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Anglophone separatists insist they are not Cameroonians

Killian Ngala Chimtom

BBC Africa, Yaoundé


Anglophone separatists insisted they were not Cameroonians as they appeared in military court today.

When asked what their nationalities, each ten of the defendants answered the same:

"I am not a Cameroonian. I am an Ambazonian."

Ambazonia is the name of the state separatists have been fighting to establish for two years now. Many English speakers accuse the Francophone majority of discrimination.

The 10, including leader Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius, are accused of terrorism, secession, civil war and revolution, among other charges.

Their court case today was adjourned because the defence argued that the prosecution were too late to submit a list of witnesses.

It will continue on 10 January.

Cameroon drops charges against anti-Biya activists

Killian Ngala Chimtom

BBC Africa, Yaounde

President Paul Biya casting his ballot in Cameroon
The opposition alleged there was widespread fraud in the re-election of Paul Biya (above)

A court in the Cameroonian city of Douala has dropped charges against 52 opposition supporters who had been protesting against the re-election of 85-year old President Paul Biya.

Opposition candidate Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) party, disputes the official results, alleging widespread fraud.

The activists had been in detention since October, all expect Barrister Michelle Ndoki, a senior MRC official.

He told the BBC that the public prosecutor dropped the charges “on the instructions of the minister of justice”.

It was a relief that sometimes “things can go right” in Cameroon, he said.

But he added that the “trumped-up charges only illustrate that freedom of speech, and freedom generally, is still a problem in Cameroon”.

The 52 had been accused of “insurrection” and holding “illegal demonstrations that threatened to disrupt public order” and if found guilty could have faced long jail terms.

Meanwhile, the case against journalist Michel Biem Tong - who was due to appear before a military court on charges of insulting the head of state, propagating false information and terrorism - has been adjourned until 2 January.

The director of the Hurinews site was arrested on 23 October after he was suspected of making WhatsApp recordings calling on Anglophone separatists to resist the government.

Mr Biya, in power since 1982, won a seventh term with 71.3% of the vote on 7 October.

But voter turnout was low in the country's two English-speaking areas - where people complain of marginalisation. The North West and South West regions have been hit by more than a year of violent protests and attacks by separatist rebels.

Read more: Cameroon's 'absentee' president

Fire destroys 200 stalls at Cameroon market

Woman at torched market

About 200 stalls have been destroyed by a huge fire which ripped through a market in Cameroon's main English-speaking city, Bamenda, reports BBC Afrique's Frederic Takang from the scene.

Torched market

The cause of the fire at the Food Market is unclear.

The government blamed a fire at the market last year on separatists demanding independence for Cameroon's English-speaking regions. The separatists say English-speaking Cameroonians face discrimination, and are fed up of being part of a country ruled for more than 35 years by French-speaking President Paul Biya.

The government accuses the separatists of being "terrorists" threatening the central African state's unity.

Read more: The city where men are scared to wear red

Kenyan priest killed in cross-fire in Cameroon

Killian Ngala Chimtom

BBC Africa, Yaoundé

Map showing regions of Cameroon

A Kenyan priest stationed at a parish in Cameroon's troubled South-West region has been killed.

He was caught in cross-fire between government forces and separatists, according to a local official.

"Some villagers say he was shot by the gendarmes. Others say he was shot by separatists. We are still investigating," said Eyumojock's Divisional Officer, Moloka Egbe.

He added that the separatists had climbed up trees in order to shoot at the security forces who were fighting from their armoured cars.

"It was within the context of the fighting that the priest was shot, right in front of his office."

A soldier was shot in the eye during the exchange of gunfire and is now receiving treatment in hospital.

"It’s difficult to know whether the separatists incurred any casualties since they strike and run back into the forests," Mr Egbe said.

The recent killing comes just 11 days after the burial of an American missionary, Charles Trumman Wesco, who was killed in nearby Bamenda.

In October, a 19-year-old seminarian was killed in Kumbo, North-West region, while a group of religious sisters were kidnapped in the same region by suspected separatists earlier in the month.