Sunday, 19 November 2017

In Restive Anglophone Cameroon, Fear, Anger and A Curfew

It’s only 8pm, but in the bars by the Hospital Roundabout, one of the liveliest nightspots in Bamenda, thoughts are already turning to last orders.

“We respect the curfew, we’re going to close soon,” a waitress warns grumbling clients who would rather drink on into the night as of old, despite a police crackdown triggered by sporadic bombings, arson and killings.

Bamenda, a city of about 300,000 people nestled in the mountains of western Cameroon, is the epicentre of an escalating crisis.

At its source is resentment among Cameroon’s English-speaking minority, angry at perceived discrimination at the hands of the country’s francophone majority.

Frustration, for some, has spiralled into violence. And attacks by suspected secessionists demanding independence for the anglophone regions are meeting a tough response.
In Restive Anglophone Cameroon, Fear, Anger and A Curfew
The authorities imposed the 10pm-to- 5am curfew on November 8 after three paramilitary police were murdered. The curfew has been imposed until November 23, according to the announcement.

A fourth gendarme was later killed and four homemade bombs exploded around the city at the start of this week, although nobody was hurt.

One bomb went off at Hospital Roundabout, the third blast at the busy road junction in recent months.

As the fateful hour draws near, the bars empty and straggling customers take taxis for home, wary of attracting the attention of security forces openly accused of arbitrary arrests and extortion by residents.

Behind choking clouds of smoke from their roadside braziers, street food vendors rush to sell off the last of their cooked fish and meat.

“We have to be quick and leave to avoid trouble with the police,” says Viviane, a vendor whose fish are still neatly laid out over glowing coals.

“We prepare fewer fish now. We start early to finish early, by 9:30 at night at the latest,” adds the young woman, who dislikes “living in fear because of the insecurity”.

The security situation has deteriorated in the Northwest Region, where Bamenda is the capital, and in the Southwest Region, during the past year. These onetime British protectorates account for about 20 percent of the country’s population.

The greater part of modern-day Cameroon was ruled by France after Germany lost its colonies in Africa following after defeat in World War One.

Violence has become a frightening feature of daily life. Arson attacks on shops and schools, home-made bombings and arrests have escalated into targeted killings.

Some secessionist leaders in exile follow the example of “Comrade” Ayaba Cho Lucas, calling openly for “combat” as “a response to the bullets and the contempt of the occupier… (while) the world remains silent”.

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