In Cameroon, a separatist militia must lay down their arms for fifteen days so that people can be tested for the coronavirus. The Southern Cameroon defense forces (Socadef) have declared that their ceasefire will come into effect from Sunday as “a gesture of goodwill”.
It is so far the only armed group among the many groups operating in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon to have heeded the United Nations’ call for a global ceasefire. The separatists say they are marginalized in the majority French-speaking nation.
For three years, they have been fighting government forces in the English-speaking regions intending to create a separatist state called “Ambazonia”. But there is nothing to indicate that one of the largest rebel groups – the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF) – will follow suit and declare a ceasefire.
Chief mediator, Alexandre Liebeskind of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue’s conflict resolution group, told the BBC that the ADF had refused to join the negotiations. “It is the only group that has refused to join the process,” he said. But he added that he hoped that other groups would follow the example of Socadef.
BBC West Africa reporter Chi Chi Izundu said the initiative by separatist Anglophone group will not end the long and bloody conflict but could be a source of hope in times otherwise dark. Fighting in the North West and southwest regions has killed at least 3,000 people and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes, thousands of them fleeing to Nigeria across the border. Many displaced people may be in danger of contracting the coronavirus and not receiving treatment.
The Cameroonian Ministry of Health has so far confirmed 75 cases of the virus and recorded its first death earlier this week.