Protests in Cameroon's two English-speaking regions, longtime opposition bastions, have brought several cities to a standstill as shops and schools closed and residents stayed home, residents said.
In Bamenda, the epicentre of the minority anglophone community, a teacher said the city "is completely dead". On the main commercial avenue "the shops are closed. The schools haven't reopened" as scheduled after the Christmas holidays, said the teacher, who requested anonymity. "There's no trouble but the people are staying home," he said.
The so-called 'dead city' protests were called by secessionist organisations in the anglophone regions which feel marginalised in the majority francophone country headed by President Paul Biya (83), who has been in power since 1982.
A fifth of Cameroon's population, estimated at over 22 million, is anglophone – a legacy of the unification in 1961 of two colonial-era entities previously run by France and Britain.
In recent months there has been a surge of violence in the English-speaking regions, reflecting the simmering anger of the anglophone minority as the nation heads for a key presidential election in 2018.
Several deaths have been reported as protesters clashed with police in Bamenda. Other unrest has been reported in the southwestern towns of Buea and Kumba.
Buea on Monday was "also paralysed" by a 'dead city' protest, said a teacher in that main town of the second anglophone region.
An exporter of oil that is rich in timber and agriculture, the central-west African country is among the most prosperous economies on the continent. But the anglophone minority has long complained that wealth has not been shared out fairly, and that they have suffered discrimination.
Secessionist movements have called for establishing an independent state called Southern Cameroon. But Biya stated in his end of year address last month: "Cameroon is one and indivisible. It will remain that way."