Cameroon Regional Councils Starved of Resources

Cameroon's regional councils this week called on the central government to grant promised autonomy and funds that they say would help resolve the country's separatist conflict. The regions have yet to receive a promised 20% of the state budget this year and the power to recruit state workers like hospital staff and teachers. Cameroon announced special status for its troubled Northwest and Southwest regions after a grand national dialogue called by President Paul Biya in 2019. The talks involved the government, youths, clergy, representatives of some separatist groups and others to find solutions to the crisis in the regions, where most people speak English. Participants decided that the two areas would have regional bodies responsible for economic, health, social, educational, sports and cultural development affairs.

The bodies were meant to give the regions more autonomy and weaken support for armed groups that want the regions to separate from the rest of Cameroon and its French-speaking majority. The government said it would give about 20% of its $9 billion state budget to the regions to manage. But so far, that hasn't happened. Atem Ebako, vice president of the Southwest regional executive council, says he has nothing to present as an achievement since he officially took office on January 21.

Meanwhile, the UN has documented more than 4,000 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the volatile region in 2020. A thousand women are on hunger strike now to highlight the drawn-out conflict.

InFocus

Women protest in Bamenda, Cameroon, in response to a Sept. 3, 2018, attack on the local Presbyterian School of Science and Technology, where six students were abducted.

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