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To Resolve Anglophone Crisis, “stand by truth, embrace dialogue”: Cameroonian Bishop

The warring parties involved in the protracted crisis in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon need to stand by the truth and give dialogue a chance for a lasting solution to the conflict, a Bishop serving in the region has told ACI Africa.

In the Tuesday, February 23 interview, Bishop Agapitus Nfon of Cameroon’s Kumba Diocese located in the Southwestern region invited the government and the secessionist groups to “stand by the truth, embrace dialogue, look at each other as brothers and sisters and accept proposals that will enhance peace and harmony in our country.” 

“What is preventing us from finding a solution to this crisis is that there are so many agents of the devil in it and the devil is the promoter of lies,” Bishop Nfon said and added, “If we stand by the truth, if we love one another, this problem could be resolved.”

People have used the conflict to “enrich themselves, settle scores and other ills,” the Cameroonian Bishop lamented.

The Anglophone regions of Cameroon, the North West and the South West, plunged into conflict in 2016 after a protest by lawyers and teachers turned violent.

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An armed movement of separatists claiming independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia emerged following the government’s crackdown on protesters.

Since then, the violent conflict has led to the displacement of over 679,000 people. More than 600,000 children have not been able to go to school in the two regions, and at least 3,000 lives have been lost during the four-year skirmishes.

In the February 23 interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Nfon recounted how the protracted conflict has affected the pastoral life of the Diocese.

“Eight out of the 21 Parishes in Kumba Diocese have been grounded. I was forced to take the Priests serving in these parishes to other areas for their safety due to constant exchange of gunfire and all the Christians were forced to flee to safety,” the 57-year-old Bishop recounted.

He further told ACI Africa that “six other Parishes are functioning timidly. On a Sunday you may get about 30, 40 people in Church.”

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“We find it difficult financially to meet up with the needs of our Parishes and the Priests,” the Bishop said.

Amid these challenges, the Church has been supporting the people by providing the basic needs for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and vulnerable groups, Bishop Nfon said.

“Caritas Kumba has been providing shelter for the IDPs making sure they have food to eat and medications to those who are sick,” he said.

Bishop Nfon who has been at the helm of Kumba Diocese since 2016 further said that with the support of Caritas Kumba, fundraising campaigns were organized to help provide for the needs of those fleeing the violence. 

As a way forward, the said, “There must be a frank dialogue between the government, those in prison and the secessionist groups.”

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“The more the parties waste time, the more many other groups will come up and it will be difficult to satisfy all these groups,” Bishop Nfon told ACI Africa during the February 23 interview.