Tension is high in Cameroon as armed security forces sealed off a market district in Bamenda that’s been the site of ongoing protests by Anglophone activists.
Cameroon media say that angry business owners blocked from entering their shops gathered outside the market, the site of weekly boycotts in what is now a year-long movement led by English-speaking leaders who began publicly pressing for reforms in October 2016. Authorities want to put an end to “ghost town” protests with the show of force.
The Anglophone effort, led by Cameroonian professionals seeking to address identified political, economic and social inequalities in their communities, has been met with resistance by President Paul Biya’s Francophone government.
Cameroon has been an issue of growing concern for the United Nations, human rights organizations and other NGOs who warn of an escalating crisis. What began with rallies and protests led to political violence, deaths, mass detentions and arrests, repression of journalists and other human rights issues. It also led to a costly, months-long Internet shutdown earlier this year.
The government banned the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) and any related groups while arresting its leaders in January. Lawyer Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, the president of the Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, and Dr. Fontem Neba, the group’s secretary general, remain among the growing number of detainees.
In recent weeks, Anglophone schools in Bamenda closed most of the year during the crisis have been set on fire. Analysts say the situation is deteriorating, with ominous signs of the potential for increased violence ahead of next year’s general elections.
In Cameroon, tensions between French-speaking communities and the Anglophone minority have existed for decades, at times –and again – leading to regional calls for secession. The cultural rift extends beyond language and is rooted in how Cameroon evolved after colonialism.
Image: Contra Nocendi/Cameroon file