Three Anglophone separatists were killed in clashes with Cameroonian security forces in the flashpoint Southwest Region town of Buea, a day before presidential polls, The Defense Post reports.
“Three separatists were killed Friday in Small Soppo, Buea,” said a source close to the security forces, whose account was confirmed by witnesses contacted by AFP.
“They were killed during exchanges of fire between the security forces and the separatists,” added the source.
“I saw the bodies of three people in Small Soppo,” added one of the witnesses.
For the last two years violence has been escalating in the English speaking north-west and south-west regions of the country with reports of atrocities against civilians being carried out by the Cameroonian military as well as by separatist rebels.
Initially most Anglophones in Cameroon wanted their grievances addressed. A minority wanted an independent state, which they call “Ambazonia”.
However, since late 2016 a heavy-handed response to protests — including the jailing of some English-speaking activists and sympathizers — has convinced many that only severance from Cameroon will satisfy their yearning for a better life.
The Ambazonians have printed passports, designed a currency and a flag, composed a national anthem and set up a satellite TV station.
Many of their most influential figures are in exile in Europe and the United States, however.
Biya, who has ruled virtually by decree since replacing a retired predecessor in 1982, is almost certain to win an October election. In 2011, he won by 78 percent.
His leadership style coupled with long absences overseas — usually to Switzerland with his wife — makes a goodwill gesture to smooth things over unlikely.
The poll will be difficult to organize in the hostile Anglophone region. Anywhere where voting fails to happen could ignite in fresh bouts of unrest.