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Cameroon capital hit by violent protests

Latest update : 2008-02-27

Violent anti-government protests have spread to Cameroon's capital Yaounde, after four days of clashes in western towns. The unrest is in response to rising food and fuel prices and are the worst riots to hit the country in over 15 years.

YAOUNDE, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Anti-government riots spread to
Cameroon's capital Yaounde on Wednesday and police in the port
of Douala also fired tear gas at protesters angry over high fuel
and food prices. The riots were the worst in Cameroon for more than 15 years.
 

After four days of unrest that killed at least six people in
western towns, including Douala, rioters blocked streets in
Yaounde with barricades of burning tyres and timber, witnesses
said.
 

Police, backed by at least one helicopter, used tear gas in
an attempt to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators.
 

Some chanted slogans against President Paul Biya. Biya's
announcement last month that he might seek changes in the
constitution to prolong his 25-year rule over the central
African oil producer has angered many opposition supporters.
 

"Biya has gone too far, he must go," shouted one
demonstrator.
 

In the commercial capital of Douala, hundreds of protesters
demanded bigger cuts in fuel and food prices after authorities
made small fuel price reductions to try to end rioting in the
west.
 

Police in Douala fired tear gas as the marchers, estimated
at around 2,000, shouted "We're fed up" and called for basic
goods to be sold more cheaply, witnesses said.
 

Residents of Douala said the city was paralysed.
 

"Shops and stores remain closed, taxis are not back on the
streets, not even motorcycle taxis. A few private car owners who
ventured out found their windscreens shattered and they returned
home," businessman Ernest Karngong told Reuters.
 

Cameroon's government and union leaders reached an agreement
late on Tuesday to end a taxi drivers' strike which triggered
the rioting and widespread looting in Douala -- a hotbed of
opposition against Biya -- and other western towns.
 

The government agreed to cut the price of a litre of
gasoline to 594 CFA francs ($1.36) from 600. Similar small
reductions were agreed for other fuel products like kerosene.
 

"We want an overall reduction in prices," one marcher in
Douala said.
 

The riots followed similar protests against the high cost of
living in other West African countries after soaring oil prices
pushed up prices for energy products and basic foodstuffs.
 

Biya announced eight weeks ago he might change the
constitution to stay in power when his term ends in 2011.
Critics say Biya, 75, could use his party's majority in
parliament to make the constitutional modifications.

Date created : 2008-02-27

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