The Cameroon army will follow President Paul Biya’s instructions and ensure that violent anglophone separatists can no longer cause any trouble, Defence Minister Joseph Beti Assomo said Saturday.
“Measures will be taken immediately for a process which will eradicate this inconvenient situation we are experiencing,” the minister added, without giving details of what action would be taken.
On Thursday Biya denounced “repeated attacks by a band of terrorists” and promised the Cameroon people that “steps are being taken to incapacitate these criminals and to make sure that peace and security are safeguarded”.
“When the head of state makes a political decision like that,” Assomo told state radio, “we carry it out unwaveringly”.
Mounting violence in the English-speaking west of the mainly francophone country claimed the lives of five police officers and five soldiers during the month of November, according to an official tally.
Resentment over perceived discrimination and a tough crackdown on separatist political forces has provoked secessionist demands in anglophone regions, which account for about a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 22 million.
“Paul Biya has declared war on these terrorists who seek secession,” state radio commented.
At the president’s request, the defence minister held talks with senior army officials on Friday to evaluate the security situation.
“Large-scale army operation are being prepared,” in the anglophone regions, a security source told AFP.
Along the border with Nigeria, local populations are being “held hostage by terrorists” said Okalia Bilai, governor of the southwest province where police and soldiers have been killed.
Since November 2016, the anglophone minority in Cameroon has been protesting against their marginalisation, with some seeking a form of federalism while others want total independence.
The government rejects both calls.
The authorities have already imposed night-time curfews, restrictions on movement, raids and body searches, as well as a bid by the government in Yaounde to reach out to the anglophone community for political dialogue.
Biya has been president of the central African country since 1982, after serving as prime minister to founding president Ahmadou Ahidjo, who created a unified state out of territory that was divided between French and British colonial rulers before independence in 1960.