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Hundreds flee Cameroon ahead of vote

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Cameroonian authorities Saturday banned the “massive exodus” from the country’s restive anglophone regions, where violence has mounted ahead of next month’s presidential election.

A humanitarian source in Buea, the capital of the South West Region, told AFP that “hundreds of families are in the process of fleeing for ‘safer’ regions,” adding: “There is an atmosphere of fear.”

South West governor of Bernard Okalia Bilai Saturday was quoted as saying by the national television and radio network that “journeys were authorised (but) relocations and a massive exodus are forbidden.”

The governor on Saturday visited a busy bus terminus in Buea, where people have been leaving en masse — often with mattresses and beds — for the southern commercial capital of Douala or cities and towns in central Cameroon.

“Rumours… are circulating that the armed forces are about to launch an assault. They are not launching an assault,” he told state media.

“Rather it’s the terrorists (anglophone separatists) who want to attack and the security forces are there to stop that.”

“Parents and children are fleeing although many children are enrolled in schools,” the governor said.

Cameroon’s two minority English-speaking regions — the North-West and South-West — have been hit by almost daily acts of violence that have left more than a hundred people dead and about 200,000 displaced since late 2016.

Years of resentment at perceived discrimination at the hands of Cameroon’s francophone majority have led to almost daily acts of violence and retribution.

The anglophone separatists have said that voting will not take place in the two regions on October 7.

At the October poll, eight candidates will run against the 85-year-old incumbent Paul Biya, who has ruled the country for 35 years and is seeking a seventh straight term in office.

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