By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Two Bishops, alongside other Christian leaders in the UK, have called on the international community and the UK government to respond to the ongoing situation of violence in Cameroon.
“We hear the cry of our sisters and brothers in Cameroon’s Anglophone region, who are facing daily violations of their human dignity,” reads the ecumenical statement co-signed by Bishops Declan Lang of Clifton and Philip Egan of Portsmouth, as well as four other religious leaders.
“Recent reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and attacks on civilians demand a response from the international community,” said the religious leaders in the statement published on the website of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) on Monday.
Bishop Lang is the Chairman of the International Affairs department of the CBCEW, while Bishop Egan’s diocese is twinned with the Archdiocese of Bamenda located in Cameroon’s northwest.
In the wake of the violent clashes, the religious leaders called on the UK government to work with other European countries “on robust diplomatic action to halt the violence and help bring about a negotiated settlement that protects the rights of all Cameroon’s people.”
They also expressed their closeness to churches “working with local communities to reject violence and pursue the path of dialogue,” assuring them that “they have not been forgotten.”
The situation in Cameroon
Cameroon has been embroiled in a cycle of violence since 2016 when the Francophone-dominated government-imposed French-speaking lawyers and teachers on English-speaking courts and schools. Protests by the English-speaking minority, who represent twenty percent of the population, quickly degenerated into violent clashes amid calls for the creation of a separate state for them.
Clashes between the separatists and government forces have resulted in at least 3000 deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands, some of whom have fled into neighboring Nigeria. The situation has been further exacerbated by violent crackdowns on protests in the country by government forces.
Pressure from the international community led president Paul Biya to hold a major National Dialogue in October 2019. This led the government to grant special status to the country’s two Anglophone regions. In February 2020, sixteen Bishops from all over the world addressed a letter to Biya urging him to hold peace talks with the separatists.
Cameroon is preparing for its regional elections scheduled for 6 December. The government says that the elections are part of a decentralization process that should devolve power to the country’s ten regions.