Bishop Condemns Tribal Violence in Cameroon’s Sangmelima Township, Proposes Dialogue

Bishop Christophe Zoa of Sangmelima diocese in Cameroon whose township has been hit by a wave of tribal violence

In the wake of the inter-ethnic violence being witnessed in the commercial town of Sangmelima, Southern Cameroon, the Bishop of the Diocese of Sangmelima has told the inhabitants of the township to get over the thinking that violence can resolve issues bedeviling them and instead, to embrace “frank and sincere dialogue.”

“Violence is never a credible long-term option. On the contrary, it aggravates simple situations, adding to the initial frustrations other frustrations that place people in a cycle of hatred that eventually destroys society itself,” the Bishop of Sangmelima Diocese, Christophe Zoa said in a letter read in all parishes of his diocese and sent to ACI Africa. 

“Only a frank and sincere dialogue makes it possible to examine in depth the demands expressed by young people and to find appropriate solutions,” Bishop Zoa stated in his letter dated October 13.  

Violence has been witnessed in the commercial town of Sangmelima since the beginning of October.

“Hundreds of people, especially youths armed with machetes, hammers, spades and spears, defied antiriot police Thursday and Friday, invading shops in the Cameroon’s southern town of Sangmelima, looting and torching some over resentment of outsiders,” Voice of America has reported about last week’s violence that targeted those perceived to be non-natives of Sangmelima.

“The spontaneous formation of last week's protests and the violence it gave rise to reminded us, as we tend to forget, that peace is never definitively achieved,” Bishop Zoa has stated in his letter and called on vigilance saying, “To protect itself from unpleasant surprises, the Diocese of Sangmelima reminds us that social peace must be the object of permanent vigilance.” 

“On the spiritual level, we must be vigilant in prayer,” the Bishop has emphasized and recalled the gospel message of prayer stating, “The Lord told us that there are evil spirits so we can only overcome them through prayer and fasting.” 

“The hatred and daily divisions that have become normal attitudes are signs that we are gradually entering the reign of the Divisor, that is, the Devil,” Bishop Zoa further expresses in his letter and adds, “God's grace, combined with the efforts of parish communities to live the universal fraternity in concrete terms, will succeed in freeing us from the grip of the forces of evil.”

At the level of the state, the Prelate has urged all government officials to work towards consolidating unity and to live up to their role of guaranteeing freedom, justice and the possibility of self-realization to all Cameroonians.  

He further explained that young people who are taking to the streets are blaming the government, “for what they see as its inability to ensure safety of people and their property and to guarantee them a future.”

“What has emerged prominently in the news in recent years,” the Bishop thinks, “is that social demands take the form of ethnic disputes, because everyone has understood that inter-ethnic conflict is more feared than the unleashing of the poor.” 

“Tribes will be less prominent when everyone is assured of being safe, in a free country, with equal opportunities for success,” Bishop Zoa has stated in his letter and added, “The concerns of everyday life, however legitimate they may be, must not stifle this voice of conscience and leave us in the power of the primary instincts of violence.”

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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
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