Cameroon separatists have declared a ceasefire amid an escalating coronavirus pandemic with the number of confirmed cases increasing rapidly in recent days, and jumping to at least 75.
One person has died while two have recovered. A Cameroonian saxophone legend Manu Dibango who also died in Paris France this week from coronavirus.
The separatists said they were laying down their weapons for a fortnight so people can be tested for coronavirus.
Cameroon’s northwest and southwest regions erupted into violence late in 2016 when Anglophones took to the streets to demand an end to marginalization, seek equality and justice from the majority French-speaking nation. Their peaceful street protests were met with brutality from President Paul Biya’s security forces.
Since then, hundreds, if not thousands of people, have been killed while tens of thousands have gone into exile in neighboring Nigeria and elsewhere.
As the violence and blame games expanded, some peaceful protesters took up weapons against the state and declared independence.
They named their yet unrecognized breakaway state the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
International interventions to strike a deal and bring an end to bloodshed have yielded little positive results.
But with the coronavirus pandemic expanding rapidly and threatening to decimate entire populations, the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces (Socadef) said it had declared a ceasefire that would come into effect from Sunday as “a gesture of goodwill”.
“It is so far the only armed group among many operating in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions to have heeded the UN’s call for a global ceasefire,” the BBC noted, adding that there is no indication that one of the biggest rebel group – Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF) – is to follow suit and declare a ceasefire.
Chief mediator Alexandre Liebeskind, from the conflict resolution group Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, told the BBC that the ADF had refused to join the negotiations.
“They are the only group which refused to join the process,” he said, according to the BBC.
But he added that he hoped other groups would follow Socadef’s example.