The UN has called for a global ceasefire as scientists and health care workers are rallying round the clock to curtail the spread and find a cure for coronavirus. The Southern Cameroon Defence Forces (Socadef) is the only armed group among the many rebels operating in Cameroon’s English-speaking region to heed to the ceasefire.
This separatist militia has agreed to the ceasefire from Sunday for two weeks so that people can get tested for the virus as “a gesture of goodwill.”
Socadef say they are disregarded by the French-speaking majority in the country and for three years they have been battling with the government forces in the English-speaking regions trying to create a separate state called “Ambazonia”.
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However, it is unlikely that one of the biggest rebel groups, Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF) will join in the ceasefire anytime soon.
Chief mediator Alexandre Liebeskind, from the conflict resolution group Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, told the BBC that the ADF had declined to join the negotiations.
“They are the only group which refused to join the process,” he said. He still hoped that the other rebel groups will follow Socadef’s footsteps and adhere to the ceasefire.
Chi Chi Izundu, a BBC West Africa reporter expressed concerns saying she doesn’t see this move by one Anglophone separatist group ending the ‘long and bloody conflict’ but on the brighter side, it is a beacon of hope amid the dark times the country is experiencing.
The ongoing fight in the North-West and South-West regions has claimed at least 3,000 lives and forced over 700,000 people to evacuate their homes with thousands more migrating across the border into Nigeria.
Most of the displaced people are at risk of contracting the coronavirus and with little to no chances of being treated. Cameroon’s health ministry has confirmed 75 cases of COVID-19 so far with one death.
Mr Liebeskind said the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue is also appealing to militias stationed in other parts of Africa, particularly in the Sahel and Central African Republic. He hopes they would stand down and allow a “better response to the coronavirus” as well as “lead to some kind of politically negotiated solution”.
“To do my job you need to be an optimist,” Mr Liebeskind stated, adding: “Sitting in Africa, I am particularly concerned because it’s a fragile continent. The economic and social consequences [of coronavirus] could be devastating if it is not quickly contained.”