Authorities in Cameroon announced Thursday that the army is being deployed to the country’s southwest Anglophone region ahead of planned protests on the country’s October 1 Unification Day.
The decision by President Paul Biya was announced in a communique issued by Bernard Okalia Bilai, the governor in the country’s troubled southwest. “The Head of State – Commander in Chief of National Defense Forces has ordered and mobilized the Army to protect the territorial integrity of the Nation as well as guarantee the security of all law-abiding persons and their property in conformity with the provisions of our Constitution,” the document said.
It also warns people to stay indoors and repeats that those engaged in public demonstrations or acts of destruction “will meet the firm reaction of the armed forces.” A communique on Wednesday, touching on the deadly September 22 protests in Mamfe, said that anyone on the streets after September 30 “shall be considered as terrorists to say the least and shall be treated as such.” The governor also sealed off the border with Nigeria.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement Thursday expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation. He called on Cameroon authorities to promote a national reconciliation process with the Anglophone regions of the southwest and northwest, where long-standing political and economic grievances are tied to the country’s legacy as two separate colonies, one British and English-speaking and the other French, before their unification.
Protests that originated with law and education professionals a year ago have led to the current calls for secession, with countless arrests and deaths and a lengthy Internet shutdown as clashes and boycotts escalated since last October. Biya’s government banned all Anglophone activist organizations in January.
Image: Contre Nocendi file