The jailed head of Cameroon’s anglophone separatists, Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, has launched a hunger strike to protest the “disappearance” of co-detainees following prison riots, one of his lawyers said Thursday.
Ayuk Tabe, self-proclaimed president of “Ambazonia”, the breakaway state the separatists want to create in the country, stopped eating as of midnight Tuesday along with nine of his supporters, lawyer Joseph Fru told reporters.
In a letter to Cameroon Justice Minister Laurent Esso whose authenticity was verified by reporters, Ayuk Tabe said the unlimited hunger strike was in protest at the disappearance of “our compatriots” from the two prisons.
Hundreds of inmates mutinied at an overcrowded central prison in the capital Yaounde on July 22, then the next day at a prison in Buea, the capital of one of Cameroon’s two minority anglophone regions.
The rioters, many of them government opponents or supporters of the English-speaking separatist movement, filmed their protest and posted elements to Facebook.
The government announced 177 arrests including the anglophone separatists.
But it denied rumours that an anglophone leader Mancho Bibixy had been tortured and killed at the hands of the authorities.
Yaounde’s Kondengui prison was built to accommodate 1,500 inmates but is estimated to house more than double.
It holds many inmates arrested since the security crisis pitting separatist English-speaking regions in the west against the French-speaking population elsewhere started in 2016.
Several are serving long prison sentences, while others are awaiting trial.
Since 2017, the fighting has killed hundreds and forced more than 500,000 people from their homes.