A 48-hour curfew imposed on the English-speaking regions of Cameroon entered second day Monday, as separatists marked the first anniversary of a symbolic declaration of the independence of the Republic of Ambazonia.
Authorities announced a temporary curb on travel and public meetings across the Northwest on Sunday, adding to a dusk-to-dawn curfew that has been effective in the region.
“Movement of people within the Northwest is hereby prohibited for a period of 48 hours from Sunday, September 30 until Monday, October 1," Northwest governor, Adolphe Lele Lafrique said in a statement.
“During this period, public gatherings and assembly of more than four persons shall be strictly forbidden…any person or persons who violate this order shall be prosecuted in conformity with the laws and regulations in force,” the governor’s statement stated.
Similar measures have been taken by the administration of the Southwest, the other troubled region.
Not even church services were allowed on Sunday.
Observers say the measures were intended to frustrate any attempts to commemorate the first anniversary of the ‘independence’ of the Republic of Ambazonia.
Anglophone separatist groups declared the independence of the Republic of Ambazonia on October 1, 2017 when protesters gathered across the two English-speaking regions to mark the symbolic declaration of the self-styled state and were confronted by police firing teargas canisters and live ammunition.
Formerly administered as part of Nigeria as a UN trust territory under British control, Southern Cameroon (today’s Northwest and Southwest regions) was incorporated into Francophone Cameroon in 1961.
At the beginning of the crisis in 2016, most English speaking activists demanded a return to the federal system of government, which followed the unification and was practiced up to 1972 when it was scrapped in favour of a central government. The demands had long morphed into outright secession with security forces repeatedly confronting armed separatists.
Amnesty International estimates that up to 400 civilians have been killed by both the security forces and the armed separatists as a result of the violence in the two regions, and there were fears of an upsurge of violence with the upcoming presidential election.
“With the upcoming elections in Cameroon, we have reason to fear a further upsurge in violence. We may well see an escalation in the number of security incidents and increased activity by armed separatists threatening to disrupt the electoral process at all costs in the Anglophone regions,” said Ms Samira Daoud, the Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
Cameroon will hold a presidential election on October 7, with eight opposition candidates in the race to unseat incumbent President Paul Biya.
Separatists have imposed a 10-day ‘state of emergency’ on the restive regions beginning this Monday. They have vowed to stop the Yaoundé regime from organising any election in ‘their country’ but the government says the vote will be organised in a serene atmosphere nationwide.