Security operatives in Cameroon have launched a crackdown on the Anglophone region of the country, to silence potential demonstrators who intend to file out to protest ill treatment and neglect by the predominantly Francophone government of President Paul Biya.
Reports say economic and social activities in the regions’ main cities, Buea and Bamenda, have been paralysed as military helicopters circle overhead and the (BIR), a unit that typically fights Islamist Boko Haram militants in the country’s north are said to be on the leash.
In Buea, police and soldiers rushed to the edge of the city early on Sunday and deployed water cannons to block a group of marchers arriving from a nearby town who chanted and waved the blue and white flag of the Ambazonia separatist movement.
“I now know that the Biya regime has been raising an army all these years to fight its own people,” said one Buea resident, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal.
“We are simply fighting for our rights but the military, which is supposed to protect lives and property, has turned into our greatest nightmare,” she said.
A three-day total lockdown has also been ordered as authorities have banned all gatherings of more than four people, ordered bus stations, eateries and shops to shut and forbade movement between divisions of its Anglophone region to prevent the protest.
The demonstrations – timed to take place on the anniversary of Anglophone Cameroon’s independence from Britain – came as a months-old movement against perceived marginalisation by the Francophone-dominated government gathered pace.
The protests, which began late last year, have become a lightning rod for opposition to President Paul Biya’s 35-year rule.
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