YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Cameroonian security forces moved into the capital’s central prison overnight to put down an uprising by inmates protesting at the government’s crackdown on the Anglophone separatist movement and poor conditions inside, inmates’ videos showed.
Scores of people from Cameroon’s English-speaking regions have been arrested over the last two years during the conflict between the Francophone-dominated government and separatist rebels seeking to form an independent state called Ambazonia.
A Cameroonian security source confirmed that the riot took place and said there were several injured in the violence. Government spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the videos, filmed by inmates and uploaded to Facebook, protesters cried “Ambazonia rising!” as they hurled debris at security forces inside the Kondengui prison in Yaounde.
Loud crackles that sounded like gunfire could be heard in the background and fires could be seen burning in parts of the prison, sending thick plumes of smoke billowing into the air.
“Our brothers are slaughtered, children killed,” said one unidentified man, speaking in English. “We are tired of being in prison. We want to go home,” said another.
Cameroon’s state television channel CRTV reported that the inmates were protesting at conditions in the prison and had burned down the library and a workshop for female inmates.
The report said several prisoners had been injured and that the army and police were working to restore calm.
Cameroon’s main opposition party, the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, said on Tuesday that it did not have news about its members held in the prison, including its first vice president, who is being held in connection with a protest separate from the separatist campaign.
Amnesty International called for an investigation into reports that security forces fired live ammunition in the prison and said authorities should address overcrowding.
The United Nations estimates the conflict in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest has killed about 1,800 people and displaced over 500,000 since late 2017.
English speakers routinely complain about marginalisation by Francophone-dominated institutions. Cameroon’s linguistic divide harks back to the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony between France and Britain.
(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Alison Williams)