YAOUNDE - Cameroon says its police shot and wounded seven people and arrested 117 in several towns where protests of what organizers call an "electoral hold up" were organized on Saturday. The demonstrations were led by Maurice Kamto, the man who claims he won the October 7 presidential poll in Cameroon.
Sixty people, a majority of them youths, shout as they march through the streets of Cameroon political capital Yaounde, banging spoons and dishes and calling for the unconditional release of everyone arrested during Saturday's demonstrations.
Cameroon's minister of communication and government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi says the economic capital Douala, the capital Yaounde, and the western town of Mbounda were the scene of protests organized by Maurice Kamto and his Cameroon Renaissance Movement party.
"The CRM intended as usual to push our compatriots at home and abroad to defy the republican order with slogans of rebellion and insurgency against legal and legitimate institutions," he said. "The government strongly condemns this unacceptable maneuver to destabilize Cameroon under the false pretext of an alleged electoral hold up."
Incumbent President Paul Biya was declared the winner of the October 7 presidential election by Cameroon's constitutional council after the results giving him a landslide victory were challenged by Kamto. Kamto then announced what he called a national resistance program until Biya steps down. The first protests organized by the CRM in late October were put down by police and the party said 42 people, including some of its officials, had been arrested and detained. They were later freed.
Michele Ndoki, a lawyer who defended Kamto at the constitutional council, where they alleged massive fraud and ballot-stuffing in favor of Biya’s ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), was one of those arrested during the October 27 and 28 protests. In this Saturday's demonstration Ndoki was shot in the leg, one of seven wounded, including Celestin Djamen another CRM official. Ndoki says police used live bullets against the protesters.
Cameroon minister of territorial administration Paul Atanga Nji says riot police did their jobs professionally after they were provoked by the demonstrators. He says Kamto defied a ban on the protest because he wants to destabilize Cameroon.
"The forces of law and order did not use any firearms to maintain peace and order. Any contrary information is fake news," he said. "The CRM political party and their leaders should not take the leniency of the government as a sign of weakness. As from now henceforth, they will taste the bitterness of our laws which will be applied scrupulously."
Atanga Nji said similar protests took place in Cameroon embassies abroad.
In a telephone interview with VOA, Sylvester Onana, spokesperson for the Cameroon Embassy in Paris, says they had to call in the police after the protest went violent.
He says they are still evaluating the damage, but everything in the embassy was completely ransacked by a group of about a hundred Cameroonians singing anti-Cameroon government slogans. He says the French police had to intervene to stop the youths from further destruction.
Maurice Kamto says he will continue with the demonstrations against what he says is election fraud, as well as against the government’s failure to resolve the separatist crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions of the country until Biya leaves office and a solution is found.
Biya has been in power for 36 years and is now the second-oldest president in sub-Saharan Africa after his neighbor Theodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. When his new term is finished, he will be 93 years old.