(Bloomberg) -- Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said he will instruct the army to “neutralize the separatist groups” in the central African nation’s English-speaking regions if they refuse to participate in the government’s disarmament program.
“If my appeal to warmongers to lay down their weapons remains unheeded, the defense and security forces will be instructed to neutralize them,” Biya said in his New Year’s address to the nation broadcast on state TV CRTV on Monday. “I am very sensitive to their worries about their safety and their aspirations for a return to calm and normal social life."
The conflict has left at least 400 people dead since it began two years ago. Biya started his seventh term in office last month with a call to the separatist groups to end the bloody insurgency while promising greater autonomy for the Anglophone Southwestern and Northwestern regions.
The only country in Africa with both English and French as official languages, Cameroon was split after World War I into a French-run zone and a smaller British-controlled area. They were unified in 1961, but the English-speaking minority, about a fifth of the population, has complained of marginalization for decades.
--With assistance from Katarina Hoije.
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