Cameroon celebrated its 36th National Day today to commemorate the unification of the country?s French- and English-speaking areas in 1972. Douala-based reporter Divine Ntaryike says President Paul Biya used the occasion to ask the West to introduce a Marshall Plan for Africa. He says the plan would help the continent develop and would encourage African graduates to stay in the country. Thousands now emigrate to the West each year in search of employment.

Ntaryike says the opposition Social Democratic Front announced a boycott of the day?s activities to protest the continuing detention of young people whom the government says were behind rioting over rising food costs in February. The mostly English-speaking opposition is also protesting President Biya?s plans to continue to compete in president elections, despite constitutional term limits. Opponents also say that since unification, the French-speaking part of the country has failed to share political power. 

Ntaryike says there was a strong police presence in Douala during today?s parades, ?as if Cameroon is under a disguised state of emergency.? He says security was so tight that a communiqué warned those watching the parades not to bend over, even to pick up a dropped cell phone. Ntaryike says that was to ensure that no one was reaching for a weapon to use against officials taking part in the celebrations.