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Dialogue on Cameroon Anglophone Crisis Makes Little Headway

FILE - Opposition lawmaker Joseph Mbah Ndam is seen on the rostrum complaining about anglophone marginalization, in Yaounde, Cameroon, April 4, 2017.

A week of talks in Cameroon’s two English-speaking zones wrapped up Friday. The government organized the dialogue in a bid to end a push for independence in the regions. However, the talks appear to have made little headway.

Hundreds of protesters in Lebialem, an area in the English-speaking southwest region, jeered and chased away delegates sent by President Paul Biya to hold talks Tuesday with local leaders. The protesters set ablaze the residence of Bernard Foju, a lawmaker from the locality.

The protesters then sang this song they call the anthem of their newly-created state of Ambazonia and left, promising never to listen to Biya’s emissaries.

One of those emissaries, Senator Mbella Moki, said the government will not give up.

"We should be propagators of national unity, the relevance of living together, living in peace and contributing to national development in this beautiful country of ours," said Moki. "That is the message. As we promised, we shall be back to ensure that the call that we made has had a very beautiful response."

Anglophone region, Cameroon
Anglophone region, Cameroon

The prime minister traveled to the northwest, his native region, for talks in different towns this week. There hasn't been any violence reported. However, many delegates have refused to meet with him.

A government crackdown on leaders of a year-long strike in the two regions, as well as the emergence of anglophone separatist groups, have escalated tensions.

On September 1, President Paul Biya released 55 people detained over the strike. However, as many as 100 others remain in jail.

On October 1, tens of thousands of people marched in the southwest and northwest to support independence. Security forces killed at least 17 people, according to Amnesty International.

Not all English-speakers support independence, and Emmanuel Anyambot, senior pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, says the some groups may listen to Biya's delegates if the remaining detainees are released.

"They went to prison because of the common course that we are facing. Some have been released and the others have not been released," said Anyambot. "Release these people, let us dialogue, or you try them and pass a verdict instead of keeping them there."

Separatist groups have said they are ready for talks -- but only with President Biya on the terms of their separation.

The president has said he will engage in no talks that threaten national unity.