Prioritize Cameroonians in Addressing Violence: Archbishop to International Community

Archbishop Andrew Fuanya Nkea of Bamenda Archdiocese in Cameroon. Credit: ACI Africa

The Catholic Archbishop of Bamenda in Cameroon has challenged the international community, especially Western countries, to make the interest of Cameroonians a priority in addressing the protracted crisis in the English-speaking region of the country.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Andrew Fuanya Nkea spoke broadly about what he described as “the forgotten struggle in Cameroon”, including the region served by his Metropolitan See, and appealed to the international community to intervene in the crisis by facilitating mediation talks, ending the sale of arms to fighters, and amplifying the voice of the victims of the country’s five-year violence. 

He said that the interventions should, however, be made with the interests of Cameroonians in mind.

“The international community should look at the interest of the Cameroonians and not their own interest in this conflict. I'm therefore addressing the French, the English, and the Americans. They should look at the interest of the Cameroonians, and not at the interest of their countries in Cameroon. That way, they can help us to look for a genuine solution,” Archbishop Nkea said.

The Cameroonian Archbishop who was speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the March 15-16 workshop that members of the African Synodality Initiative (ASI) convened in Nairobi to constitute a Synodality Resource Team (SRT) highlighted the sale and transfer of arms as a key contributing factor to the violence in the Central African nation.


He said that it is only when the sale of arms to separatist fighters engaging locals and authorities in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon that a conducive environment will be created to start working towards peace in the country.

“Some of the separatist fighters have sophisticated arms, and we are left wondering where these arms are coming from,” Archbishop Nkea said, and added, “This sale of arms and transfer of arms should be stopped. Whatever the case, we want peace; we don't want war.”

“And if the boys are buying arms and shipping them into the country, war will continue. All we want is peace. It is only in a peaceful atmosphere that dialogue will thrive,” he told ACI Africa during the March 15 interview. 

The Archbishop of Bamenda appealed to Western countries, where he said the leaders of the separatist fighters are, to facilitate mediation talks with the separatists to restore peace in Cameroon.

“It is very important for us to realize that the leaders of the separatist movement live abroad. Foreign governments can come in here and facilitate dialogue with them abroad. And they could also facilitate dialogue with the Government of Cameroon so that we can reach a lasting solution,” he said.

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The five-year socio-political crisis in Cameroon has been about “Secessionists in the Anglophone region clamoring for independence, and the government trying to check this cessation process,” Archbishop Nkea said.

The crisis, he continued, “has led to many deaths. It started with a boycott of schools and for over four years, we had no school. There were calls for lockdowns, and these took place.”

The Archbishop said that with the children being allowed to report back to school after a four-year absence from class, the situation was looking up in the Central African country.

“This is a very big step,” he said of the reopening of schools in the country, and added, “We have also had some calm with regard to the killings. But the problem itself is very far from being solved.”

“As much as the government is claiming that it is answering some of the problems that were raised, the secessionist movement is not feeling that enough is being done. And so, we the common people are the suffering,” Archbishop Nkea said, and added, “In Cameroon, we say that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers, and so the population is suffering.”


The Archbishop of Bemanda who doubles as the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (NECC) told ACI Africa that there's still a high degree of insecurity in the country. 

He said that movement within the troubled regions is still difficult, and added, “We still see these lockdowns, and kidnappings for ransom still going on by some of the separatist soldiers.”

Highlighting the various ways in which the Church has been affected by the conflict, Archbishop Nkea who previously served as Apostolic Administrator of Mamfe Diocese in Cameroon’s Southwestern region said that there has been a lot of migration of Christians from the embattled regions, leaving many churches empty.

“Churches in some parts of the embattled region are empty because the population has moved,” he said, and added in reference to 2019 events in Mamfe Diocese, “When I was in my former Diocese, I had to close 10 parishes because there were no people anymore. Everybody escaped.”

“We also have had attacks on Priests and Religious,” he said, and recalling the murder of a Kenyan-born member of the Mill Hill Missionaries, added, “In 2019, I came to Kenya to bury one of the Kenyan missionaries, Fr. Cosmas Ondari, who was working in my Diocese and was shot.”

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“And just last September, five Priests, a Religious, a Catechist, and some young people were kidnapped and kept for 37 days in the bush, and the kidnappers were demanding ransom,” the Cameroonian Catholic Archbishop said in reference to the 16 September 2022 attack on St. Mary's Catholic Nchang Parish of Mamfe Diocese.

The Cameroonian Archbishop shared that the Church, in its attempts to broker peace between warring factions in the country, always finds itself caught in the middle.

“As religious leaders, we have been trying to talk with the government and also see how to talk with the boys (the separatist fighters), and it has not been an easy task. But we are determined to continue working until peace returns to this troubled place,” Archbishop Nkea said.

“The church is often caught in between the warring factions,” he said, and explained, “While some of the government people think that the church is supporting separatist fighters, the separatist fighters also think that the church is backing up the government. And so that makes our role very difficult. But we have to be persistent. And we have to be consistent.”

In the March 15 interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Nkea found it regrettable that the struggle for peace in Cameroon has been overlooked by the international media.

He said, “It is so unfortunate that one person is killed in Afghanistan, on CNN, on BBC, and everywhere. Here in Cameroon, 10 people are butchered in one day and nobody mentions anything.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.