Cameroon opposition fear arms cargo is intended for crackdown

Mark Huband in Douala

The Guardian, 29 April 1991

CAMEROON’S opposition parties yesterday gave the government until May 10 to organise a national conference on the country’s political future as fears grew that a large consignment of ammunition which arrived at Douala port from France last week would be used to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations.

Leaders of 11 opposition parties holding a joint meeting at the weekend demanded an unconditional amnesty for all political prisoners. The government granted an amnesty last week, but opposition leaders believe it will not apply to political prisoners jailed for fabricated non-political crimes. The opposition believes there are up to 400 such cases.

The arrival of fresh supplies of ammunition in Douala on April 25 has raised concern among pro-democracy activists that the government is planning tough action against them, despite the more conciliatory tone expressed by the new Prime Minister, Sadou Hayatou, who was appointed last Friday.

The cargo consists of 900,000 cartridges, and grenades. Defence ministry officials told activists of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, that they had no knowledge of it being ordered.

The opposition claims that up to 100 have died during pro-democracy demonstrations. The government says only 20 died.



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