Armed security forces moved into residential areas and fired gunshots throughout the night after a day of violence in which at least five people were killed in Bamenda.
Scores of people were trapped overnight at Ayaba Hotel, where the prime minister and officials of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party finally held a small meeting after an anti-federalism rally was foiled.
Among the stranded were traditional rulers, mostly from Oku, who had been invited to town to attend the rally planned for Commercial Avenue in the wake of weeks of strikes and protests across English-speaking regions.
Before nightfall on Thursday, a military helicopter flew severally above the city and reports said truckloads of mostly gendarmes were heading to the city, which was already heavily militarized, from Yaoundé and elsewhere.
“There is fear in the city,” said a correspondent Ignatius Nji, who was blocked with more than a hundred people at Ayaba Hotel overnight. “There was shooting throughout the night. People were afraid of being caught in the crossfire or molested by protesters.”
After a busy night, armed and armored gendarmes on foot and on trucks continued patrolling the city’s empty streets early Friday, as the full toll of Thursday’s violence began to emerge.
Eyewitnesses put the number of deaths at five, even though the official figure still stood at two. Hospitals were treating dozens of injured, some in critical condition.
More images and footage captured by city dwellers emerged on social media, showing the scale of the aftermath of clashes between troops and protesters.
Reports that two policemen might have been killed remained unconfirmed. However, eyewitnesses said a man identified as a gendarme in plainclothes was attacked.
Prime Minister Philemon Yang called off the anti-federalism and pro-unity rally after conditions become unsafe for the public demonstrations.
Instead, gendarmes transported trapped CPDM militants from the Congress Hall to Ayaba Hotel, where Jean Nkuete, the CPDM secretary-general addressed them.
Nkuete, a Francophone for the West region, called for calm and urged striking teachers to allow students to return to school.
He invoked the pre-intendance struggle in the West region, during which security forces slaughtered thousands, to drive home his message of what can happen when civilians confront the military.
Yang held another two-hour meeting behind closed doors with government ministers, lawmakers, CPDM officials and other top ranking public figures.
But outside, security forces were still moving through the streets, stopping to fire teargas and bullets at gatherings and buildings.
Friday started with more troops in the streets than citizens. Taxis, motorbikes and even private cars were not in circulation.