Bamenda was a ghost town on Monday after inhabitants ignored a request from the government for schools to resume and instead observed a stay-home protest against the marginalization of English speakers and recent police brutality.
Streets were empty and little business took place in cities, towns and villages throughout Anglophone regions as citizens observed the protest called by the outlawed Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC).
Authorities had encouraged parents to send their kids to school today in another push to break a strike by teachers that has crippled the Anglophone education subsystem since November.
Empty streets were reported in major towns across Anglophone regions
But in most schools here, “there was no soul in class” said a resident.
A government school located within a military barracks failed to open after a handful of student showed up to find out that there were no teachers. Boarding schools did not reverse a decision asking parents to keep their children at home, while parents and students simply did not leave their homes throughout the city.
Authorities suffered another major setback, which came shortly after a cracked down on Anglophone dissent. Security forces have arrested two Anglophone leaders, a supreme court judge and a number of activists and charged them under the country’s anti-terrorism law.
Troops patrolled the city, including schools to give security for those willing to resume classes, according to the government. But parents were unwilling to send their children out under the tensed and militarized atmosphere.
Residents ignored government assurances and stayed at home
“I did not see a single person in several schools I passed by,” said a city dwellers. “There was no soul in class or near the schools. I have never seen anything like this.”
The state media reported the flop of the government’s reassurances during the midday news on Monday.
Reporter Winston Lebga said in one school, only three pupils showed up, only to find a vacant campus. At another school, a handful of teachers came in but found no students.
The stay at home protest is expected to continue for two more days.
Authorities had opened talks with striking teachers and lawyers to end the crises but suddenly decided to outlaw the main organizations representing Anglophone interests and turning to repression after disagreements persisted.
The draconian moves, including cutting off internet services in Anglophone regions appear to have sunk government’s reputation and enraged the population.