Troops and gunmen have exchanged fire in Buea, the capital of a Cameroon region hit by separatist violence and a host city for teams in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the city’s mayor said on Thursday.
Several people were injured in Wednesday’s shooting, David Mafani Namange told AFP, describing what happened as “sporadic incidents”.
“Security forces quickly intervened and an investigation is underway to determine who is responsible,” he said.
Earlier Thursday, a senior military official said the separatists had “attacked several districts in Buea.”
The shooting “occurred after the Malian team had finished training, it had no impact on the training session,” he told AFP by phone.
Also on Wednesday, an opposition senator was found shot to death in the region, according to his party and an official.
Lawmaker Henry Kemende of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), one of Cameroon’s main opposition parties, had been shot multiple times in the chest, according to SDF Vice President Joshua Osih.
No one claimed responsibility for the murder, but Osih blamed the separatists.
Several SDF leaders have been targeted before, including John Fru Ndi, the party’s chairman, runner-up multiple times in elections won by 88-year-old President Paul Biya, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 40 years. .
Biya has been accused of suppressing dissent in English-speaking areas, as well as clamping down on political opponents.
Describing the violence on Wednesday, a human rights lawyer, Agbor Balla, told AFP: “There were heavy exchanges of fire between troops and separatists.”
Speaking by phone, he added: “Panic grew as the separatists advanced towards the center of the city.”
Balla, who runs an NGO called the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, said one person “in civilian clothes” was killed in the exchange, but other sources did not immediately confirm this figure.
Buea is the capital of the Southwest Region, which along with the adjacent Northwest Region has been rocked by violence since 2017, when Anglophone militants declared independence from the majority Francophone country.
The central government in Yaoundé responded with strong measures.
Both separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities in the fighting, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced more than 700,000 to flee their homes.
Armed groups are regularly accused of kidnapping, killing or injuring civilians whom they accuse of “collaborating” with Cameroonian authorities.
The armed groups had warned before the start of AFCON last Sunday that they planned to disrupt the month-long tournament.
The Group F teams (Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia) train in Buea and play in the coastal resort of Limbe.
English speakers make up almost a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 24 million, who are mostly French speakers.
Their presence is a legacy of the colonial era in West Africa.
The former German possession of Cameroon was partitioned after World War I between Britain and France.
In 1961, part of the British territory, southern Cameroon, joined Cameroon after gaining independence from France.
Anglophone separatists call their entity the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, from Ambas Bay on the coast. It is not internationally recognized.
Source Credit: TheGuardian
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