YAOUNDE – Cameroon police have surrounded the home of opposition leader Maurice Kamto and detained an unknown number of his supporters. Kamto, who accuses President Paul Biya of stealing the 2018 presidential election from him, called for protests Tuesday against regional elections and Biya’s leadership of the country.
Authorities deployed riot police and troops, some of whom used tear gas on the protesters.
The opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) says riot police and military troops on Monday night forced themselves into the home of party leader Maurice Kamto.
The secretary-general of the CRM, Christopher Ndong, says police detained a number of their supporters, including Alain Forgues, the party’s legal advisor.
“They [police] arrested professor Forgues and some militants [supporters] who were there,” he said. “They had some beatings and Kamto told them that they would not stop him. So, we are going to march. We are not afraid of arrest because we know what we are doing is within the ambits of the constitution. It is our right to manifest and our march is peaceful.”
Ndong says police detained an unknown number of people and took them to unknown locations.
CRM leader Kamto, he says, was neither beaten nor detained. But security has surrounded his home and there is concern that if he leaves, he could be arrested.
Despite the detentions and heavy security, many protesters assembled at intersections early Tuesday, some of them calling for Biya to step down.
Biya has been president since 1982, making him one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
Bookseller Thomas Ekwelle, 55, says not even riot police will stop him from freely expressing himself and protesting peacefully.
“If you look up there, there are anti-riot police. About 70 of them carrying guns and teargas. It is a sign of intimidation,” he said. “Many people will close their shops to go on the streets because it is too much. Somebody cannot take captivity of the country for more than 40 years.”
Kamto called for the protests to pressure Biya to stop regional elections scheduled for November 6.
He claims the electoral code favors only Biya, who the opposition blames for the separatist conflict in Cameroon’s western regions.
The conflict between anglophone rebels and Cameroon’s military has left at least 3,000 people dead since 2017.
Kamto has called for weekly protests until Biya cancels the polls.
Cameroon government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi says Kamto’s party wants to start a revolt in the country.
“The government considers that the CRM, which has voluntarily put itself outside the political game, and which moreover cannot claim any representation within the republican institutions, cannot grant itself the rights or the legitimacy vested in the president of the republic, His Excellency Paul Biya alone, to determine the national political agenda,” he said.
In January 2019, police detained Kamto and 200 of his supporters for insisting that Biya stole the 2018 presidential election.
After international criticism, Biya pardoned Kamto last November and had him released.