Bamenda (Cameroon) (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.