Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
A big national dialogue announced by President Paul Biya about three weeks ago was to kick off in Cameroon on Monday, but many activists from the Anglophone regions were not planning to attend, while others have questioned the sincerity of the dialogue with many prominent opposition figures or activists still in prison.
The national dialogue is meant to resolve many lingering internal crises in Cameroon, including calls for secession by Cameroonians in South West and North West regions.
Anglophone separatist leaders have questioned the sincerity of the dialogue and argued that the content outlined for discussion by the government was not going far enough to bring about justice and equality in Cameroon.
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Besides, many of the separatist leaders arrested by the government in Cameroon or Nigeria remained in prison at the same time the government was trying to engage the Anglophone regions for a peaceful resolution of a bloody conflict which started in 2016 when teachers and lawyers took to the street to demand justice and equality for Anglophones in Cameroon.
The excessive force used by Cameroonian security forces against unarmed civilians exercising their fundamental freedom of expression led to violent protests and eventually calls for secession.
Three years on, hundreds, if not thousands are said to have been killed while tens of thousands have fled to neighboring Nigeria even as the conflict rages on.
Cameroonians from other parts of the country have also questioned the sincerity of the government, arguing that prominent politicians and activists, including opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, who was the runner-up in the 2018 presidential election, were still in prison along with about 200 of his comrades.
86-year old President Biya who came to power in 1982 at the age of 49 has not allowed a national dialogue to take place for almost 40 years, and many see the opportunity to talk now as a small and tiny step in the right direction.
Cameroonians who stormed the United Nations headquarter last week for a protest demanded the release of all political prisoners without precondition for a sincere dialogue to take place.