Cameroon forces quash prison riot posted on Facebook

23 Jul 2019 / 23:05 H.

YAOUNDÉ: Cameroon’s security forces forcefully put down a riot by prisoners who ransacked and burnt a jail in the capital Yaounde overnight to protest their incarceration, witnesses told AFP on Tuesday.

The rioters, many of them government opponents and supporters of an English-speaking separatist movement in the country’s west, filmed their protest and posted elements to Facebook.

Several inmates were injured, prison sources said, including former prime minister Inoni Ephraim and ex-minister Urbain Olenguena Awono who were targeted by other inmates.

Ephraim was jailed for 20 years after being convicted on corruption charges in 2016.

“There were shots all night. It was like fireworks,“ as the security forces fought the uprising, a resident told AFP.

Local media reported that no-one was killed, and no prisoners escaped.

Calm appeared to have returned to the prison by Tuesday, an AFP journalist observed. Police and soldiers have erected a cordon around the jail.

On social media, the inmates demanded their liberation and better food.

The over-populated central prison of Yaounde, known as Kondengui, was built to accommodate 1,500 inmates but houses about 5,000.

It hosts numerous people arrested since an anglophone separatist uprising started in 2016. Several are serving long prison sentences, others are awaiting trial.

Cameroon is in the midst of a security crisis that has pitted separatist English-speaking regions in the west against the French-speaking population elsewhere.

In the north, the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram also stages regular armed attacks.

The country is also facing political ructions, after the head of the opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), Maurice Kamto, and about 100 of the party’s supporters were arrested in January and remain in detention.

President Paul Biya has been in power for 36 years.

MRC secretary general Christopher Ndong told AFP that security forces had taken several prominent members of the separatist movement — those seen as the leaders of the revolt — from the prison to an unknown destination on Tuesday.

More than one in six people in Cameroon — 4.3 million — need humanitarian aid, an increase of 30% from 2018, according to UN aid officials. — AFP

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