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Cameroon Denies Security Forces Abused Protesters


A blackboard with translations of French phrases into the Kanuri language is seen at a Cameroonian military base in Kolofata, Cameroon.

The government in Cameroon says its security forces did not abuse protesters during demonstrations in two areas last month.

Students, teachers, and lawyers in English-speaking parts of the country were protesting the influence of the French language.

A government official told VOA that Cameroon’s military acted with restraint during the demonstrations, and showed respect for international rules on human rights.

Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma said the government is investigating the protests and the actions of military officers. He noted that if the government finds evidence of wrongdoing, it will take corrective action to punish the violators. He also said that Cameroon will not accept any attempts to ruin the country's hard-earned national unity.

The spokesman said he was reacting to a statement by the United States. He said the State Department released the statement on November 28.

The State Department expressed concern about the deaths, injuries and damage that resulted from protests in the capitals of Cameroon's Northwestern and Southwestern regions.

U.S. ambassador Michael Hoza expressed concerns over the violence. He met with Cameroon's president Paul Biya and explained that the United States respects Cameroon’s history of acceptance of diversity.

“…And both President Biya and I agreed that dialogue is the future for Cameroon. We know that there are many discussions and we are certain that Cameroon's people will find solutions and they have to live together in tolerance as they have for many, many years."

Cameroon has two official languages: English and French. English speakers make up about 20 percent of the population. Cameroon’s constitution says that English and French should be equally important.

However the protesters say the two languages are not treated equally.

English-speaking lawyers say some judges working in English-speaking areas have trouble speaking the language. Another issue is that the French-speaking regions operate under French civil law, but the English-speaking areas are based on English common law.

Teachers have said that the government continues to send teachers that only speak French to English-speaking parts of the country. Some students in those areas are worried that they will not be able to get good jobs after they finish school.

I’m Phil Dierking.

Reporter Moki Edwin Kindzeka in Cameroon wrote this story for VOANews.com. Phil Dierking adapted his report for Learning English with additional sources. ­­­­­George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dialogue n. a discussion or series of discussions that two groups or countries have in order to end a disagreement

diversity – n. the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.

solutions n. something that solves a problem

spokesman n. someone who speaks for or represents a person, company, etc.

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