By: Skylar Salim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
YAOUNDE, Cameroon — On October 7, 2018, a presidential election took place in Cameroon. This election occurred during a period of increasing violence in the Anglophone regions of the country. President Paul Biya is seeking his seventh term in office in this election. During his election bid Biya vowed to end the crisis and violence in the Northwest and Southeast regions of the country. The current president’s main opposition is Social Democratic Front party candidate Joshua Osih.
Two years ago, tension began to rise in Cameroon with protests and riots led by teachers and lawyers in the Anglophone regions. These protests surrounded the differences between the English and French systems in the country. In 2017, the protests turned into calls for secession. The separatist sentiments that were building led to a violent government crackdown. The government has been accused of using the military to kill armed separatists and English-speaking civilians. In their struggle to secede and form their own country, called Ambazonia, the armed separatists have been accused of killing both soldiers and civilians.
A report released by Amnesty International on September 18, 2018 notes that violence has been increasing in Anglophone regions as the election approaches. According to the report, tens of thousands of civilians have fled the region in the past year while at least 400 have been killed. In response to the crisis, the current government denounces the separatists as terrorists and says the government refuses to open any dialogue with them. As government forces are facing their own allegations of human rights abuses, communications minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said that officials are investigating incidents as they hear about them.
While the presidential candidates spoke of bringing peace to the country, violence was prevalent during the voting period. Fighting and threats from separatists kept many from voting in the English-speaking regions of the country. In response to this, the governor of the Northwest region, Deben Tchoffo, said “We shall not allow terrorists to disrupt the election…We are informed that armed men are shooting indiscriminately to frighten voters.” Fighting between armed separatists and the military picked up on October 6th, and buildings that house voting materials were burned down. Two armed men were killed by the military in Bamenda in the Northwest region. While violence escalates between the military and separatists, at least 17 million people in Anglophone regions are put at risk as they are caught between the fighting.
Election observers such as the African Union are not working in the English-speaking regions due to the current level of violence of the crisis. While many are unable to reach polling location in these regions, it is expected for President Biya to win his re-election bid.
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