, 22 June, 2020 / 10:08 PM
Calls for ceasefire amid COVID-19 crisis in areas of armed conflicts by world leaders including the Holy Father and the United Nations Chief have been disregarded in Africa, various Church leaders have testified.
“Here the conflict is continuing,” the Archbishop of Bamenda in northwestern Cameroon, Archbishop Andrew Nkea has said in response to a survey by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International.
Referencing the protracted conflict in the English-speaking region of Cameroon, Archbishop Nkea said, in the June 22 ACN report, that while many leaders of those advocating for secession have expressed their understanding of what is at stake and agreed to sign a general ceasefire, these leaders “don’t actually have much influence on those fighting on the ground.”
The Central African nation with 80 percent French speakers and 20 percent English speakers has been experiencing armed conflicts since 2016 after Francophone judges and teachers were sent to the historically marginalized Anglophone region.
In neighboring Nigeria, despite the “principal danger” of famine that COVID-19 pandemic poses to the poorest of the people, “the country is still at the mercy of sporadic terrorist attacks by Boko Haram, especially in the northeast of the country,” Archbishop Ignatious Kaigama of Abuja Archdiocese told ACN.
The north-eastern part of Nigeria has been experiencing continuous violence as a result of warring communities domiciled in the region since 1959.
Recently, local media reported the killing of at least 11 people as a result on violence between the Tungwa and Utsua-Daa communities. This incident came after another episode of conflict between the Shomo and Jole communities had been reported in the State in April.
Weighed down by the hostilities in the region, the Clergy of Jalingo Diocese issued a collective statement on June 17 calling on all parties in the conflict to “give peace a chance” and save the State from suffocation under insecurity-related crises.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), Bishop Bertrand Guy Richard Appora-Ngalanibé of Bambari diocese says that the armed groups plaguing the landlocked nation have clearly not received the message about the ceasefire.
“Sadly, in some areas of the Central African Republic, the armed groups are engaged in strategic battles aimed at extending their supremacy and continuing to pillage the natural resources of the country,” the Dominican Prelate has lamented.
Bishop Guy Richard however expressed optimism in the ongoing interfaith initiatives on COVID-19 sensitization program saying, “With the support of our Protestant and Muslim brethren, gathered under the Interfaith Platform of Religions in Bambari, we are striving to carry out awareness raising campaigns on this pandemic, since many people still don’t appreciate its extent or its danger.”
CAR has been in a political crisis since March 2013 when Muslim Seleka rebels seized the country’s capital and staged a coup, a move that was countered by Christian anti-balaka militias.
The back-and-forth revenge attacks between the two religion-aligned groups backed by other militias introduced a religious angle that was previously absent in the crisis.
In April 2014, the UN Security Council established a peacekeeping force dubbed United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Its tenure to protect civilians and disarm militia groups is expected to end on November 15, 2020.
Concerned that ongoing hostilities in various parts of the world would weaken COVID-19 response, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres called for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” saying, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
Pope Francis echoed the UN chief’s call six days later, inviting everyone to follow it up “by ceasing any form of hostility, promoting the creation of humanitarian aid routes, openness to diplomacy, and attentiveness to those who find themselves in situations of grave vulnerability.”
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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