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Cameroon Police Say Civilian Attacks on Police Increasing

FILE - A Cameroonian policeman and a gendarme patrol in Lysoka, near Buea, in Cameroon's Anglophone South-West region, October 07, 2018.

Officials in Cameroon say there has been a jump in cases of civilians assaulting police officers. Videos shared on social media in Cameroon show citizens mocking and battering police in response to alleged brutality and corruption.

Paul Atanga Nji, the territorial administration minister, also tasked with civilian protection, says at least 15 videos of civilians of refusing police orders and attacking officers have been shared on social media platforms within the past two weeks.

Nji said the police force confirmed its officers were the victims in the videos.

In some cases, he said, police have been victims of humiliation, battery and other forms of assault from civilians the police are supposed to protect.

This irresponsible behavior towards the police is unacceptable," Nji said. "It should be understood that the police are at the service of each and every one under the esteem guidance of the head of state [Cameroon’s President] Paul Biya. No person, regardless of their social status, for whatsoever reason has a right to assault a police officer on duty.”

In one video, a driver refuses a police demand to search his car, hits the police officer and then runs him over with his car while some bystanders applaud.

Another video appears to show a civilian carrying a police officer on his shoulder before throwing him on the back of a truck.

The civilians are believed to be retaliating for acts of police brutality or corruption.

Nji said if civilians have grievances, they should send complaints of alleged police misdeeds to the chief of police, who can take disciplinary action.

However, human rights lawyer Christopher Ndong says when police brutality and corruption are reported, senior government and police officials do not investigate.

He adds that police often beat people, detain some abusively and extract bribes from innocent civilians.

"There is no adult Cameroonian who will not tell you the excesses of a policeman," Ndong said. "You have a document all complete, a policeman says you are wrong. You must give 500 [Francs (XAF) or $1 as a bribe]. You have [car] documents which are wrong, the policeman will not impound the vehicle as the law provides. A policeman will be asking the man to pay fines that are determined by him and the state sits and looks at it. You see the fabulous sums he is collecting, and he does it with arrogance because they [police] have guns.”

Police officials deny the allegations, saying most officers in Cameroon are neither corrupt, nor take part in civilian abuse.