This past Sunday tens of thousands of Cameroonians in the country's English-speaking regions came out in force to show that they want independence from the country's French-speaking majority. However, these protests ended in violence in the Central African nation and these regions have now been put on lockdown.

Protests by English speaking Cameroonians

According to the International Business Times, the country's military has been heavily deployed to the English-speaking regions of Cameroon following Sunday's protests. Local media in the country is reporting that security forces shot 17 people dead, with some even being shot by military helicopters.

There were also six soldiers who got severely wounded and at least 40 people who were arrested.

The protesting English-speakers thumbed their nose at security forces and bans imposed on gathering in certain locations, as they held up flags to show they want independence. According to Amnesty International, this past Sunday was the 56th anniversary of the incorporation of the English-speaking regions into the country.

Amnesty International has also called out the “ongoing campaign to silence any form of dissent” by the government and for violence by them to stop. They also called on the protesters to be peaceful and not incite violence themselves.

How the protests started and the response to them

Those protesting for independence made no specific demands or declarations. However, these protests have been going on for some time, with accusations that the French-speaking majority discriminates against them.

This all started last November when teachers and lawyers called for a strike to halt what they perceived as an overuse of the French language.

Schools have been closed in the English-speaking regions of the country since then. Over time the strike turned violent when separatist protesters started joining in demanding complete independence.

Meanwhile, organized rallies have been held in all major towns in Cameroon's French-speaking areas to denounce the separatist groups.

President Paul Biya has made it known that he is not open to any kind of negotiations with the separatists.

Why is Cameroon split like this?

Prior to World War I, what is now Cameroon was a German colony called Kamerun. Following the war, England and France each took some of the former colony. In 1960 French Cameroun became independent. One year later the Northern British Cameroons voted to join Nigeria, while the Southern British Cameroons voted to become part of Cameroon.

Both English and France are official languages in the country, but France is the dominant language in the country as eight of the ten provinces are French dominated.