Eight people were killed in a protest in Cameroon. (File photo: Reuters)

Cameroonian soldiers have shot dead at least eight people, and wounded others, after heavily armed police and soldiers deployed to Cameroon’s restless English-speaking regions on Sunday in an effort to prevent protests by activists calling for independence from the majority francophone nation, The Guardian newspaper reported late Sunday night.

Sunday’s protests followed a months'-old movement against what English-speaking Cameroonians perceive as marginalisation by the francophone-dominated government.

The protests were planned to coincide with the anniversary of Anglophone Southern Cameroon’s independence from Britain in 1961.

French-speaking Cameroon gained its independence from France in 1960. The two sides joined together in October 1961 to form the Republic of Cameroon.

Protests at the perceived marginalisation under President Paul Biya’s 35-year rule began at the end of 2016.

The dead included five prisoners were killed by soldiers early Sunday morning after the jail they were in caught fire, the cause of which is unknown. Two prisoners were taken to hospital with bullet wounds.

A demonstrator was also killed, and two others wounded in Kumbo, after they raised the blue and white flag of the Ambazonia separatist movement, while a woman was also killed in her home.

Prior to the protests the authorities banned all gatherings of more than four people, ordered bus stations, restaurants, cafes and shops to shut and forbade movement between different parts of the English-speaking regions.

The government also ordered Cameroon’s border with Nigeria to be closed for the weekend while Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary threatened to close any media organisation that gave voice to separatist groups.

Last week an improvised bomb wounded three policemen in Bamenda in what the regional government labelled “a terrorist attack” and which a senior security source blamed on separatists.

The Cameroonian divide traces its roots to the end of World War 1 when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.

- African News Agency (ANA)