Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the Cameroonian authorities to avoid using violence to curb anti-government protests planned by members of the political opposition for 22 September 2020. The protests have been called by the political opposition led by the Movement pour la Renaissance du Cameron (MRC) and some civil society groups. In anticipation of the protests the authorities have deployed the military in the capital city Yaoundé and are searching vehicles at major entry points.
On 17 September 2020, security forces surrounded the premises of the civil society group ‘Stand Up for Cameroon’ in the economic capital Douala and arrested four members. The authorities have threatened protesters with more arrests and indicated they will be charged with attempting to destabilise Cameroon. The authorities have warned protesters they will face lengthy jail terms and charges of insurrection if they join the demonstrations.
“The Cameroonian authorities have closed most of the formal channels through which the political opposition and civil society can engage with the government on issues considered sensitive by the state. The right to participate in public assemblies is guaranteed in the constitution but the current response by the authorities to planned protests demonstrates that even this right is being taken away,” said Paul Mulindwa, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer
Opposition leaders are demanding that long-serving President Paul Biya step down, and are protesting plans by the authorities to hold regional elections in December, saying the government must first resolve conflict in the anglophone regions. The MRC denounced the 2018 ballot and its leader Maurice Kamto and several supporters were arrested in January 2019 after calling for a re-organisation of the elections. Kamto was charged with rebellion and insurrection and was jailed for nine months before he was released. At the time, the authorities violently repressed anti-government protests and imposed bans on rallies.
For more information on civic space violations, visit the Cameroon country page on the CIVICUS Monitor.