Cameroon armed forces and separatists have the Anglophone region on lockdown ahead of elections

Quartz Africa | On Monday Oct. 1, Cameroon’s Anglophone separatists marked the first anniversary of their self-declared breakaway state, the Federal Republic of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) in a somber mood. This was a marked difference from last year’s outpouring of celebrations and rhetoric by locals to unilaterally and symbolically declare independence of Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions.

That was because both the Cameroon government and the separatists themselves had decreed a total lockdown for the date, Oct. 1 and beyond—with an eye on a contentious national election less than a week away.

In order to circumvent the type of massive mobilization of English speakers which saw thousands on the streets last year, the government placed restrictions on movement. In the north-west region, movement of persons from one sub-division to another was prohibited for a period of 48 hours, spanning from Sunday Sept. 30 to Monday Oct. 1. The public gathering of more than four people was also temporarily outlawed. This added to a dusk-to-dawn curfew earlier in place.

The governor of the north-west region, Lele Lafrique Tchoffo Deben Adolphe said the temporary restriction of movement of people was an “appropriate measure taken to guarantee security of its citizens and their properties before, during and after this day [Oct. 1].”

In the south-west region, similar restrictions, including shutting down of all businesses, suspension of socio-cultural meetings, closure of motor parks and ban on circulation, were instituted by local administrators.

However, despite the measures, pro-independence English-speaking Cameroonians hoisted the blue-white flags of Ambazonia, and chanted their national anthem in some towns like Muyuka, Santa, Pinyin, Fontem, Ndu, Bafut, and even in far-off London where demonstrations took place.

For their part, separatists started enforcing a lockdown expected to end on Oct. 10, in a bid to frustrate political campaigns and a presidential poll on Oct. 7 in the two English-speaking regions.

The lockdown and the fear of being caught up in fresh clashes sparked the mass exit of people. Thousands of residents in the north-west and south-west regions have crossed over to the French-speaking parts of the country while others have gone abroad. In the south-west region alone, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 246,000 people have been internally displaced, with a further 21,000 having cross over the border to Nigeria as refugees.

To enforce the lockdown, separatists have sabotaged bridges linking different localities and used trees to block major highways in the restive areas. On Sept. 30, no fewer than five vehicles were set ablaze along the Kumba-Mamfe road and the wreckages used to block the road. Gunshots were also heard in towns like Buea and Bamenda, while clashes between the warring parties get more frequent and deadly.

Armed separatists are determined to forestall any election in “their region.” However, Paul Atanga Nji, Minister of Territorial Administration has said the presidential poll will take place across all 360 sub-divisions of the country, including those in the embattled English-speaking regions.

The race for president involves nine contenders, including incumbent Paul Biya, 85, who is seeking to extend his 36-year rule by another seven years. Biya is campaigning on his “force of experience” to floor his eight challengers in the Oct. 7 poll. There is little likelihood the incumbent won’t win. Besides the fact that Transparency International says elections in Cameroon are often marked by irregularities, the challengers will have to share opposition votes, giving Biya an edge in a one-round election in which one requires just the highest number of votes to emerge winner.

President Paul Biya has reiterated his resolve to end the conflict which started as a modest protest by English speakers against real and perceived marginalization by his Francophone-dominated government. While launching his bid for re-election in the northern city of Maroua, on Sept. 29, he claimed the state had overcome the toughest ordeal in the conflict-ridden regions.

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7 comments

  1. Lock down or not is not really what matters much.what count is who wins the current military confrontation?

  2. Brown Sugar ( Abuja )

    One of the strongest dictator till standing tall, at 85 Paul Biya is still leading the once beautiful country in Africa, now ravaged by continues cling to power backed by selfishly polices that have no pathways to both economic and industrial development.

    Sad as it maybe to know that, cameroonians of all ages can only boast of knowing just two or one president throughout their life time for now till something dramatically and drastically happens.

    Paul Biya has lost all the charisma and reputations that makes him one of the envied in Africa partly due to his autocratic self-style.

    The Anglophone problem just like others around the world is centred around bad leadership, marginalization, excessive use of state power and resources to oppress opposition, press and powerful citizen. #Shame

  3. Even without the Amba crisis Biya is illegitimate since 1992 and he knows it. That’s why I focus on his ouster much more than being an Amba adherent. I still know that the Anglophone situation is a legitimate one.
    Biya has made Cameroon the most socially/ politically primitive country in Africa especially as Ouattara is stepping down with Biya having six years to go. He is proving to Cameroonians that he is untouchable & powerful, a very dark legacy for a man who’s spent many years kowtowing the French to stay in power at the cost of peace and harmony in a country that wanted to be together. Toxic power is weak.

    Biya doesn’t care how history will judge him. He is that apathetic to his legacy. All he cares is who to protect his family as he shadows into the twilight. Greed beyond measure.

  4. biya on his way to leave lrc ten times worse off than what he inherited. Here are some examples, Camair, Douala airport, Sonara, failed higher education system, Rail system, roads, two unwanted wars; paid boko haram a ransom and foolishly ambushed them; teachers and lawyers protest and you send out “pee”. Ahidjo did twice as much in half the time as this lazy, incompetent, narcissist, thief has done. Good for him to see with his own eyes his failures, no more hiding in Geneva and riding around in a million dollar bullet proof Range Rover.

  5. With the above comments, where are those who see biya / cpdm as the only solutions?

    • Country people, this chanting and rattling will not help us in any way. The fact of the matter you cowards is that, Paul Biya is still there after 38years. Instead of rattling and shanting, let us go back home pick up arms join the AMBA boys and fight to the last man and kick him out. Why are we hiding in the diaspora and continue acting like keyboard heroes

      • Truth and Facts

        @Speare
        because we never focus. We don’t like talking about solutions. We rather talk all day long using big empty words about the problem and never the solution.

        Even if we know the solution, we are cowards and would rather want someone else to solve the problem for us. Don’t forget at the end of the day a bottle of beer is always solving all of our problems.

        But again, if one among us try to implement the solution and expose the cowardness of the others… that person becomes the target.

        Finally, we are all too selfish and too divided to do anything as group not even to mention as a nation.

        No way @Zam Zam would ever go back with me to try to kick out Biya. I am only left with @Bikutsi to try and find a solution and even she too abandons me from time to time. You get the point?

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