English speakers take to the streets in Cameroon

 22 Sep 2017 - 19:20

English speakers take to the streets in Cameroon
FILE PHOTO: Fontem Afortekaa Neba and Felix Agbor Balla, two Anglophone activists leaders, prepare to sign a document during their release at the prison of Yaounde, Cameroon, September 1, 2017. (Reuters)

AFP

Yaoundé:  Several thousand demonstrators took to the streets in English-speaking parts of Cameroon in protest at perceived discrimination in favour of the country's francophone majority, concurring sources said.

"Several thousand people have been marching in Bamenda," the main town in northwest Cameroon and the hub of anglophone agitation, a source close to the regional authorities said, requesting anonymity.

State radio announced that the authorities in the English-speaking northwest had banned all street demonstrations and internal movement within the region's departments (counties) until October 3.

Several sources said police were heavily deployed in Bamenda.

"The demonstrators arrived at the entrance to the university campus," a university teacher who saw the incident told AFP.

"They sang and raised the flag" of Ambazonia, the name given to a sought-after independent state.

"They then took down their flag and carried on marching, without incident. The shops in town are closed," he said.

Other rallies took place in parts of southwestern Cameroun, where there is also a substantial anglophone population, sources said.

A fifth of Cameroon's 22 million people is anglophone -- a legacy of the unification in 1961 of two colonial-era entities previously run by France and Britain.

English-speakers have long complained that Cameroon's wealth has not been shared out fairly and that they suffer discrimination.

Special grievances are about education and the judicial system, where they say the French language and legal system are imposed on them.

Several schools have been torched in Bamenda since the start of the school year in early September.

Most campaigners want the country to resume a federalist system -- an approach that followed independence in 1960 but was later scrapped -- but a hardline minority is calling for secession. On social media, some have been calling for October 1 to be symbolically named independence day.

The country's president, Paul Biya, 84, who has been in power since 1982 is opposed to both federalism and secession.

Several hundred troops were deployed to anglophone regions in August after some separatists announced via social media that an armed pro-independence group had been set up.

But the same month, Biya also sought to ease tensions by calling off prosecution of anglophone leaders on charges of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and revolution.