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Cameroon orders 3-day total lockdown in troubled Anglophone region

STRINGER / AFP | A demonstrator carries a sign during a protest against perceived discrimination in favour of the country's francophone majority on September 22, 2017 in Bamenda, the main town in northwest Cameroon and an anglophone hub.

Cameroon authorities on Friday banned all gatherings of more than four people, ordered bus stations, eateries and shops to shut and forbade movement between divisions of its English-speaking region for three days to prevent planned protests.

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Anglophone Cameroonians plan to demonstrate on October 1st, the day of their independence from Britain, over what they say is ill treatment and neglect by the predominantly Francophone government of President Paul Biya. The protests have become a lightening rod for opposition to Biya's 35-year rule.

The last time there were big protests in the western region, the government responded by unplugging the internet, shooting dead six protesters and arrested hundreds of others, some of whom were charged with crimes that carry the death penalty.

"Public gatherings and assembly of more than four persons shall be strictly forbidden. All off licences, snack bars and night clubs shall not operate. Motor parks shall remain closed," said the order signed by Adolphe Lele Lafrique, governor of the northwest region.

"Any persons who attempt to violate this order shall be prosecuted," it added.

"The government will not resort to violence" - Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon government spokesman

Thousands of Anglophone demonstrators

The draconian measures are likely to provoke further anger driving a movement that is fast morphing from a bid for equal rights into a full-fledged struggle for independence.

Cameroon's divide has its roots in the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.

Thousands of Anglophone demonstrators took to the streets last Friday, some of them hoisting separatist flags.

The government ordered its border with Nigeria closed this weekend. The Anglophone regions have strong ties to eastern Nigeria and authorities may fear that allowing the border to remain open during protests offers the demonstrators a rear base and makes it harder to maintain order.

Most campaigners want the country to resume a federalist system -- an approach that followed independence in 1960 but was later scrapped -- but a hardline minority is calling for secession. Both measures are opposed by the country's long-term president, 84-year-old Paul Biya.

On social media, some campaigners have been calling for October 1 to be symbolically named independence day.

In a statement issued in New York on Thursday, the UN said Secretary General Antonio Guterres was "deeply concerned" about the situation in Cameroon.

"He urges the authorities to promote measures of national reconciliation aimed at finding a durable solution to the crisis, including by addressing its root causes," the statement said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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