Cameroon denies asking for help to mediate separatist conflict

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Yaounde

YAOUNDE (Reuters) -Cameroon's government said it had not asked any country to mediate in its conflict with Anglophone separatists, despite Canada saying it had received a request to work on a peace process.

Canada's foreign ministry said it had accepted a mandate to facilitate talks between Cameroonian authorities and some separatist factions in English-speaking regions to resolve a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people since 2017.

But, in a statement on Monday that did not directly mention Canada, Cameroon's government said it had "not entrusted any foreign country or external entity with any role of mediator or facilitator to settle the crisis".

A spokesperson for the Anglophone separatists, who are trying to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia in minority English-speaking regions, said they had taken note of the government's latest statement but would not comment further.

They had previously said they were committed to a negotiated process mandated by Canada.

Adrien Blanchard, the press secretary of Canada's foreign affairs ministry, told Reuters some meetings had already taken place involving the "relevant parties".

"I can confirm three meetings were held in Canada with the relevant parties, including representatives of the Government of Cameroon," Blanchard said via email, adding that Canada would continue to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, said on Twitter on Monday that it welcomed Canada's announcement of talks to resolve the crisis.

Cameroon's separatist movement stems from the perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking community by the French-speaking majority.

Since 2017, factions of secessionist militias have been battling government troops in the two English-speaking regions, which has killed thousands and displaced nearly 800,000 people. Meanwhile some 600,000 children do not have full access to education, according to the Canadian government.

A 2019 national dialogue granted special status to the two Anglophone regions but failed to resolve the conflict.

(Reporting by Amindeh Blaise Atabong, Additional reporting and writing by Sofia Christensen and Alessandra Prentice; editing by Grant McCool and Timothy Heritage)