, 21 April, 2020 / 2:24 AM
As the end to the protracted crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions seems to remain in the indefinite future, the Archbishop of Bamenda in the Central African nation’s troubled North West region has called on the warring parties in the conflict to drop their weapons of war and to consider now as the “time for peace.”
“After so many years fighting and killing each other, now is the time for peace,” Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Bamenda wrote in his pastoral letter dated April 17 in which he challenged the warring parties to take the difficult decision of ending the conflict.
“As we should have all learned, it is easy to begin a war but it is never easy to end one. We lose everything through violence, killings and burnings; but, we can gain everything by sincerely seeking justice, reconciliation and peace,” Archbishop Nkea stated.
Highlighting his role as “shepherd of the flock,” the Cameroonian Prelate indicated that he had the duty “to make sure that wolves do not devour the sheep of God or that the stronger sheep do not kill the weaker.”
He added, “Each of us has the right and a reason to react against any injustices committed.”
In his letter titled “Now is time for Peace,” the Archbishop says that “seeking peace or a cease fire is not a sign of weakness or cowardice; on the contrary, it shows maturity and proper care for the fatherland and genuine love for others.”
Cameroon’s two English speaking regions have been paralyzed since 2016, after a strike action of lawyers and teachers turned violent.
The violence resulted in the growth of an armed separatists’ movement claiming independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia.
English speakers make up around 20 percent of the country’s population and have long complained about being marginalized by the French-speaking ruling class.
Referencing the protracted nature of the conflict, the 54-year-old Prelate has stated, “We are into the fourth year of this crisis in the North West and South West regions, which has degenerated into an armed conflict. Definitely this conflict has gone on for too long for any one of us to be either indifferent or to seek to justify.”
“Villages and institutions have been burnt down and today left in ruins. Thousands of people are internally displaced and others have become refugees in neighboring countries living in horrifying human conditions,” Archbishop Nkea decried.
The Archbishop who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Mamfe further bemoaned, “Human lives have been lost in their thousands and atrocities committed against innocent civilians have been outrageous.”
“Even as we write this pastoral letter, kidnappings, shootings, fighting and killings are still going on in various areas of our archdiocese and there seem to be no clear sign that these will soon stop. Added to all these, we have the scare of the Coronavirus,” he lamented.
“In our ongoing war, we are not fighting a foreign force; we are fighting among ourselves and making the innocent, the poor, and the vulnerable to suffer most. So, we can decide to cease hostilities and the killings, because it is within our reach to do so,” the Cameroonian Prelate wrote in the pastoral letter.
He cautioned about opportunists as the conflict rages on saying, “As long as we continue to fight, others among us will use the tragedy to settle scores, to make sinister profits, and to gain positions at the expense of human lives and blood. And human life is sacred and has a unique dignity.”
In his letter, the Archbishop of Bamenda has appealed to the faithful to give peace a chance and avoid engaging in blame game and vengeance.
“At such a moment and after having journeyed for 40 days in our Lenten exercise, this is not the time for apportioning blame or seeking vengeance. This is not even the time to lose hope or to continue fighting and killing, he cautioned and advised, “This is the time to learn the bitter lessons from what has already happened and continues to happen. This is the moment for each of us to make personal introspection and genuinely contribute to seeking a way out of this meaningless war.”
Referencing Dr Martin Luther King, the Archbishop said, “If we seek true peace, we must practice justice and ensure that there is justice everywhere. Because injustice anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere.”
He added, “Peace must be built up continually. It is a journey made together in constant pursuit of the common good, truthfulness and respect for law. Listening to one another can lead to mutual understanding and esteem and even to seeing in an enemy the face of a brother or sister.”
“The peace process thus requires enduring commitment,” the Cameroonian Prelate said and continued in reference to peace, “It is a patient effort to seek truth and justice, to honor the memory of victims and to open the way step by step to a shared hope stronger than the desire for vengeance.”
He encouraged dialogue saying, “We can only gain a true and lasting peace if we are ready for and to seek dialogue; dialogue and the service of justice and peace.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa