Cameroon fears mount closer to protest day

Will Cameroonians answer opposition’s call to protest against President Paul Biya’s regime? The country is anxiously waiting for the people’s reaction despite intimidation attempts by government forces yesterday.

In the past 24 hours, police forces have been regularly patrolling the streets of the capital city, Yaoundé. Tension will mount on the evening of 23 February, a date chosen by some opposition leaders to equal the Tunisian protests that ousted President Ben Ali. Four opposition parties have chosen the same date to launch the ‘week of martyrdom’ in commemoration of the youth killed during food protests in February 2008.

The country is plunged in a climate of fear as anti-government flyers have been filling the streets of major cities in the past few weeks. They call for the end of Paul Biya’s 28-years rule. Two days ago officials in one of the capital’s public schools argue for hours to remove a graffiti saying “Let’s get rid of Biya” from their walls.

Calming the public

The graffiti, which made the headline of the daily newspaper Le jour, triggered comments among the public. “Cameroon will be like Tunisia”, said a man sitting in a bar in Yaoundé. “If people want to get rid of Paul Biya they shouldn’t vote for him in the next elections”, said another sitting next to him. “Who is going to vote since people are not registering? Elections are rigged” the newspaper vendor added.

Yesterday was marked by public appearances by government officials. The Communications Minister held a press conference to calm the population. Talking about the North-African protests, which seem to inspire Wednesday’s events, Issa Tchiroma insisted that “what is happening there, has already happened here”. He referring to the socio-political unrest that shook Cameroon in the early 1990’s.

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Jacques Fame Ndongo, Minister of Higher Education and Communication Official for the ruling party, used the national radio to reassure people. “I am sure that on Wednesday everyone will go about their daily routine”, he said. He invited opposition leaders to challenge President Biya through the polls, saying that “democracy is not in the streets”.

The Governor of the Littoral province, home to the economic capital Douala, was also on the radio. During his speech during the one o’clock news flash, he stressed that necessary security steps were taken to ensure the normal flow of business. “Anarchy is not the solution”, he concluded.

Meanwhile, many like writer Partice Nganang, are calling for a popular uprising. Nganang wrote on Facebook: “It is the morning of our future because this February 23rd. We fight for the future of our country! […] Let’s show him that we are citizens not slaves! Let’s all bring Biya down!”

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