Cameroon opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who claims to have been cheated out of the presidency in elections last year, was arrested in the country’s economic capital Douala on Monday, a senior party member said.
The arrest is the latest political turbulence to hit the country and comes after several recent eruptions of protests over the October presidential vote, which saw Kamto come second behind Paul Biya, who has ruled for more than three decades.
According to Emmanuel Simh, vice-president of the opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC); “Mr Kamto was arrested at the home of (supporter) Albert Dzongang.”
Following Kamto’s arrest, around 300 people gathered outside Dzongang’s house, according to reports, flanked by about 50 police officers. Shots were fired into the air to disperse the crowd.
The authorities did not respond to a request for information.
Veteran leader Biya won a seventh consecutive term in the October election, which was blasted by the MRC as an “electoral hold-up”.
Kamto, who has continued to claim he was the rightful winner, won 14.23 percent of the vote to place second, according to the official figures, but his party has held sporadic protests since then to dispute the result.
On Saturday 117 people were arrested during protest marches in several towns.
The MRC was holding a crisis meeting late Monday in response to the arrests, Simh told reporters, adding that Dzongang and Christian Penda Ekoka, an economist, were also arrested in Monday’s police raid.
Kamto’s former election campaign head Paul-Eric Kingue and rapper Valsero were among those detained over the weekend.
The Cameroon government has looked to dissuade Kamto’s party from demonstrating, claiming that the opposition leader was an “outlaw” for not accepting the election results.
In France dozens of protesters broke into Cameroon’s Paris embassy on Sunday, vandalising portraits of Biya, according to witnesses.
Police forced them out of the building two hours later and onto the street, where they continued their protest outside the embassy.
Biya has ruled the country since 1982 with support from the army, government administrations and the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC) that he created in 1985.