Campaigning for Cameroon’s upcoming council and national assembly elections is well underway, despite threats from armed separatists in the English-speaking regions in the west, who dismiss all activities organised by the largely French-speaking Cameroonian government as illegal.
When at the end of January 86-year-old President Paul Biya set the 9 February poll date, the separatists announced a six-day curfew. They threatened to “deal with” anyone venturing onto the streets, and in the past kidnapped more than 50 candidates.
More than 700 soldiers have been sent to English-speaking areas and Biya – who has held power for 37 years – says the election will be peaceful throughout the country. The biggest opposition party, Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM), has urged an election boycott because of the security situation and a “biased electoral law”. Villagers from affected regions are fleeing to neighbouring Nigeria in fear of violence from both separatists and army. The UN and EU have urged the government to enter into a dialogue with the separatists.
“The international community really should help to solve this conflict,“ says Brian Bob Mbah, who lives in Buea, capital of the south-western English-speaking region. “People here are scared of going to campaign meetings because there are shootings both day and night. Nobody is safe. I hope I’m still alive after the elections.”
/Arison Tamfu, Cameroon
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