The African Union (AU) is calling for dialogue in Cameroon, which has been rocked by strikes and protests in its English-speaking regions. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the AU commission, condemned the deadly violence in the Southwest and Northwest provinces, Cameroon's only Anglophone areas.

"It's regrettable the loss of lives and destruction of property that have taken place in some cities and towns in these two regions of Cameroon," she said in a Twitter post.

"I am concerned the closing of schools, violence, arbitrary arrests & detention of individuals suspected of participating in the demonstrations. I call for restraint & encourage the #Cameroon Gov't to continue with the dialogue to find solutions to the issues motivating the protests," Dlamini-Zuma continued.

"I reiterate AU's support for the respect of the rule of law, and the right to peaceful demonstrations which are critical tenets of democracy."

Lawyers, teachers and students have been striking and protesting since October 2016 against perceived marginalisation and the use of French in courts and schools in the provinces.

Protests have resulted in the deaths of at least four protesters in Bamenda, capital of Northwest province, according to police sources. Dozens have been arrested, with right groups calling on authorities to investigate the fatalities.

Schools and businesses have been repeatedly closed in Bamenda and Buea, capital of Southwest province, due to so-called 'ghost town' strikes organised by English-speaking groups.

Footage of children being caught in violence during anti-French demonstrations has sparked outrage on social media, prompting the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium to call "for greater self-discipline" during rallies.

The government has now banned the group and another Anglophone organisation and reportedly cut off internet in the two provinces.

The Cameroonian High Commission in London has not responded to a request for comments on the unrest.

Authorities have denied allegations of excessive use of force by military and police to quell protests and told IBTimes UK in December 2016 they were engaging with the organisers of the strikes.

Amid the ongoing unrest, some groups have taken to the streets demanding a return to a federal state system and the breakaway of the north-west and south-west provinces and the restoration of 'Southern Cameroons', or the Republic of Ambazonia, a British mandate during colonisation.

The government has rejected calls for a referendum on a possible return to a federal system.

Meanwhile, some analysts have claimed authorities are failing to address people's long-standing grievances that go beyond the use of French in courts and schools.

Southern Cameroons and independence calls

Southern Cameroons

Southern Cameroons was the southern part of the British Mandate territory of Cameroons during the colonisation.

In 1961, people of Southern Cameroons voted to join Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroon, which had already obtained independence from Britain and France a year earlier. The vote resulted in Southern Cameroons becoming part of the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon.

In 1972, a new constitution was adopted in Cameroon, replacing the federal state with a unitary state.

The Cameroon Anglophone Movement was created in 1984. People originally sought a return to a federal system, but eventually started calling for independence.

More on possible alliance between Southern Cameroons and pro-Biafrans.