Anger boils over in Cameroon region after gendarme kills 5-year-old
A military police officer in the capital of Cameroon's restive English-speaking South West Region killed a five-year-old girl on Thursday when he fired on a car at a checkpoint, sparking angry protests, a senior regional official said.
A military police officer in the capital of Cameroon's restive English-speaking South West Region killed a five-year-old girl on Thursday when he fired on a car at a checkpoint, sparking angry protests, a senior regional official said. The incident could further inflame tensions in Cameroon's two English-speaking regions where secessionists angry about perceived marginalisation by the French-speaking majority have been battling government troops for nearly five years in an attempt to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia.
"The gendarme stopped the car which refused to obey and he opened fired on the car. A child who was being accompanied by her parents to school died," said the senior official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. The Gendarmerie had no official comment. Hundreds of residents took to the streets in protest, some waving tree branches in a sign of peace, while others waved 500 franc CFA currency notes ($0.88), which they said was how much the girl's parents refused to pay before the gendarme opened fire.
"This didn't just happen because they refused to pay a bribe of 500 CFA francs. It's too much," said one protester, who said the incident was part of a pattern of heavily militarised security forces harassing local residents. He declined to give his name for security reasons.
"All they do is intimidate people. If you have an identity card, it's a problem. If you don't have an identity card, it's a problem," said another protester who also declined to give her name. What began as peaceful protests in 2016 quickly degenerated into a violent insurgency pitting separatist groups against the army. Over 3,000 people have been killed and nearly a million displaced, with both sides accused of committing atrocities.
Videos shared online showed one protester marching ahead of a crowd, carrying the bloodied corpse of the child. Another video showed a gendarme on the ground being stomped on by protesters. Reuters was not able to authenticate the videos. The protesters took the corpse to the regional governor's office, where he promised swift action.
"How is it that a child on her way to school is killed?" Governor Bernard Okala Bilai said as he tried to calm the crowd. "Rest assured that those who did it will pay. It is an atrocity." During the protest, sporadic gunfire erupted elsewhere in the town, forcing residents to take cover, a Reuters witness said. It was unclear who was shooting.
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