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Cameroon Opposition Defies Police, Protests Biya's Hold on Power


FILE - Cameroon's President Paul Biya addresses reporters at the Elyse Palace in Paris, Jan. 30, 2013. Opposition party members are protesting Biya's long hold on power in the country.

FILE - Cameroon's President Paul Biya addresses reporters at the Elyse Palace in Paris, Jan. 30, 2013. Opposition party members are protesting Biya's long hold on power in the country.

The opposition in Cameroon has defied police and continued protests against efforts by the ruling party to organize early elections, with several protesters having been wounded or arrested since last Tuesday.

The opposition, which encouraged protesters to dress in black on Sunday, said Cameroon President Paul Biya, 84, is angling to be "president for life” after 34 years already in office.

Kah Wallah, opposition leader of the Cameroon People's Party (CPP), said they are dressed in black as a symbol of sadness over Biya's long stay in power and persistent brutality against voices opposing his attempt to be "president for life."

Wallah said dozens of protesters have been arrested or wounded by heavily armed police in several towns, including Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, and the economic capital Douala during the protests.

"The police as you see have blocked us, they have shot us, they would not allow us to talk, they would not allow us to do our job as the political leaders of this country. They have stepped on the rights of citizens," she said.

Vows to continue protests

Wallah, who is a member of a coalition of four opposition political parties, said demonstrators will continue to protest until Biya says "no" to calls by his ruling party for him to change the constitution and organize early elections.

Cameroon government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary said the protests are illegal and will not be allowed to take place.

"The fact that you are a politician does not allow you to take the laws into your own hands. When you violate the law in such circumstances, the consequences are very well known. What they wanted to have, they had it," Bakary said.

Biya revised the constitution in 2008 to remove presidential term limits. His current mandate ends in 2018.

The opposition parties are afraid Biya wants to surprise them by changing the constitution yet again.

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