Cameroon's President Paul Biya waves to supporters during the opening of his party conference, in Yaounde, on September 15.

Story highlights

Gunman and police battle on a bridge in Doula, Cameroon

The violence comes days before a presidential election

Unrest was expected after President Biya, in office nearly 30 years, opted to seek another term

Doula, Cameroon CNN  — 

Gunmen opposed to Cameroon’s long-time leader traded fire with police for hours Thursday in the nation’s largest city, Doula.

Eyewitnesses told CNN the gunmen, wearing military uniforms, blocked the busy Wouri Bridge brandishing signs reading “Biya Must Go” and “We Want The Dictator Out.”

President Paul Biya has been in power in the West African nation for nearly 30 years. His decision to seek another seven-year term in the October 9 election has sparked unrest, and observers have warned that his expected victory might bring post-election violence.

The state media, CRTV, reported that five gunmen had been captured and no civilian had been injured. One of the gun men plunged into the river, it said. His fate was unclear.

There is a heavy presence of the military in the strategic Wouri area. The 5,900-foot-long bridge carries both road and rail traffic and is estimated to be used by nearly 40,000 people a day.

“This is a warning for the campaigners for Mr. Biya. They must accept what is right or go with the wind of change,” Collins Ntar, a fruit seller, told CNN.

An angry youth who would not give his name told CNN, “We are not happy with the Biya regime and we want him out by all costs.”

With the expected unrest, popular marches have been banned in key parts of the country, including the Northwest and Littoral regions.

Campaigns have officially kicked off in all regions, though at a snail’s pace. The 22 opposition candidates to challenge Biya say there is a slow disbursement of money from the government to fund their campaign rallies.

In 2008, Biya erased term limits from the constitution. That move, coupled with rocketing food prices, fueled anti-government riots that human rights groups, cited by the U.S. State Department, say killed approximately 100 people. The government of Cameroon put the number of deaths at 40.