YAOUNDE - Cameroon President Paul Biya has addressed his countrymen, saying tensions in the English-speaking regions that began more than a year ago have abated. Biya also congratulated his military for successfully curbing Boko Haram atrocities.
Cameroon President Paul Biya, in a nationwide message, thanked the country's youth, saying they have been instrumental in bringing peace and order along the northern border with Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been active, and in the English speaking northwest and southwest regions where complaints by teachers and lawyers about the overbearing influence of the French language degenerated into separatists calls for independence that resulted in armed conflicts with the Cameroon military.
"The situation in the southwest and the northwest is stabilizing. Indeed, the characteristic resilience of the Cameroonian people deserves to be hailed once again. Allow me once again to underscore the heroism of our defense and security forces, mostly young people," he said.
In his speech, Biya urged Cameroon's to youth prepare for the decades ahead, when they will be leaders. He said they need to be up for the task and acquire the necessary skills and experience.
Biya acknowledged that economic growth had slowed due to outside factors, but said he would forge ahead in various sectors of development. He said 2018 will mark the completion of his major road and hydro power development projects.
Cabral Libii, a 38-year-old Cameroonian who has announced his intention to run for president and challenge Biya this year, said he had expected Biya to call for reconciliation to solve the long-standing problems his country has been facing but feels that Biya instead gave an impression all was well and launched his campaign for this year's presidential election.
Libii said Cameroonian youth only have residual roles to play in Cameroon politics and at the same time they face rising unemployment, a questionable education system, and an underperforming health care system. He said a majority of young people are in despair and suffocating under Biya's regime, which does not want to leave power. Libii said the youth should be ready to sacrifice to stop Biya's long hold on power.
Cameroon has been enveloped by the Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives on its northern border with Nigeria, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and pushed 80,000 Nigerian refugees into its territory.
The central African state also is affected by the crisis in neighboring Central African Republic, with regular attacks and kidnappings for ransom in its territory. And, recently, the crisis in the English-speaking regions of the country have led to hundreds of people, including 23 policemen and soldiers, being killed.
In spite of the continuing threats from Boko Haram and the English speaking separatists which opposition political parties say may hamper the organization of elections, the 85-year-old president, who has served for 35 years, insisted that elections will be held this year since peace is returning. Biya has said party supporters have urged him to run again.
"2018 will be an important election year and all youths aged 20 years and above should be able to — or rather should — exercise their right to vote because by voting, they will be performing an act of responsible citizenship and, thus, participating in forging their destiny," said Biya.