FILE PHOTO: Cameroon’s President Paul Biya is seen at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, U.S. September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith – RC1A35221360/File Photo
Cameroon’s government vowed Wednesday that next month’s presidential election will be peaceful and voting will take place nationwide, despite mounting bloodshed in the central African country’s restive anglophone regions.
“The October 7 presidential election will be held in a calm and serene environment throughout our country,” minister of territorial administration Paul Atanga Nji said on state radio, citing reports by regional governors.
Cameroon’s two minority English-speaking regions — the North-West and South-West — have been hit by almost daily acts of violence that have left more than a hundred people dead and about 200,000 displaced since late 2016.
The anglophone separatists have said that voting will not take place in the two regions next month.
“The head of state has instructed the governors to take the necessary measures to ensure that the election goes ahead in all of Cameroon’s 360 districts,” Atanga Nji said after meeting with the governors of the country’s 10 regions on Monday and Tuesday.
He added that President Paul Biya had instructed the governors to “ensure the protection of all the candidates”.
Years of resentment at perceived discrimination at the hands of Cameroon’s majority French speakers led to anglophone militants making a symbolic declaration of independence last October 1, which led to a government crackdown.
Since the start of the crisis, a total of 109 members of the police and security forces have been killed, according to government figures.
Even the start of the school year was marred by violence earlier this month, with the separatists calling for a boycott. Several teachers and students were abducted and one teacher was killed in Bamali in the North-West.
In the October poll, eight candidates will run against the 85-year-old incumbent Biya, who has ruled the country for 35 years and is seeking a seventh straight term in office.