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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Separatists go to court in Cameroon
Separatist leaders in the English-speaking part of the West African state of Cameroon say they will start court action on Wednesday to try to obtain the release of more than 100 activists detained by the security forces.

At least three English-speaking activists were killed on Monday when rallies held by activists of the Southern Cameroon's National Council were broken up by the police.

We were leading the freedom march when police and gendarmes fell on us like wounded lions

Separatist leader Nfor Ngala Nfor

A spokesman for the separatists said their leader Martin Luma was among those arrested and that the movement was very concerned about his poor health.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed in the English speaking areas.

The pro-separatists demonstrations in Kumbo and Bamenda, which were banned by the government, also left five others injured

The crowds had gathered in the towns to mark the self-proclaimed independence anniversary on 1 October in the former Southern Cameroons from Britain in 1961.

Southern Cameroons then merged with neighbouring French-speaking Cameroon, but leaders of the English-speaking minority say they are treated as second-class citizens, and have lobbied for autonomy for many years.

Leaders arrested

Vice-president Nfor Ngala told Reuters on a mobile phone from a police cell in Bamenda: " We were leading the freedom march when, 1,000 metres on down the street, police and gendarmes fell on us like wounded lions".

English-speaking march in Cameroon last year
English-speaking groups say they are discriminated against

But Cameroon's communications minister Jacques Fame Ndongo told the French news agency, AFP, that the security agents "were responding to attacks by demonstrators armed with guns".

State radio said that police had quickly put down what they described as a small protest in Bamenda "without major incident".

Curfew on

In Kumbo, witnesses told AFP that security forces had manhandled demonstrators and fired shots which killed some of them.

A correspondent for the BBC in Cameroon said the situation is still tense and that the curfew imposed in the English-speaking region last Friday is likely to continue for at least a week.

Anglophone demonstrators raise illegal flag
Demonstrators hoist an illegal federal flag

He said this is because the authorities want to prevent any further protests.

In 1999 Anglophone activists briefly took over a radio station and called on others to secede. Six of them were arrested and held for 13 months.

Cameroon was united in 1972 and called the United Republic of Cameroon but in 1984, two years after President Paul Biya came to power he dropped the united from the title.

Anglophones have continued to complain of their increasing marginalisation.

They claim that they are exempted from top government jobs and that official documents which should be published in both English and French are now only done in the latter.

Augustin Ndanga of Southern Cameroons Council
"The march was peaceful. People carried placards against annexation and state terrorism"
Prof Ngole Ngole, Minister in president's office
"Our police have been undergoing human rights seminars"
See also:

07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cameroon
23 Jul 01 | Africa
Timeline: Cameroon
06 Nov 00 | Africa
Mass grave found in Cameroon
23 Oct 00 | Africa
Huge oil project launched
04 Sep 00 | Africa
Mobile phone frenzy hits Cameroon
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