Cameroon is commemorating the 50th anniversary of its Unity Day, with the most recent procession taking place in 2019.
The civil and military parades were presided over by 89-year-old Head of State Paul Biya, who made a rare public appearance.
Even though his participation was confirmed two weeks ago, persistent rumors in local media and on social media that he was very unwell or even dying made him unsure.
The presidency had stated six days prior that he would be traveling to Europe for a mysterious “brief private stay.”
Officers and students marched with flags and streamers reading, “Let us all support a strong Cameroon devoted to national unity.”
The United Republic of Cameroon was formed 50 years ago when British Southern Cameroons and French Cameroons merged to form the United Republic of Cameroon. This year’s celebrations were themed “Defense and security forces at the service of the people, for the preservation of social peace and national cohesion.”
Despite celebrations on Yaoundé’s 20th of May Boulevard, national unity is fraying.
Since 2017, a conflict has ravaged Cameroon’s English-speaking regions in the north and south.
According to the International Crisis Group, authorities are fighting self-proclaimed secessionist organizations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities in the battle, which has killed over 6,000 people (ICG).
Around 70,000 Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria in search of safety.
In August 2019, the United Nations performed a planned multi-sector needs assessment (MSNA), which identified 450,000 internally displaced people.
200,000 people are thought to have migrated to the Littoral and Western areas, respectively.