YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
Cameroon's economic capital is cracking down on gang violence that has changed the lives of residents in many of Douala's neighborhoods.
Forty-five-year-old Ndjasso Pierre, who lives in New Bell, a popular neighborhood in Douala, says armed gangs started regular attacks when one of their members was accused of harassing citizens and killed by a crowd.
He said the assailants, who were previously attacking in groups of seven and eight, are now coming in larger numbers and targeting people inside their homes. He said the groups are signaling that they will continue attacks.
Pierre said the assailants attack using fire and locally made guns, machetes and knives.
Littoral Governor Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua addresses gang violence during a meeting in Douala, March 16, 2017. (M.E. Kindzeka/VOA)
Samuel Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua, governor of the Littoral region of Cameroon where Douala is located, said several people have died and hundreds wounded. He says hundreds have also been arrested by the military which was deployed to protect the population.
Diboua said New Bell and other affected Douala neighborhoods will no longer be at the mercy of armed groups. He said people who know the network of traffickers supplying drugs to the armed groups should inform them that the military will have no mercy when it starts organizing spontaneous raids.
Residents gather to discuss the recent gang violence in Douala, March 16, 2017. (M.E. Kindzeka/VOA)
Douala has a population of about 3 million, a majority of whom are unemployed youths. Insecurity has always been present in the city, with broad daylight assaults, but this is the first time armed gangs have been in running battles with the military.
The military arrives in Douala for a night-time response to recent gang violence, March 16, 2017. (M.E. Kindzeka/VOA)