JOHANNESBURG: The leader of Cameroon’s anglophone separatist movement was handed life sentence by a military court, local media reported Tuesday.
Sisiku Ayuku Tabe and nine of his followers were accused of secession, rebellion, hostility against the state and for not possesing national identity cards, according to the Journal du Cameroun news site, reporting on the trial in the capital Yaounde.
In October 2017, Ayuku Tabe was declared the first proclaimed leader of the breakaway “Republic of Ambazonia”, which consists of two English-speaking states in western Cameroon.
President Paul Biya’s government responded severely towards the separatist group, with security forces to suppressing their protests by force.
Some separatists took up arms against government forces. Unconfirmed reports claim that hundreds have since been killed and several thousand displaced since clashes erupted roughly two years ago.
The group accuses the central government of decades of marginalization of the English-speaking regions in the French-speaking majority.
Protesters have been calling for a return to federalism in the country or independence for the English-speaking states.
English-speakers frequently complain of exclusion from top government positions and the use of primarily French in government institutions, though both languages are legally given official status.
French Cameroon gained independence from France in 1960, followed one year later by British Cameroon which promptly joined its neighbor in a federal government.
The federal state was dissolved, however, in favor of a unitary state in 1972. Anglophones have since complained against the use of French in public institutions and schools as well as the adoption of the French-Cameroon legal system in courts across the country.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an interview, political analyst Sharack Gutto said: “Cameroon needs to urgently start a national dialogue to address grievances of its citizens.”
“The situation in Cameroon is very volatile and might continue to get worse. The state will not continue to operate normally unless it divides the country or reorganizes itself through dialogue,” Gutto added.
Rights groups have accused the country’s security forces of arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters and using excessive force in the past months to disperse gatherings in the country’s northwest and southwest, leading to civilian casualties. (AA)