The United States (US) Department of State says it is deeply concerned by the chaos and disturbances that has rocked Cameroon’s largely anglophone regions.
Violent protests against the government and an attendant security clampdown led to loss of life, injuries and damage in Bamenda and Buea, the respective capitals of Cameroon’s Northwestern and Southwestern regions.
Security forces clashed with anti-government protesters in the English-speaking part of the country, they fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse the protesters. Local media reported one person was killed and several others wounded.
The United States had earlier issued a travel alert for its citizens to avoid travel to the restive region. The US said in a statement on Monday that reechoed its call for restraint on the part of parties and the need to ‘‘refrain from further violence, and engage in dialogue for a peaceful resolution to the current protests.’‘
‘‘The United States urges the Government of Cameroon to protect and defend human rights and fundamental freedoms, ensure that all voices are heard and respected, and preserve the guarantees enshrined in its constitution and international obligations,’‘ the US said.
Apart from the events in Bamenda and Buea, the US also waded into a recent report about how persons were sentenced over exchanging texts relating to Boko Haram.
‘‘We are also concerned over recent Cameroonian government actions to restrict free expression and peaceful assembly, including ten-year prison sentences for men who exchanged texts referencing Boko Haram and the arrest of 54 members of the opposition Cameroon People’s Party while they were peacefully conducting a party meeting.
‘‘The constitution of Cameroon guarantees freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and we believe that non-threatening rhetoric and activities – especially private conversations and gatherings – warrant neither prosecution nor government censure,’‘ the statement concluded.
Tensions have been rising over the last few months and erupted last Tuesday when people took to the streets in support of a teachers’ strike against the imposition of French in schools in Anglophone parts of the country, a BBC reporter said.
Before the current clash, Bamenda lawyers had been on strike for two months after being ordered to use French in legal proceedings. Cameroon is predominantly Francophone, with people in the English-speaking areas protesting marginalisation.