Cameroon’s president calls on separatists | Eurasia Diary -

24 April, Wednesday

Cameroon’s president calls on separatists

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Cameroon’s president has called on Anglophone separatists in the country to lay down their arms, shortly after the abduction of 79 boys and girls in an Anglophone region in the French-speaking West African country.

President Paul Biya, who was sworn in for his new seventh term in office on Tuesday, ruled out independence for the restive, English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, which have been seeking independence.

“I have carefully examined the frustrations and aspirations of the great majority of our fellow citizens,” Biya said in his inauguration speech.

Referring to the rebels, who he said were plotting “terror and desolation,” he said, “They need to know that they will face the rigor of the law and the determination of our defense and security forces. I appeal to them to lay down their arms.”

The 85 year-old-president, who has ruled the West African nation for 35 years, however, made no mention of the abduction of the 79 boys and girls in Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest Region, on the eve of his inauguration.

Assailants entered the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda and took the children away on a school bus on Monday.

Some 200 parents gathered outside the school on Tuesday, waiting to hear news from their kids. Some children are reportedly in the custody of the government.

The parents did not know whether their children were among the kidnapped or among those in the custody of the authorities, according to Reuters.

An army spokesman blamed separatists for the kidnapping, while a separatist spokesman denied involvement in the incident. He accused the government of having kidnapped the kids to discredit the rebels.

A minister of the Presbyterian Church, Samuel Fonki, also said that separatists were responsible and that he had been mediating with the kidnappers for the children’s release.

He said that another 11 school children had been kidnapped by the same armed group on October 31 but that the school had quietly paid a ransom of $4,400 for their release.

Also on Tuesday, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the children’s “immediate release and return to their homes and families.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres also renewed his appeal for an end to the crisis in the restive regions.

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