This statement was originally published on africafex.org on 3 October 2017.
The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) denounces the brutality of Cameroon's security forces against unarmed civilians reportedly killing 12 people and injuring many persons in the country's English-speaking regions. AFEX also decries the government's decision to shut down the Internet for the second time this year amidst protests.
According to AFEX sources in Cameroon, security agents on October 1, 2017, fired live bullets and tear gas at demonstrators who had gathered in different parts of the two regions to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the proclamation of the Independence of Anglophone Cameroon. A total of 12 persons have been killed leaving several others injured across the North-west and South-west regions of Cameroon.
Prior to the unrest, there had been reports of heavy military presence in the two regions ahead of the scheduled Independence Day Commemoration. Also, the government ordered the closure of Cameroon's border with Nigeria over the weekend, restricting people's freedom of movement.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of a complete Internet blackout in Anglophone Cameroon and the disruption of certain social media platforms in the Francophone regions of the country following the October 1st unrest.
AFEX is dismayed that the Cameroonian government can resort to an Internet shutdown barely six months after it was compelled to end the 93 day blackout which was widely condemned as a gross violation of freedom of expression and access to information rights of the Anglophone people. It is unimaginable that the government of Cameroon would plunge Cameroon into another Internet blackout when the country has hardly recovered from the heavy social and economic cost of the previous shutdown.
The government has not made any official communication regarding the unrest. However, President Paul Biya has condemned the acts of violence as deplorable "regardless of their source and their perpetrators", on his official Facebook account. He also recognised the need to uphold freedom of expression rights in the regions.
"Let us understand that it is not forbidden to express concerns in the Republic. On the other hand, nothing big can be built in verbal escalation, street violence and challenges to authority", read the Facebook post.
Nevertheless, we urge President Paul Biya to order the security agents to stop using lethal force against unarmed civilians. We also call for thorough investigations into the reported killings and other violations for prompt redress. The Cameroonian government must assume its responsibility to ensure respect for freedom of expression, association and other fundamental rights in the two regions.
There has been unrest in the two English-speaking regions for the past eleven months with the Anglophone population agitating against perceived marginalization from the government.
Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS)
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP)
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Institute for Media and Society (IMESO)
International Press Centre (IPC)
Journaliste en danger (JED)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
West African Journalists Association (WAJA)