Cameroon

"It's like the end of time is near to the people of Bamenda"

Violence was sparked by life sentences passed on the Ambazonian separatist leader
There's been violence in Cameroon's Anglophone region sparked by the life sentences passed on the Ambazonian separatist leader Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine of his followers earlier this week.

Cameroon's English-speakers say they have been marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

Wednesday saw shooting in the city of Bamenda, with businesses being shut and people unable to leave their homes. 

Newsday spoke to one resident who asked that he remain anonymous, who said:

"We have barely been surviving in the city of Bamenda for days...People are not able to get food for their homes or open their businesses."

(Photo: Police in the city of Bamenda. Credit: Getty Images)

Prisoners 'tortured after riot' in Cameroon

Campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Cameroon's authorities held more than 100 detainees incommunicado and tortured many of them, following a riot in one of the country's biggest prisons.

Last month inmates set fire to parts of Kondengui maximum security prison in the capital, Yaoundé, and some even live-streamed on Facebook the initial protest from their mobile phones.

Many people accused of being separatist rebels from the Anglophone regions are held in that facility, and in video footage from the 22 July protest prisoners were heard chanting pro-independence slogans as well as decrying their treatment and conditions.

HRW reports that among the group sent to State Defense Secretariat the next day, where the alleged torture began, were suspected separatists as well as suppporters of the opposition CRM party.

Cameroon's government has not commented on the allegations of torture, but confirmed the transfer of dozens of inmates from Kondengui to unspecified facilities.

Prisoners seen in a crowded room
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Footage of last month's riot was live-streamed on Facebook

Fears for Cameroon reporter detained for 'propaganda'

Samuel Wazizi
Samuel Wazizi/Facebook
Samuel Wazizi was taken into custody on Friday 2 August

A journalist arrested in south-western Cameroon 10 days ago is being denied access to a lawyer and his family, his attorney Edward Lyonga Ewule has told the BBC.

Samuel Wazizi, who works for private music station CMTV presenting a TV talk show, was detained on Friday by police in Muea in one of Cameroon’s two English-speaking provinces.

He is accused of collaborating with secessionists who are fighting to create an independent state called Ambazonia, made up of the North-West and South-West regions.

Mr Ewule said his client was initially denied bail as the police said the case was linked to terrorism.

After five days, Wazizi was taken into custody of the military and since then he has not been able to talk to his client, he said.

"I have not gained access to him; family members have not gained access to him. I went there and I was told that lawyers are not allowed in the military camp," the lawyer told BBC Focus on Africa reporter Randy Joe Sa’ah.

Mr Ewule said his client had not been formally charged but was accused of spreading separatist propaganda after his phone was searched.

But having such information "was part of his journalism", he said.

Our reporter says it is not the first time journalists in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon have been arrested for allegedly having literature linked to the separatists, who complain of being marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

"When you try to write a report critical of the government side, you're regarded as an enemy, as being on the side of the Ambazonians," Meriline Ngwa, a journalist in the South-West, told the BBC.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Cameroon jails the highest number of journalists in Africa after Egypt and Eritrea – with several imprisoned because of their work since the secessionist uprising began in 2017.

Cameroon separatists go on hunger strike

Sisiku Tabe
Reuters
Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the separatist movement who is facing charges of treason, is one of those who have started a hunger strike

Detained leaders of Cameroon's Anglophone separatist movement have begun an indefinite hunger strike.

They say they are concerned over the whereabouts of around 200 of their comrades after riots in two separate prisons last week.

The detainees say they also have fears that a "genocide" of English-speakers in Cameroon will take place.

The secessionist movement has been campaigning to create an independent state called Ambazonia, made up of the North-West and South-West regions - the two English-speaking regions in a country where French is the most widely spoken official language.

Their lawyer Joseph Fru told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme that his clients feared that the "profiling of Ambazonians" by Cameroon authorities was a "prelude to a genocide".

"One of the Cameroon ministers has actually asked that all people of southern Cameroon origins in French-speaking Cameroon should be identified and recorded and they have termed this profiling," he said.

The BBC found no evidence that such profiling is going on in Cameroon.

Political leaders of the Ambazonia movement were arrested in Nigeria in 2018 and transferred to Cameroon where they are facing trial.

Cameroon's English-speakers say they have been marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

Some of them took up arms in 2017.

Second prison riot in Cameroon

Inmates have burnt down part of a prison in south-west Cameroon in protest over being detained on charges of secession, rebellion and terrorism.

Security forces fired shots and teargas to restore order at the facility in the town of Buea on Tuesday. It is not yet clear if there are any casualties.

A video showing smoke billowing from the prison amid sounds of repeated gunfire was shared online:

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This week there has also been a riot inside a prison in the capital Yaoundé following a protest by inmates accused of involvement in the Anglophone separatist rebellion.

More than 1,000 people have been detained in connection with the conflict which has displaced more than half a million people since it broke out in the country's English-speaking regions in 2016.

The separatists are fighting for a breakaway state they call Ambazonia.

Cameroon blames opposition party for prison riot

Killian Chimtom Ngala

BBC News, Yaoundé

The Cameroon government has blamed supporters of a detained opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, for a riot at a prison in the capital, Yaoundé.

The trouble on Sunday night at the Kondengui maximum security prison saw hundreds of inmates go on a rampage, burning the prison library and infirmary as well as the destruction of a workshop meant for female inmates.

A government official, Jean Claude Tilla, who visited the prison to assess the damage, said that supporters of Mr Kamto's Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM), were the instigators of the violence.

At least 400 of them are still held in different facilities in the country, but it is unclear how many are detained at the prison where the riot took place.

Mr Tilla said supporters of the CRM have been causing trouble in Cameroon prisons since they were detained.

"We know that they are hiding behind the Anglophone problem to foment such trouble,” he told journalists.

The riot was live streamed on Facebook and showed prisoners calling for the release of Anglophone separatist leaders held for over a year now. They chanted pro-independence slogans and described President Paul Biya’s government as incompetent.

Cameroonian security forces restored control after shooting in the air and firing tear gas into the prison.

The Anglophone detainees - many of whom have never been taken to court - were moved to different detention facilities.

The prison, constructed in 1969 for 1,500 people, currently has about 9,000 inmates, 90% of whom have not been charged, according to the justice ministry.

Cameroon prisoners live stream riot

Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

There has been a riot at a prison in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, where many people accused of being separatist rebels from the Anglophone regions are being detained.

Inmates at Kondengui maximum security prison live streamed on Facebook the initial protest from their mobile phones.

Protest
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They were chanting pro-independence slogans, calling for an amnesty for all people arrested during the three-year separatist conflict and demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Overnight violence erupted and parts of the prison were set on fire.

Cameroonian security forces restored control after shooting in the air and firing tear gas into the prison.

The Anglophone detainees - many of whom have never been taken to court - were moved to different detention facilities.

UN says 1.3 million people need assistance in Cameroon

Map of Cameroon Anglophone regions
BBC

The United Nations says 1.3 million people are in need of assistance as the humanitarian situation in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon continue to deteriorate.

The UN said around 1,300 people were reportedly displaced last week and that attacks resulted in dozens of civilian deaths, hundreds of houses set ablaze and widespread looting of civilian goods.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said that in these two regions, "the situation continues to be characterised by human rights and protection abuses and violations".

He said despite increased humanitarian needs, Cameroon remains one the most critically under-funded humanitarian responses globally.

The conflict in Cameroon's Anglophone regions has displaced more than half a million people since it broke out in 2016. Separatists are fighting for a breakaway state, they call Ambazonia, in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

During a visit there in May, the UN human rights chief Michele Bachellet warned that the situation looks like it is spiralling out of control.

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