A group of young Cameroonian ‘patriots’ staged a demonstration in front of the French embassy in Yaoundé on Monday, protesting against utterances by the French President, Emmanuel Macron that “intolerable human rights violations” were taking place in the former colony.
The remarks were largely being seen as a ridicule for 87-year-old President Paul Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for nearly four decades.
With almost everyone waving the Cameroon national flag, the group of mainly youthful men, carried banners with messages calling on President Macron to apologise to Cameroonians and its leader, for the “insulting and unacceptable” remarks and cease meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
In a video that went viral on Saturday, the French president is seen telling a Cameroonian activist, Mr Abdoulaye Thiam, who goes by the nickname Calibri Calibro, that he had previously ordered President Biya to release opposition leader Maurice Kamto from jail as a precondition to meet him in Lyon, France on the sidelines of the Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment Conference to step up the fight against Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
Prof Kamto, the president of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), who claimed he won the 2018 presidential elections but his victory was stolen, was released in October last year following a presidential amnesty. He had spent nine months in jail after he was arrested for organising and participating in what government termed unauthorised street protests.
“I told President Biya that if we must meet in Lyon, Kamto has to be freed, and he [Kamto] was freed because we put pressure on him[Biya],” President Macron boasted.
After the Lyon meeting, President Biya told the press that he had reported to the French leader about certain issues including the reforms within the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and the release of some political prisoners.
President Macron told Calibro in the video that he would call President Biya and pressurise him to end the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
More than 3,000 people have died and at least 700,000 others forced out of their homes and seeking shelter either in the bushes or other cities following a bloody conflict between government troops and armed separatist fighting for the separation of the two English speaking regions and the creation of a breakaway state called Ambazonia.
The UN said at least 30 people, including children and pregnant women, were killed and others burnt in their homes in the Northwest on Valentine’s Day, and the Cameroonian activist asked the French president about the killings, saying there was an ongoing genocide in Cameroon.
The opposition and rights activists described the killings as a massacre and blamed it on government troops, but the latter denied wrongdoing, blaming the deaths on an "unfortunate accident" caused by an explosion of fuel during a gunfire exchange between forces and armed separatists.
Mr Peter Njume, a member of parliament of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), described the French president’s outing as a “huge diplomatic blunder by an immature head of state”.
France maintains a stranglehold over nearly all her former colonies in Africa, playing kingmaker in most cases and President Macron’s outing at the weekend again confirmed that many other leaders of francophone Africa, including Cameroon, were puppets; taking directives from him.