YAOUNDÉ: Cameroon’s main opposition party said Monday it would conduct an investigation into “murders” allegedly committed by police in the country’s English-speaking regions, where police and protesters have clashed repeatedly since November. The Social Democratic Front (SDF) “is putting in place a special commission to do a thorough report on the murders and human rights violations in the northwest and southwest regions,” the party said in a statement.
The party accuses President Paul Biya’s government of waging “a silent war against (its) citizens” in the anglophone regions and has condemned what it calls “the militarisation” of the two regions. The SDF — which claims the linguistic minority is being treated as second-class citizens — has charged the government with human rights abuses, condemning “abductions,” “collective punishments and the state of insecurity” in the regions.
A majority francophone country, Cameroon is headed by Biya, 83, who has been in power since 1982. No official death toll exists, but in December two people died during violent clashes between police and protesters in Bamenda, the capital of the northwest region, according to government figures. The opposition put the death toll at four and reported other victims in the southwest without giving any further details.
The SDF’s enquiry into the deaths comes just days before a bail hearing in the trial of 27 activists, including three of its leading members, on terrorism charges. Felix Agbor Nkongho, an attorney, Neba Fontem Aforteka’a, a teacher, and Mancho Bibixy, also called “BBC”, a radio host, were arrested in January and charged with conspiracy to commit “acts of terrorism, secession, revolution, insurrection” and “inciting civil war”.