John Nlom has five children and wants to keep them alive. When machete-wielding men attacked a nearby school this month in a suspected strike against the teaching of French, wounded students were rushed to hospitals while frightened parents decided to flee. Nlom and his family piled onto one of the dozens of buses now leaving daily from the capital of Cameroon’s Southwest Region, joining thousands of civilians escaping bloody fighting between the government and Anglophone separatists who vow to disrupt next month’s presidential elections.
The government of the largely French-speaking country insists the Oct. 7 vote will be peaceful, even in the troubled English-speaking southwest and northwest where nearly 400 people have died. Nlom, a teacher, could not take that chance.
“The governor himself who is saying that people should stay back, that they are protected, he is moving around with soldiers protecting him,” Nlom said. “Will the soldiers protect all the people? That is the reason why I cannot stay.” He and his family, like many, have taken refuge in the French-speaking city of Douala.