Following the assassination of a prominent lawyer and opposition lawmaker in Cameroon’s restive English-speaking North West region by suspected separatist fighters, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the Cameroonian government have tightened security around the Super Eagles and other teams competing in the ongoing AFCON. ayokinews.com reports
Henry Kemende, an opposition senator, was allegedly shot dead at close range in the northern city of Bamenda on Wednesday, according to officials from his party and the administration.
Kemende’s corpse was discovered after he was “killed by unidentified armed assailants,” according to an official. Kemende was a lawyer who became a legislator for the Social Democratic Front (SDF), one of Cameroon’s main opposition political parties.
“We recovered his body, his chest riddled with bullets,” said Joshua Osih, deputy president of the SDF, to the AFP news agency.
The whereabouts of Kemende’s car was unknown to authorities. Cameroonian officials have prioritized security for the ongoing AFCON and have repeatedly said that security is a key priority in the lead-up to and during the event.
Cameroon’s English-speaking citizens have launched several protests, which have been met with brutality by security forces. Following a gun battle between government forces and pro-independence rebels in Buea, the city of restive Southern Cameroon, the senator’s death sparked fear on Wednesday afternoon, just before Mali’s match against Tunisia. One Cameroonian gendarme officer was also killed.
The incident happened fewer than two kilometers from the Molyko sports facility, where the Mali national team was practicing on Wednesday.
Mali won the game, which finished in disarray, 1-0. Buea is the capital of Cameroon’s Southwest Region, which, along with the neighboring North-West Region, is embroiled in unrest triggered by Cameroon’s Anglophone minority’s quest to secede from the French-majority country.
Separatists declared the “Federal Republic of Ambazonia” in October 2017 after years of anger with alleged persecution.
Since October 2017, when terrorists proclaimed an independent state in the northwest and southwest, home to the bulk of Cameroon’s Anglophone minority in the majority French-speaking country, Cameroon has been ripped apart by bloodshed.
Both separatists and government forces have been accused of crimes during the violence, which has killed over 3,000 people and driven over 700,000 people to abandon their homes.
The Cameroon authorities, on the other hand, promised players of their protection. In an interview with AFP, police stressed that the area of the nation hosting matches involving the Super Eagles of Nigeria was reasonably safe.
More security troops were summoned yesterday, according to The Guardian, to safeguard hotels and match locations.
“I don’t think the fighters can disrupt the AFCON unless they launch a massive attack, which remains a possibility,” said Guibai Gatama, publisher of L’Oeil du Sahel, northern Cameroon’s prominent twice-weekly journal (The Eye of the Sahel).
“The stadium in the North, where Group D (comprising Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea Bissau) play, is located in Garoua, which is very far from their sphere of operation.”