Biya draws the line in anglophone stand-off

I was chatting with an attorney buddy of mine some three months ago, back when the news of the day was about striking English-speaking lawyers. He said something that left me scratching my head.

“Biya better take us seriously,” he threatened. “If he doesn’t, this is only going to get worse; we will ask for more.”

That conversation left me wondering about the negotiation tactics employed by the striking lawyers.

It is like a gun-totting bank robber walking up to the teller, demanding $1 million, and threatening to ask for $5 million if he doesn’t get the $1 million right away.

Fast forward three months, and it seems the tough-talking guys are up the creek without a paddle. And, if you read the tea leaves from Mr. Biya’s Youth Day address this week, it appears the president is intent on throwing the book at the uprising, while leaving the door slightly ajar for those who want to operate within the law.

In his speech, Mr. Biya claims he “ordered a constructive dialogue between the Government and the trade unions concerned in order to find consensual solutions to the problems raised,” and that his government “has already taken some actions to implement the recommendations made by the committees I have just mentioned,” while promising that “other actions will follow.”

That remains to be seen, but, in talking about “the emergence of political demands by extremist and separatist organizations,” I suspect the president wants to lower the boom on those he believes are sowing civil unrest in the anglophone provinces.

“Preaching hate and violence, these organizations have committed or caused serious atrocities against citizens and damaged their property, as well as public buildings and utilities. They have embarked on a campaign of intimidation, threats and violence to disrupt the normal conduct of business and school activities,” he said.

With the promise that “measures to maintain order, protect citizens and their property and hand over to the judicial authorities those who committed or were suspected of committing these criminal acts” will continue, it appears things will only get worse for the uprising.

Mr. Biya has indeed taken them seriously, but not in the way my lawyer friend and his colleagues hoped.



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