YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Cameroon says it has created a committee to disarm and reintegrate hundreds of separatist fighters and Boko Haram terrorists who put down their weapons. But analysts say the committee has a long road ahead in English-speaking regions, where fighting between the government and separatists has intensified.
Ngoran Nora read the names of 30 people whose homes were set on fire before she escaped Thursday from the northwest town of Kumbo. She told her community members in Yaounde that the military killed at least 15 people in the villages of Meluf, Kikaikom, Mbveh and Tooy over two days after gunmen engaged them in battle.
She said soldiers might have targeted people they suspect collaborate with separatists, or did not inform them about the fighters' presence in the villages.
The violence comes less than a week after President Paul Biya created a national committee for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former Boko Haram fighters in the far north and former separatist fighters in northwest and southwest regions.
The government said the committee was created to assist hundreds of former fighters who heeded Biya's call to drop their guns and be pardoned, or killed by the military.
Joseph Motaze, political analyst with the Cameroon-based Center for the Rehabilitation of Former Fighters, said the committee is a good first step. But he suggested that Biya should reduce the military's presence in the northwest and southwest regions to show he is ready to make peace.
He said it is imperative for the government to start negotiating with armed groups in the restive English-speaking regions and immediately drop the idea of using war as a solution to the crisis.
He added that the fighters are becoming violent to a point where they are kidnapping and killing people who do not share their views, and taking administrators hostage to make the area totally ungovernable.
The armed groups want to form an independent English-speaking state. The majority of Cameroon's population speaks French.
Francis Fai Yengo, a retired civil administrator appointed to head the disarmament committee, said he will need the support of everyone to be able to succeed.
He said he has to set to work immediately because the task ahead of him is enormous.
He called on all Cameroonians to propose ideas and contribute to the peace initiative so that all of the youths who have taken up weapons can make wise decisions to emerge from the bushes and live like peaceful citizens in their own country - Cameroon.
The separatist war has killed more than 1,200 people, according to the government.