September 29, 2011 / 9:34 AM / 8 years ago

Uniformed gunmen open fire in Cameroon

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Gunmen dressed in military fatigues opened fire on the main bridge of Cameroon’s economic capital Douala on Thursday in an apparent protest against President Paul Biya days before he seeks reelection, security official and local media said.

The official said one of the gunmen was holding a banner urging Biya, who has ruled the central African oil-producing country for 29 years, to step down.

However other details of the incident, including how many gunmen were involved, their affiliation, and whether there had been any causalities, were not immediately available.

A local television broadcaster said security forces had taken back control of the Wouri bridge and an official the regional governor’s office said calm was gradually returning to the city after the incident around dawn.

Cameroon will hold a presidential election on October 9 and Biya, who changed the constitution in 2008 to remove presidential term limits, is widely expected to win.

The constitution changes, together with protests over high cost of living, led at the time to clashes with security forces which resulted in more than 100 deaths, but since then Cameroon has been relatively stable.

Analysts have said that while Biya has been able to maintain stability, there were risks that the country could face turbulent times in the election and post-election period.

Roddy Barclay, London-based analyst at Control Risks consultancy, said the involvement of the military in any unrest, if proven to be the cast, would prove “a worrying precedent.”

“Dissatisfaction within the regular army remains a persistent problem due to low wages, limited promotion prospects and perceptions that the mainstream security forces are being sidelined (by certain elite forces),” he said.

Johannesburg-based Cameroon academic Achille Mbembe said in an interview with www.slateafrique.com that in the current circumstances, it was unlikely change in leadership in Cameroon could come by the ballot box.

“Political change in the country will be the product of either an armed insurrection leaning or not on a political party or foreign forces...or as a result of the natural death of the current leader or his assassination,” he said.

Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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