Police maintained a clampdown in English-speaking Cameroon on Monday a day after the country’s restive anglophone minority declared symbolic independence, amid clashes that left seven dead.
Highways in the anglophone Southwest Region remained blocked or filtered by police checkpoints in the early morning, and in the city of Buea the streets were virtually deserted and heavily patrolled.
Police and troops set up five roadblocks on the vital 70-kilometre (43-mile) road link between Cameroon’s economic hub of Douala and Buea, Southwest Region’s chief city, an AFP journalist saw.
In the rundown Buea district of Mile 17 — a reputed haven for separatists — rocks, hurled in demonstrations on Sunday, were strewn in the streets.
Police carried out overnight arrests in one of the city’s districts, and left with individuals who were in handcuffs, an AFP journalist saw.
On social media, pro-independence campaigners reported a wave of raids and arrests, but it was difficult to confirm their claim.
On Sunday, separatists used the October 1 anniversary of the official unification of the English- and French-speaking parts of Cameroon to declare independence for “Ambazonia,” the name of the state they want to create.
Clashes left at least seven dead, all of them at the hands of security forces, according to a toll compiled by AFP.
Four were killed on the sidelines of pro-independence demonstrations and three were prisoners who tried to escape from a jail in the town of Kumbo.
Amnesty International on Monday called for the government to open an inquiry into the deaths.
The violence was the culmination of weeks of mounting tension in the Southwest and Northwest Regions — home to anglophones who account for about a fifth of the West African nation’s population of 22 million.
English-speakers complain they have suffered decades of economic inequality and social injustice at the hands of the French-speaking majority, especially in education and the judiciary.
Most anglophone campaigners want the country to resume a federalist system — an approach that followed the 1961 unification but was later scrapped in favour of a centralised government run from the capital Yaounde. A hardline minority is calling for secession.
But both measures are opposed by the country’s long-ruling president, 84-year-old Paul Biya.
The anglophone-francophone rift dates back to 1961, when a former British entity, Southern Cameroons, united with Cameroon after its independence from France in 1960.