Cameroon held by-elections Sunday in the country’s troubled anglophone areas where unrest forced a postponement six weeks ago.
Some 400,000 people were eligible to vote in the polls, which the head of the election commission Elecam, Erik Dessousse, said were proceeding well, with “voters arriving gradually”.
The constitutional council had annulled results from February 9 in 10 districts of the Northwest region and one in the Southwest at the behest of the main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party.
The two anglophone regions have been rocked by deadly violence since 2017 as armed separatists campaign for independence from the rest of Cameroon, which is majority French-speaking.
Rights groups have accused both sides of atrocities in a two-year conflict that has left more than 3,000 dead, closed schools and clinics and forced 700,000 people to flee their homes.
The SDF complained that the closure of polling stations because of violence had disenfranchised voters in the February 9 elections.
On Sunday, SDF spokesman Denis Nkemlemo, a candidate in one of the districts, said: “the situation has not changed”.
He said “no-one has been able to campaign normally and many voters are still hiding out in the bush.”
Since the start of the conflict in the West African county, nearly 700,000 people have fled their homes. Many villages have been torched and people are sheltering in woods in dire conditions.
The separatists had called for a delay to the February 9 polling, with humanitarian groups saying violence between soldiers and separatists spiked during the election campaign.
Thirteen seats are up for grabs in Sunday’s by-election but the results will not put a dent in the dominance enjoyed by the ruling People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC) of President Paul Biya, which took 139 of the parliament’s 180 seats.
In the outgoing parliament, elected in 2013, the RDPC had 148 seats.
Biya, in power in the former French colony since 1982, was elected to a seventh term in October 2018.