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FILE PHOTO: A security forces member stands in guard during the release of Anglophone activists at the prison of Yaounde,Cameroon, September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer(reuters_tickers)
YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon authorities on Friday banned all gatherings of more than four people, ordered bus stations, eateries and shops to shut and forbade movement between divisions of its English-speaking region for three days to prevent planned protests.
Anglophone Cameroonians plan to demonstrate on Oct. 1st, the day of their independence from Britain, over what they say is ill treatment and neglect by the predominantly Francophone government of President Paul Biya. The protests have become a lightening rod for opposition to Biya's 35-year rule.
The last time there were big protests in the western region, the government responded by unplugging the internet, shooting dead six protesters and arrested hundreds of others, some of whom were charged with crimes that carry the death penalty.
"Public gatherings and assembly of more than four persons shall be strictly forbidden. All off licences, snack bars and night clubs shall not operate. Motor parks shall remain closed," said the order signed by Adolphe Lele Lafrique, governor of the northwest region.
"Any persons who attempt to violate this order shall be prosecuted," it added.
The draconian measures are likely to provoke further anger driving a movement that is fast morphing from a bid for equal rights into a full-fledged struggle for independence.
Cameroon's divide has its roots in the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.
Thousands of Anglophone demonstrators took to the streets last Friday, some of them hoisting separatist flags.
The government ordered its border with Nigeria closed this weekend. The Anglophone regions have strong ties to eastern Nigeria and authorities may fear that allowing the border to remain open during protests offers the demonstrators a rear base and makes it harder to maintain order.
(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)