Cameroon Tense On Anglophone ‘Independence’ Anniversary

 

Cameroon’s restive anglophone regions were in lockdown on Monday as separatists marked the first anniversary of a symbolic “independence” declaration just a week before a nationwide presidential poll.

A 48-hour curfew was imposed on English-speaking towns in the regions which have been rocked by deadly clashes sparked by the majority francophone country’s sensitive linguistic divide.

Gunfire was reported on Monday in the flashpoint town of Buea in the country’s southwest which has been at the heart of the nascent insurgency.

In other English-speaking areas, shops and bars were ordered to close, meetings of more than four people were banned and transport was suspended.

On October 1, 2017 at least 40 pro-anglophone protesters were killed by police according to analysts at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank which said that “tens of thousands of demonstrators” took to the streets.

The worst-affected towns — Buea, and Bamenda, the capital of the northwest region — were flooded with security forces who arrested dozens of suspects following a symbolic “independence” declaration.

“The army killed lots of people on October 1. For nearly two weeks they shot at people like they were birds,” the bishop of Buea, Emmanuel Bushu, said at the time.

The flag of the self-styled Republic of Ambazonia replaced the Cameroonian colours in a number of villages in the anglophone region with separatist fighters vowing to make the switch permanent.

The conflict continues unabated one year on. Cameroonian security forces are deployed to the region in massive numbers and the strength of the secessionists has grown exponentially.

There are now more than 1,000 separatist fighters, according to the ICG, who control “a significant proportion of rural areas and main roads” in the anglophone region.

Attacks on polling stations?

A spike in attacks on symbols of the Cameroonian state including killings of police and kidnappings of civil servants has forced functionaries in several areas to flee.

By comparison, not one official has fled the country’s far north despite repeated attacks by the Nigeria-based jihadist group Boko Haram since 2014.

Yaounde said in September that it wanted to return officials who had abandoned their posts “because of insecurity” in anglophone areas.

But a week before Cameroonians head to the ballot box, anglophone separatists vow that there will be no election in their areas next Sunday.

Cameroonian officials responded by insisting that polling would be held in all 360 of the country’s districts.

The anglophone regions have historically been a reliable pool of votes for the main opposition Social democratic front (SDF) party — an anglophone force.

In an effort to limit the risk of attacks on polling stations, the Elecam electoral commission will relocate a number of voting centres.

Voters from the anglophone regions already face obstacles in casting their ballots as the UN estimates that 246,000 people have fled their homes in the southwest for other parts of Cameroon.

More than 25,000 others are refugees in neighbouring Nigeria.

Spreading ‘trouble’

There are no figures for the scale of the displacement in the northwest region and daily clashes alongside official restrictions complicate the work of humanitarian organisations and journalists.

The security forces who have been drafted in to battle what President Paul Biya describes as a “secessionist movement” spreading “trouble” have suffered 170 fatalities since 2017 at the hands of the separatists.

At least 400 civilians have also lost their lives according to NGOs while no estimate exists for the separatist death toll.

As polling day has drawn closer the situation has deteriorated with the start of the new school year disrupted at the beginning of September.

At least one teacher has been killed, another maimed and several schools have come under attack.

Buea has been on the frontline of clashes between separatist fighters and the security forces.

Last week several civilians were killed by the military, according to witnesses including a taxi driver and a shopkeeper who were themselves subsequently killed, according to local sources, taking the toll to eight.

An indefinite nighttime curfew remains in force in the northwest following an attack on a convoy of buses in a suburb of Bamenda at the beginning of September.

AFP

Cameroon’s Anglophone Leader Handed 15-Year Jail Sentence For ‘Terrorism’

Alleged Bribery: Witness Testifies As Rickey Tarfa’s Trial Continues

 

A leader of Cameroon’s English-speaking community was handed a 15-year prison sentence on Friday over his alleged role in the anglophones’ fight for their rights in the French-majority country.

The military court in Yaounde found radio journalist Mancho “BBC” Bibixy guilty of “acts of terrorism, hostility against the homeland, secession, revolution and insurrection”, an AFP reporter said.

Bibixy was among several activists arrested last January after anti-government protests erupted in the two main English-speaking provinces, known as the Northwest and the Southwest Regions.

The anglophone minority — which dates back to the colonial period and makes up about a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 22 million — has long complained about suffering discrimination at the hands of the French-speaking government.

Bibixy is one of the voices associated with a radical movement in the anglophone town of Bamenda in the Northwest.

Five other anglophones on trial alongside the journalist received jail terms ranging from 10 to 15 years on Friday, while one other person was acquitted.

The six convicted were also ordered to pay a joint fine of 268 million CFA francs (398,000 euros) and must also pay the legal fees.

“The decision is excessive and pointless because it will not resolve the problem” of Cameroon’s anglophone crisis, said Claude Assira, one of the lawyers representing the accused.

He told AFP he would appeal the decision.

The conflict spiralled after President Paul Biya, in power for more than 35 years, rejected demands for greater autonomy.

His refusal prompted separatists to declare independence in October 2017.

Since then, violence between armed anglophone rebels and government forces occurs almost daily in the restive provinces.

Abductions have been proliferating, with officials, foreigners and locals alike targeted.

AFP

Cameroon President Warns Anglophone ‘Band Of Terrorists’

File photo: Cameroon’s President Paul Biya

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has denounced “repeated attacks by a band of terrorists” blamed for killing six members of the security forces in a secessionist campaign in anglophone regions.

“I learned with emotion of the murder of four Cameroonian soldiers and two policemen in the southwest of our country,” Biya said late Thursday on his return from an African Union-European Union summit in Ivory Coast.

“I think that things are now clear to everyone. Cameroon is the victim of repeated attacks by a band of terrorists claiming to be part of a secessionist movement,” he charged in a national radio broadcast.

Mounting violence in the English-speaking west of the mainly francophone country claimed the lives of five police officers and five soldiers during the month of November, according to an official tally.

Resentment over perceived discrimination and a tough crackdown on separatist political forces has provoked secessionist demands in anglophone regions, which account for about a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 22 million.

“Confronted with these acts of aggression, I would like to reassure the Cameroonian people that all steps are being taken to incapacitate these criminals and to make sure that peace and security are safeguarded over the whole extent of national territory,” Biya declared.

The authorities have already imposed night-time curfews, restrictions on movement, raids and body searches, as well as a bid by the government in Yaounde to reach out to the anglophone community for political dialogue.

Biya has been president of the central African country since 1982, after serving as prime minister to founding president Ahmadou Ahidjo, who created a unified state out of territory that was divided between French and British colonial rulers before independence in 1960.

AFP

Four Cameroon Soldiers Killed In Restive Anglophone Region

 Four Cameroonian soldiers were killed by suspected separatists in a restive English-speaking region early Wednesday, army and government sources said.

“Four soldiers were killed around 2am around Mamfe,” a city in the country’s Southwest Region, according to an army source.

“They murdered our soldiers. If that’s not terrorism, what is it?” the source said angrily.

The deaths were confirmed by a government source, although the circumstances were not given.

The bloodshed is the latest episode in an escalating crisis in the Southwest and Northwest regions, home to a large minority of English-speakers in the francophone-majority nation.

Eight members of the security forces have been killed this month alone.

Resentment among anglophones over perceived discrimination has fed a spiral of political demands and a crackdown, leading to calls for secession.

On October 1, a breakaway movement issued a symbolic declaration of independence for their putative state of “Ambazonia,” led by Sisiku Ayuk.

President Paul Biya fiercely opposes secession or a return to Cameroon’s former federal structure.

The campaign against the separatists has led to night-time curfews, restrictions on movement, raids and body searches, as well as an attempt by the central government in Yaounde to reach out to the anglophone community for political dialogue.

At least 14 civilians have died, as well as five prisoners who were killed while trying to escape jail, according to a toll compiled by AFP.

International monitors, in contrast, say at least 20 and possibly 40 people have been killed since late September.

English-speakers comprise about a fifth of the country’s 22 million people and often say they suffer from economic inequality and discrimination, especially in education and the legal system.

The anglophone presence in Cameroon is rooted in the colonial past of West Africa.

France and Britain divided up the former German colony under League of Nations mandates after World War I.

A year after the French-ruled territory became independent in 1961, the southern part of British Cameroons was integrated into a federal system.

That structure was scrapped 11 years later in favour of a “united republic”.

AFP

Curfew Clashes In Cameroon’s Anglophone Region Injure Four

Cameroon police officials with riot equipment patrol along a street in the administrative quarter of Buea some 60kms west of Douala. Photo: STRINGER / AFP

At least four people, including a police officer, were injured during overnight clashes in an English-speaking region of Cameroon, in which gunshots were heard ringing out despite a curfew imposed to contain an escalating crisis. sources said Sunday.

A source close to the security services said the officer received a gunshot wound near the Food Market in Bamenda, a city of 300,000 people in the mountains of western Cameroon that is the epicentre of anglophone resentment of perceived discrimination by the country’s French-speaking majority.

The officer’s life was not in danger, the source said, without providing further details on the skirmishes between “extremists” and the police.

Two other men were injured in the clashes, one of whom said he was “beaten by the police” in the Ntarikon neighbourhood where he was to meet with opposition leader John Fru Ndi, whose power base is Bamenda.

The other man and a woman suffered gunshot wounds.

“There were shots all night long,” a resident said at the Food Market, where police began taking up positions at several entrances at 8:00 am (0700 GMT) on Sunday, prompting businesses to close up shop.

“That’s it for today, I won’t open again,” a fishmonger said.

“Here, the police fired off several shots. I picked up a shell casing. They hit several shopowners right in front of me,” the manager of a cafeteria in the market said of the overnight clashes.

The authorities imposed the 10:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew for Bamenda on November 8 after three paramilitary police were murdered, and it is set to remain in place until November 23.

Police have been carrying out nightly patrols to enforce the controls, sometimes making arrests, but it was the first night of violence since the curfew was put in place.

But tensions have been building since last Saturday, when a fourth gendarme was killed, and after four homemade bombs exploded around the city at the start of the week, though nobody was hurt, in attacks the government has attributed to anglophone separatists.

“The situation is worrying. We ourselves are threatened,” a police officer in Bamenda told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They are targeting gendarmes in particular because they do not consider the gendarmerie a recognise force in the anglo-saxon system. They say the gendarmerie shouldn’t exist in their ‘territory’,” he said.

Calls for greater autonomy in Cameroon’s two English-speaking areas, the Northwest and Southwest Regions, have been rejected by President Paul Biya and followed by a government crackdown on the separatist drive.

Anglophones make up about a fifth of the country’s 22 million people, and often say they suffer from economic inequality and discrimination, especially in education and the legal system.

AFP

Cameroon Imposes Curfew On Troubled Anglophone City

Cameroon police officials with riot equipment patrol along a street in the administrative quarter of Buea some 60kms west of Douala on. AFP. STRINGER / AFP

Authorities in Cameroon have imposed a night-time curfew and ordered the closure of shops and public places in the main city in a region rocked by unrest among the country’s anglophone minority.

The measure applies to the city of Bamenda, the hub of Northwest Region, where two policemen were killed on Tuesday, a day after an officer was gunned down in a nearby town.

Under a decree issued by the local prefect, obtained on Thursday by AFP, all movement of people and vehicles in Bamenda is being banned from November 8 to 23, from 10 pm to 5 am.

In a separate decision, the authorities also said that shops and public spaces would be closed during this period.

The measures threaten punishment against “any person or group” who violate the restrictions. The curb on freedom of movement does not apply to vehicles used by the government, security forces or emergency services.

On Wednesday, two gendarmes were killed while on guard duty in Bamenda and a civilian killed, according to concurring sources.

The killings came a day after a fellow policeman was shot dead in Jakiri, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) to the east, while he was pursuing men who attacked a school, according to local officials.

The assaults have been blamed on “secessionist terrorists” — the government’s term for armed militants demanding that Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions break away from the francophone-majority country.

Cameroon has a large anglophone community which comprises about a fifth of its population of 22 million.

Gathered mainly in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, many English speakers say they suffer economic inequality and discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority, particularly in education and justice.

On October 1, a breakaway movement issued a symbolic declaration of independence for their putative state of “Ambazonia”.

President Paul Biya fiercely opposes secession or a return to Cameroon’s former federal structure.

The agitation began at the end of 2016 but has recently met with a crackdown that has alarmed human-rights watchdogs.

At least 14 people have died in clashes, as well as five prisoners who were killed while trying to escape jail, according to a toll compiled by AFP.

International monitors, in contrast, say at least 20 and possibly 40 people have been killed in clashes since late September.

According to the privately owned newspaper Le Jour, the Cameroonian authorities have issued international arrest warrants for 15 anglophone separatists who live abroad, including Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the head of the putative state.

AFP

Cameroon Probes Deadly Unrest In Restive Anglophone Region

Cameroon has launched a probe into recent deadly violence linked to a symbolic declaration of independence in the West African nation’s English-speaking region, the defence minister said Friday.

“Apart from the material damage, precise enquiries have been opened by judicial authorities on the toll,” Defence Minister Joseph Beti Assomo said on state radio.

According to an AFP tally, 14 people died in violence in the run-up to the symbolic October 1 declaration of independence of Ambazonia, the name of the state the separatists want to create.

However Amnesty International has given a toll of 17.

Cameroonian authorities have said that security forces did not open fire during the demonstrations.

Read Also: ‘At Least 17 killed In Cameroon Anglophone Unrest’

Assomo had on Thursday visited Buea, the main city in the English-speaking southwest region, where he headed a meeting to review security.

Cameroon’s anglophone-francophone rift dates back to 1961 when the British-administered Southern Cameroons united with Cameroon after its independence from France in 1960.

The English speakers complain they have suffered decades of economic inequality and social injustice at the hands of the French-speaking majority.

Anglophones account for about a fifth of the 22 million population.

AFP

‘At Least 17 killed In Cameroon Anglophone Unrest’

Cameroon police officials with riot equipment patrol along a street in the administrative quarter of Buea some 60kms west of Douala on October 1, 2017. STRINGER / AFP

At least 17 people were killed over the weekend in clashes linked to a symbolic declaration of independence by Cameroon’s anglophone minority, sources said on Monday.

Amnesty International said “at least” 17 people were killed by security forces in the country’s two English-speaking regions, a figure that concurred with a toll given by official sources, who added that two Nigerians were among the dead.

Separately, the governor of the Northwest Region, which with the Southwest Region comprises the chief anglophone area, said on state radio that 11 had died in his region.

An earlier tally compiled by AFP put the death toll at seven, who were shot dead by security forces.

English-speakers, who comprise about a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 22 million, say they suffer discrimination and inequality at the hands of the francophone majority — a resentment that led to a symbolic declaration of independence on Sunday.

President Paul Biya has opposed any secession or move to a federal state.

Cameroon was a German colony from 1884 until 1919, when it was split into British- and French-run entities at the end of World War I.

The anglophone-francophone rift of today dates back to 1961, when the British-administered Southern Cameroons united with Cameroon after it gained independence from France in 1960.

AFP

New Speaker Emerges At ECOWAS Parliament

ECOWASA new Speaker has been sworn in at the ECOWAS parliament alongside 115 new members of the regional parliament.

This was at the inaugural session of the 4th legislature of the ECOWAS parliament.

Senegalese born Moustapha Cisse-Lo who emerged unopposed, was unanimously elected by the Anglophone and Francophone member states to steer the wheels of the parliament for the next four years.

Taking over the reins of the parliament, Mr Cisse-Lo has the charge to see to the adoption of the supplementary act to enhance the powers of the regional parliament. This is among other tasks on regional security, development and trade.

The outgoing Speaker, Ike Ekweremadu set a major task for his incumbent; the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS parliament which he said was long overdue.

This charge was echoed by the Nigerian Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who said that the regional parliament has a task to recreate the sub-region with trade, infrastructural development and security at the front burner.

The new Speaker gave credence to the decision of the parliamentarians to elect him as he promised his determination to succeed with the tasks ahead.