President Paul Biya. (Patrick Kovarik/AFP)
Cameroon imposed a 48-hour curfew on its English-speaking regions a day ahead of the one-year anniversary of a symbolic “independence” declaration by anglophone separatists, officials said on Sunday.
The anniversary on Monday will kick off a crucial week for the country which heads to the polls next Sunday to vote in an election that anglophone secessionists have threatened to disrupt.
“The movement of people between areas in the northwest is banned for a period of 48 hours from Sunday, September 30 until Monday, October 1,” said Adolphe Lele Lafrique, governor of the largely English-speaking northwest region.
Similar measures were in force across Cameroon’s other anglophone areas, officials told AFP.
Hundreds of civilians and dozens of security forces are understood to have been killed in the majority French-speaking country’s anglophone northwest and southwest this year.
In October 2017, radical anglophone leaders declared a “Republic of Ambazonia” in the two English-speaking regions which were incorporated into francophone Cameroon in 1961.
In Buea, a town in the southwest that has been at the heart of the nascent anglophone insurgency, officials also announced a raft “of special security measures”.
According to a directive issued by a district official which was seen by AFP, all shops and bars will be closed throughout Sunday and Monday.
The order also affects all cultural, social and sporting activities as well as public and private forms of transport, it said.
The two-day curfew also affects the southwestern coastal towns of Limbe and Tiko, said a separate order seen by AFP.
Surge of bloody attacks
Last year’s independence declaration marked the start of a crisis that has cast a shadow over the October 7 elections, in which 85-year-old President Paul Biya, who has ruled the country for 35 years, is seeking a seventh term in office.
Biya responded to the nascent insurgency with a crackdown which has seen separatists responding with a surge of bloody attacks in which they have killed troops and police and torched schools and other symbols of the Cameroonian state.
Divisions between the anglophone regions and Cameroon’s authorities dates back a century to when Britain and France occupied Cameroon, taking over Germany’s principal colony in West Africa.
The two countries divided it into separate spheres of influence that were later formalised by the League of Nations, the forerunner to the UN.
The much larger French colony gained independence in 1960.
A year later, the British colony also gained independence. Some of the English-speaking areas chose to join newly-formed Nigeria, others to become part of the federation of Cameroon.
© Agence France-Presse