Cameroon authorities on Friday banned all public gatherings and travel in its English-speaking region for three days to prevent planned protests.
The authorities ordered bus stations, eateries and shops to shut and movement has been forbid between divisions. The South-West region’s border with Nigeria has also been shut to block “infiltration” by people threatening Cameroon’s unity, officials said.
There have been planned demonstrations by Anglophone Cameroonians on October 1st, the 56th anniversary of Cameroon’s unification, over what they say is ill treatment and neglect by the predominantly Francophone government of President Paul Biya.
“Public gatherings and assembly of more than four persons shall be strictly forbidden. All off licenses, snack bars and night clubs shall not operate. Motor parks shall remain closed,” said the order signed by Adolphe Lele Lafrique, governor of the northwest region.
“Any persons who attempt to violate this order shall be prosecuted,” it added.
English speakers accuse the Francophone majority of discrimination saying they are often excluded from top civil service jobs, and that the French language and legal system have been imposed on them.
The last time there were big protests in the western region, the government responded by unplugging the internet, shooting dead six protesters and arrested hundreds of others, some of whom were charged with crimes that carry the death penalty.
These recent measures are likely to provoke further anger driving a movement that is fast morphing from a bid for equal rights into a full-fledged struggle for independence.
Cameroon’s divide has its roots in the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.
Thousands of Anglophone demonstrators took to the streets last Friday, some of them hoisting separatist flags.
The UN has said in a statement that the Secretary-General António Guterres was concerned about tensions ahead of Sunday’s protests.
He urged Cameroon’s government to address the grievances of its Anglophone population, and to take steps to promote national reconciliation, it said.
“The Secretary-General supports upholding the unity and territorial integrity of Cameroon and urges all parties to refrain from acts that could lead to an escalation of tension and violence,” the statement added.