Violence Erupts in Cameroon as President Seeks Constitutional Change
February 28, 2008 | Printer Friendly
At least eight people have been killed in recent days as Cameroonian police and protesters continue a street battle that spilled into all of the country’s ten provinces. The protests, which began Saturday originated in the economic capital of Douala. Although technically a transportation worker’s strike over high fuel costs, which was a catalyst for the violence, has been resolved, no taxis or motorcycles can be seen on the streets of Douala, and all markets remained closed in the city.
The United States Embassy in Cameroon issued the following statement:
“At this time, the Embassy strongly advises against any movement outside of residences, and urges all Americans to take all appropriate security measures…American citizens should carefully consider both their residential security and road conditions when deciding whether to travel…short-term visitors should consider departing Cameroon when conditions improve sufficiently to permit travel to airports. We also encourage long-term residents to review their preparedness for emergencies, and their possible evacuation plans.”
Recent violence has included the razing of two post offices in Buea province, as well as the death of a teenage boy who was among approximately 2000 students who were used as human shields by protesters to defend against law enforcement; the protesters entered three boarding schools and forced the students into the streets as they attacked a brewery.
There are numerous reasons for the inflammation of the situation in Cameroon, paramount of which may be President Biya’s efforts to amend the Constitution to eliminate presidential term limits in the country; Biya has been President since 1982.
In addition to Biya’s constitutional requests, and the transportation workers’ strike, others have protested the government’s decision to close Equinoxe Television, a station that has been critical of the Cameroonian government. Government officials say that the station was shut down because it failed to pay fees for their operating license; currently, only two private television stations and one radio station have operating licenses in the country, with about 40-60 waiting for approval.
“The political class has been very complacent for many years,” said Ben Page, Cameroon researcher from the University College of London. “it is completely out of touch with the urban poor.”
“There are people who are very angry with the constitutional change, there are people who are very angry with price hikes of petrol, price hike of cement,” said Social Democratic Front National Secretary John Fru Ndi. “All these things have summed up to give the state of affairs that Cameroon finds itself in.”
Police have used tear gas and water cannons to try and disperse the protesters that have barricaded streets and set fires to markets.
President Biya issued a statement this morning, which included the following, “To those who are responsible for manipulating the youth to achieve their aims, I want to tell them that their attempts are doomed to failure. All legal means available to Government will be brought into play to ensure the rule of law.”
Yaounde, Cameroon: Warden Message from the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé
allAfrica.com: Declaration of the Head of State on the Ongoing Crisis
allAfrica.com: Unrest Spreads to Yaounde Even After Taxi Strike Ends
VOA News: Violence Spreads in Cameroon’s Main City, Douala
BBC NEWS: Cameroon Head Blames Opposition
BBC NEWS: Child Shot Dead in Cameroon Drama
allAfrica.com: Cameroonians Go to the Streets