Published On: Mon, Jan 2nd, 2017

Rights groups call for probe into protesters’ deaths in Cameroon

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International human rights groups are calling for an investigation into the deaths of as many as four protesters in Cameroon last week during a series of demonstrations in the country’s English-speaking regions.

The protests escalated into violent clashes with police, leading to the deaths, dozens of injuries and multiple arrests, witnesses said.
Bamenda was the site of major protests in the northwest region, and the cities of Buea and Kumba in the southwest region also saw demonstrations by lawyers, teachers, students and activists. They took to the streets to protest the appointment by the mostly Francophone government of French-speaking judges and teachers in English-speaking areas — a practice they say has continued for years.
Protesters build makeshift barricades in the city of Kumba, in Cameroon's English-speaking southwest region, on December 9, 2016.

“We are calling on the authorities to open an investigation and to do it as soon as possible to make sure that this investigation is impartial, effective and independent,” Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher, told CNN Thursday. “We also call on the security forces to refrain from the use of unlawful force.”
“What happened in Bamenda is no surprise for us,” she added. “We have been documenting several human rights violations by the security forces elsewhere in Cameroon.”
Felix Nkongho, president of Fako Lawyers Association in Cameroon, the group that initiated the demonstrations, said the situation is “very volatile.”
“People want federal structure, they want their voices to be heard, they want an end to marginalization and suppression,” he told CNN.
Both French and English are official languages in Cameroon, but the state broadcaster airs mostly French language content, public exams are published in French, and official documents and decrees are often published in French or poorly translated in to English, residents say.
French Cameroon gained independence in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon, and merged with neighboring British Cameroon the following year.
A heavy military presence was visible on the streets of Bamenda and Buea in the days following the protests in an effort to preserve the uneasy calm, witnesses said.

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