Cameroonians from across the UK gathered at the Cameroon High Commission in London today, to protest against the dictatorship of President Paul Biya. The protest which was organised by Brigade Anti-Sardinards (BAS UK) was part of the protests that have been taking place all over the world by Cameroonians calling on the long-serving dictator President Paul Biya to go.
Called by the opposition party leader Professor Maurice Kamto of Cameroon’s Renaissance Movement party (CRM) and Kah Wallah the leader of Cameroon’s People Party (CPP); the protests called on all Cameroonians both at home and abroad to come out and call for the current regime under Paul Biya to leave.
Auspicious is the date of 22nd September which was the same date that Anglophone lawyers and teachers took to the streets in 2017 to protest against marginalisation. The result of that protest led to a civil war which is raging in the Anglophone Regions of the North West and South West, with no end in sight. Many Anglophones are now refugees in the Francophone regions of the country, over 600,000 are refugees in Nigeria and it is estimated that some close to 5,000 people have died.
Protests at the Cameroon High Commission have developed a reputation for springing surprises that often require the forces of the law to intervene. On this occasion, the protesters decided to bring a coffin as part of their protest but the London Metropolitan Police on hand decided to seize the coffin claiming it had been pushed across the gate of the Cameroon High Commission. There were strict instructions to protestors to not go beyond the gate. Protesters were very unhappy as they felt the Police was there protecting the Cameroon High Commission against the interests of long-suffering Cameroonians. Some attributed this to the UK trying to keep the Cameroon government happy to protect a deal a UK company – New Age – signed with the Cameroon government worth about 1.5 billion pounds.
Due to the confiscation of the coffin by the Police, protesters decided to block the road by seating in the middle of it. This caused traffic to be diverted from Holland Park Road as pleas from the Police fell on deaf ears. The protesters were steadfast and insisted that unless the coffin was released then would they leave.
Things got sticky when Police refusal to hand over the coffin led to one of the BAS UK protestors scaling the Cameroon High Commission gates. He was trying to climb over it when the Police acted swiftly and moved to restrain him. The protester tried to wrench out of the hold of the police. This brought the other protesters to the scene who tried to stop the police from arresting a fellow protestor. The Police insisted that he must be arrested for defying the rules on not climbing over someone’s property. Protesters insisted they had a right as the Cameroon High Commission belonged to them. The protesters then tried to wrench the arrested fellow free from the police and that is when the tussle began.
Some protesters confronted the Police and were vocal about the treatment of the Police towards them. The arguments led to further fights and soon it degenerated into full-on confrontation as they tried to prevent the Police from taking away any arrested protesters. This led the Police to call for more re-enforcements to calm the situation. There were about three Police vans and soon four London Metropolitan Police cars would arrive in succession, totally cordoning off the bottom of the Holland Park Road.
Despite pleas from Emmanuel Kemta, the renowned Cameroon activist and musician, who was leading the BAS UK protesters on this occasion, the Police arrested 4 protesters in total and did not release the coffin. Those who sat blocking the road abandoned their positions following the commotion and others followed the Police to the station, hoping to secure the release of their fellow protesters.
The protesters left behind did not give up on their chants as they carried on, whilst the staff at the Cameroon High Commission watched from the windows of the building. Some of the staff members could be spotted recording. One had come out to the balcony when the tussle with the Police was taking place and watched it.
Meanwhile back in Cameroon, security forces dispersed the protests in Douala using tear gas. Four journalists were arrested for covering the protests. One was eventually released after allegedly being brutalised by the Cameroon Police. The other three are still behind bars