Heavy military presence in restive Cameroon city

Cameroonian President Paul Biya. FILE | NATION MDIA GROUP 

The residents of Cameroon English speaking city of Bamenda Tuesday woke up to a heavy militray presence following several overnight explosions.

One of the residents, Mr Abongwa Fozoe, said there was “heavy military reinforcement" after several truckloads of military personnel had been deployed to the town.

At least four bomb explosions were reported in Bamenda overnight Monday as the Anglophone crisis seemed to spiral into an armed conflict.

Bombs exploded

A source close to the Cameroon security service told AFP that four home-made bombs exploded in Bamenda; “one at 9pm and the three others at 3am”.

The source said the blasts did not cause any casualties, but residents said there was continuous gun firing overnight.

"Bamenda is like a war zone, gunshots and burnings everyday here," said Mr Colbert Gwain, a freelance journalist based in the city.

The government had Tuesday morning not officially confirmed the blasts.

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Bamenda is the capital of the Northwest Region and has been the epicentre of the Anglophone protests that continue to rock Cameroon.

Three police officers were seriously injured when a remote-controlled improvised explosive device (IED) went off in the city on September 21.

The latest blasts came a week after ‘separatists killed’ two security officers in Bamenda. Another one had been killed in the nearby town of Jakiri a day earlier.

Defence minister Joseph Beti Assomo said the the security officers deployed to restore order in the the Northwest Region were killed "by terrorists with weapons of war".

Armed conflict

The Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF), the armed faction of a group of secessionist movement headed by Ayaba Cho Lucas, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Last month, the International Crisis Group (ICG) predicted that the crisis could spiral into an armed conflict, and called on President Paul Biya to quickly find a political solution.

“If he (President Biya) hopes to avoid an armed uprising in Anglophone regions, which would, without doubt, have an impact in the Francophone zone, the Cameroonian president must go beyond superficial measures and take responsibility in order to find political solutions to the crisis,” ICG said.

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Though the Cameroon Francophone-Anglophone divide dates back to the post-colonial period, demands for the independence of the Southwest and Northwest Regions — home to the Anglophones who account for about a fifth of the nation’s 23.4 million citizens, have intensified within the past 12 months.

English speakers say they suffer economic inequality and discrimination at the hands of the Francophone majority, particularly in education and justice, despite a post-independence reunification deal, where they expected to be equal partners.

On October 1, protesters gathered in towns across the country’s two English-speaking regions to mark a symbolic declaration of independence of their state of Ambazonia and were confronted by police firing teargas canisters and live ammunition.

The UN High Commission for Refugees said at least 5,000 Anglophone Cameroonians have fled the crisis into neighbouring Nigeria, adding that the agency was preparing to help 40,000 refugees from the unrest.

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