Yaoundé (AFP) – The United Nations on Friday underscored its commitment to Cameroon’s “territorial integrity and unity” as the francophone-majority country grappled with violence and separatism in two English-speaking regions.
The UN’s Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) said it was deeply concerned by the upsurge in violence, “particularly against the civilian population and state agents.”
UNOCA chief Francois Lounceny Fall, who is also the secretary general’s envoy for central Africa, recalled the commitment of the UN to “the territorial integrity and unity of Cameroon.”
He called for calm and restraint and the holding of an “inclusive dialogue.”
The statement was issued after violence erupted in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon, where most of the country’s English-speaking minority live.
Anglophones, who represent about a fifth of the country’s population, say they suffer discrimination in education, justice and the economy at the hands of the francophone majority.
Agitation in the two regions broke out last year and is developing into a deeper crisis, with the emergence of a movement demanding the two regions break away from the rest of the country.
President Paul Biya has rejected demands for secession and more moderate calls for a federal structure.
A crackdown by security forces has led to the death of at least 14 people, as well as five prisoners killed while trying to escape jail, according to a toll compiled by AFP.
International monitors, in contrast, say at least 20 and possibly 40 people have been killed in clashes since late September.
There have also been casualties on the government’s side — four soldiers were killed this month in less than a week, in attacks attributed to secessionist “terrorists.”