Cameroon’s President Paul Biya on Thursday ordered for the release of 333 prisoners charged with offenses committed during the country’s anglophone crisis, reported Reuters.
The president said all the charges against the 333 prisoners arrested for their alleged roles in a two-year separatist uprising have been dropped.
“I have ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before Military Tribunals against 333 persons arrested for misdemeanors, in connection with the crisis in the North-West and South-West Regions,” Biya wrote on Twitter.
According to Secretary General Ferdinand Ngo Ngo, President Biya made the decision to ensure that peace returns to Cameroon’s restive English-speaking regions.
The order comes during peace talks launched by Biya to end fighting between insurgents and the military in the North West and South West Regions that has left over 1,800 people dead, driven hundreds of thousands from their homes and led to escalating economic damage.
The national dialogue lost momentum even before it began on Monday when separatist leaders announced they would not participate as the government failed to meet their demands. The talks went ahead anyway, with politicians, civil society groups and religious groups attending the event which is due to end on Friday.
Commenting on the president’s announcement, Anglophone separatists, on Thursday said that the amnesty did not go far enough.
The separatists have called for the release of 5,000 people imprisoned since 2016, including 10 leaders who were sentenced in August to life in prison on terrorism charges, and the withdrawal of Cameroon’s military from the North-West and South-West Regions.
“We will not accept an olive branch from someone whose troops are still in our territory,” said Ivo Tapang, a spokesman for 13 armed groups called the Contender Forces of Ambazonia.
He added that the groups will intensify their struggle with guns and bullets.