Amnesty urges Cameroon to probe protest deaths

Angry protesters barricade a ground at Bamenda in the Northwest earmarked for a rally to be addressed by Cameroon Prime Minister Philemon Yang and the Secretary-General of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) Jean Nkuete, on December 8, 2016. NDI EUGENE NDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Cameroon authorities must investigate the deaths of at least four people in clashes between security agencies and protesters in the Northwestern town of Bamenda, Amnesty International has said.

The human rights watchdog said in a statement that excessive and unnecessary force was used in quelling the protests.

“Responding to incidents of violence during protests with unnecessary or excessive force threatens to further enflame an already tense situation and could put more lives at risk," it said

Scores of other people were left injured in the region that has been hit by a wave of protests in the recent weeks.

Work boycott

Tension has been rising in the two English speaking regions of the Northwest and Southwest since Anglophone lawyers started a work boycott in October, protesting against the use of French in courts and the lack of English versions of some laws.

Teachers have also joined the protests, forcing schools in the two regions to remain closed since November 21.

Both the lawyers and the teachers have also been calling for a two-state federation; a demand that has attracted much sympathy from other groups and political parties in the regions.

Opposition stronghold

Prime Minister Philemon Yang and the Secretary-General of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM), Mr Jean Nkuete, on Thursday led a government delegation to Bamenda where they had planned to hold a rally and a “unity march” in the opposition stronghold to urge the striking teachers and lawyers to resume work.

However, a group of mostly youths marched to the planned rally ground, mounted barricades and threw stones at vehicles of any official who drove to the Bamenda main city.

They also burnt a local police station and the national flag.

Critical conditions

The state-owned Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), citing government sources, reported that two people were killed, but a local journalist in Bamenda told the Africareview that no fewer than four people were killed in the fracas.

He said the toll might rise as several other demonstrators “were in critical conditions after forces whipped, teargassed and wounded them in the confrontation”.

The government was yet to officially comment on the incident.

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