CAMEROON - Death toll rises in Anglophone regions after severe repression

Press release
en fr

Paris – Bamenda – Douala, 5 October 2017 – The outbreak of violence since 1 October in the Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon has resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of people injured, while several dozen remain imprisoned. REDHAC has received reports of 30 people killed, following the use of real bullets and excessive use of tear gas by defence and security forces. FIDH, MHDC and REDHAC are calling upon the authorities to put an end to this repression, to shed light on the outbreak of violence over the past several days and to prosecute those responsible.

The violence that has occurred with the repression of protests surrounding the 56th anniversary of the reunification of Cameroon on 1 October 2017 has led to the deaths of dozens in the Northwest and Southwest of the country. REDHAC has received reports of 30 people killed, after the use of real bullets and excessive use of tear gas, which can cause death by asphyxiation. The first four deaths reported to REDHAC were victims of the violence on 28 September in Ekona in the Southwest, during raids organised by security forces in the run-up to the protests set to take place on 1 October.

The vast majority of deaths, however, occurred on 1 October in Bamenda, Buea and Limbe, in the Northwest of the country, when large groups of unarmed protesters were dispersed by defence and security forces shooting real bullets. This repression was also felt in many other places, including Mamfé, Tombel, Kumba and Akwayafé, where police forces are said to have violently burst into private properties and arrested large numbers of people.

For example, on Sunday 1 October in the village of Akwaya, located in a very isolated area of the department of Manyu, around ten heavily armed and uniformed men broke into the home of Mr. Paul Ayah Abine, Lord Justice of the Supreme Court of Cameroon. Having broken down the front door, they threw in tear gas canisters and ransacked his house, firing their guns. When they could not find him, they went to the home of his sister, Sophia Ayah, which they entered after shooting at the door, and proceeded to raid and ransack. Other houses in the neighbourhood were then looted and pillaged.

Accounts of arrests and detentions report the inhuman and degrading treatment meted out by police forces and the military. Dozens of people are also reported missing.

"It is unacceptable that peaceful protests should be dispersed with bullets. The violent repression taking place will not solve the issues raised by the protest movements of the Anglophone minority. On the contrary, it runs the risk of exacerbating tensions, radicalising stances and escalating violence. Inquiries into the bloody repression over the past few days must immediately be sped up, as a matter of urgency, and those responsible must be brought to justice"

Paul NSAPU, FIDH Secretary General

Despite the relative calm since last Sunday’s violence, several people are still being subjected to arrests and acts of intimidation. This tension is not limited to the Southwest and Northwest regions. In Yaoundé, in neighbourhoods mainly inhabited by English speakers, raids and arrests in private houses are reported to have been conducted without warrants. A decree has been issued by the governors of these two regions, imposing restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, assembly and protest on the whole of civil society. Internet access has once again been suspended. Despite the expiration of these administrative measures, tensions persist.

For a year now, the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon have been the site of protest movements demanding that greater attention be paid to the rights and cultural specificities of the Anglophone minority (20% of the population), who feel marginalised by central power. Faced with the lack of dialogue, as well as arrests and repression, some movements are now demanding a return to federalism or access to independence. Until now, the government has resisted numerous calls to invite the different parties to an inclusive dialogue, leading to a headlong rush into violence.

«Faced with the tensions of the past weeks and the surge of violence on 1 October 2017, it is imperative that protesters, political and community leaders and the media avoid spreading hateful and incendiary rhetoric, which would only aggravate the situation. Only dialogue, appeasement and restraint can create a framework conducive to discussion and the resolution of the current crisis, with due regard to the fundamental rights protected by the Cameroonian Constitution.»

Maximilienne NGO MBE from REDHAC
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