YAOUNDE - Cameroon President Paul Biya says he will destroy all terrorists whom he says are fighting to separate his country or using it as a hiding place for armed attacks on neighboring states. In a message, Biya reiterated he was open for dialogue with the disgruntled English speaking minority in the bilingual country but that his military would deal with armed separatists fighting for the independence of the English speaking regions.
President Paul Biya says it is his duty to ensure public order, social peace, the unity of the nation and Cameroon’s integrity, and so he has issued instructions that all those who have taken up arms, who perpetrate or encourage violence should be fought relentlessly and held accountable for their crimes before the courts of law.
"It is my firm belief that fast-tracking our decentralization process will enhance the development of our Regions," he said. "To that end, I have ordered the implementation of the necessary measures to speedily give effect to this major reform. We will contribute towards consolidating the rule of law and open a new page in our democratic process."
Many Cameroonians had expected Biya to be lenient towards armed insurgents and invite them to the negotiation table.
Biya said he requested the government engage in constructive dialogue with English speakers to seek solutions to their demands. But he added that he will destroy all those who have taken arms against the state, which he reiterated will remain one and indivisible.
He however pledged to make Cameroon a decentralized unitary state by implementing decentralization as spelled out in the country's constitution.
Rene Emmanuel Sadi, Cameroon's minister of territorial administration and decentralization, says the decentralization Biya spoke about encounters many challenges.
"We started implementing this process effectively since 2010, but of course we can ascertain the fact that the there are still some difficulties, there are still some problems," he said. "The councils complain that the resources put at their disposal do not allow them to respond to the needs of the populations and to the implementation of their projects."
Until a few years ago, Cameroon was referred to as a peace haven because it had never experienced major challenges. But the Boko Haram insurgency on its northern border with Nigeria that started four years ago has killed more than 25,000 people, and displaced millions of people in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger according to the United Nations.
The spillover of the carnage in the Central African Republic (CAR) is also felt on the central African state's border with CAR with repeated cases of kidnappings for ransom and attacks by armed men.
Adolph Deben Tchoffo, governor of Cameroon's English speaking north west region, says he supports Paul Biya's determination to eliminate the armed separatists so that schools can reopen and businesses pick up in the English speaking areas of Cameroon more than one year after they were hampered by the crisis.
"We are begging for peace and we are leaving no stone on turned to maintain long lasting security, securing the population, asking the population to mobilize themselves to support government to make sure the economic activity, the social activity in the region comes back to normalcy," he said.
Biya said Cameroonians desire greater participation in managing their affairs, especially at the local level and as such he will make sure the constitution is respected fully.
Cameroon will hold local council, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2018. Many hope the polls will be transparent. Biya has been president for 35 years, winning in elections opposition political parties say are always rigged to favor him.