For the past two weeks flyers calling for demonstrations have flooded the streets of Cameroon’s major cities. People were invited to march against President Paul Biya’s 28-year rule. The protests were scheduled to start yesterday. But was no protest ever took place.
By Anne Mireille Nzouankeu
In the last few weeks the government had made their point very clear. They would forcefully put down any popular protest. Strong measures were taken including an indefinite ban of any form of public gathering. And anti-riot police was deployed in the major cities to discourage demonstrations.
Usually buzzing with life the capital Yaoundé put on a quiet face yesterday. Most shops and businesses remained closed and anti-riot police were standing at every street corner. On the Boulevard du 20 mai, one of the capital’s main avenues, sympathisers of Paul Biya’s regime waited in vain for anti-Biya protesters.
Opposition leaders arrested
Louis Tobie Mbida, opposition leader and the son of Cameroon’s first Prime Minister, was arrested along with four others. He was charged with attempt to overthrow the government. The five men remain in custody. Numerous other activists, arrested on similar charges, are detained in secret locations.
In the economic capital Douala, where protesters came out on the streets, prominent opposition leaders were arrested too. Among them Jean-Michel Nintcheu, Anicet Ekane, Abanda Kpama and Mboua Massock.
“We were gathered at the place called ‘Rond-point de la sale des fêtes’”, recalls Anicet Ekane. “Some 200 heavily armed policemen tried to force us into a van. As we resisted, they assaulted and arrested us”, Ekane tells. They were released an hour later, on the outskirts of the city and returned to their party headquarters.
Protesters don't give up
The few other protesters were brutally dispersed, some arrested and many assaulted.
Later in the afternoon, prospective presidential candidate, Kah Walla, also attempted to organise a march. “She lies critically injured in a clinic from a heavy beating”, a source in Douala told RNW.
While a sense of normality may have been restored, it is most likely only a temporary one. “We will fight to the end”, opposition leader Mboua Massock promised. “We have scheduled a meeting tomorrow to assess the situation and work out a new strategy to end Paul Biya’s rule.”