Cameroon frees anglophone youths in bid to end protests

2017-01-11 18:08

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Yaound - Cameroonian authorities on Tuesday freed 21 young protesters arrested during deadly clashes, hoping to calm growing protests by the English-speaking minority who complain they are treated as second-class citizens.

Schools and courts have been shut in Cameroon's two anglophone regions since November after teachers and lawyers went on strike in protest at what they say is the marginalisation of their community.

The English-speaking regions, in the northwest and southwest, are longtime bastions of opposition to President Paul Biya and a recent surge in unrest comes ahead of a crucial presidential election next year in the majority French-speaking nation.

General strikes kept shops shuttered in several anglophone cities on Monday, and the secessionist groups which organised the action have vowed to stage the same action on the same day every week.

But as authorities look to ease the protests, state radio reported that 21 detained youths had been released in "a new step in the search for solutions in the crisis born from the demands of anglophone teachers' and lawyers' unions".

The youths were detained on December 8 during violent clashes between protesters and security forces in the opposition stronghold of Bamenda which left at least two people dead and saw nearly 60 arrested.

Government officials have been negotiating with the teachers and lawyers' unions, but some unions had walked out of the talks demanding the release of the arrested protesters.

A fifth of Cameroon's 22 million-strong population is English-speaking, a legacy of the unification in 1961 of two colonial-era territories previously run by France and Britain.

Cameroon is among Africa's most prosperous economies, but anglophones have long complained that wealth has not been shared out fairly and that they have suffered discrimination.

The government has not entered negotiations with successionist movements who have called for the establishment of an independent state called Southern Cameroon.

"Cameroon is one and indivisible. It will remain that way," Biya said in his end-of-year speech in December.

The president, 83, has been in power since 1982.

Read more on:    paul biya  |  cameroon  |  west africa

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