Advertisement

Since Peace Talks Started Last Year in Cameroon, “not much has changed”: Archbishop

Archbishop Andrew Nkea of Cameroon's Bamenda Archdiocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

“Not much has changed” in Cameroon since July 2020 when peace talks started between the government and Anglophone separatists, according to a Cameroonian Catholic Archbishop.

“Talks began in Yaoundé a year ago that should have led to a truce and reconciliation. Since then, not much has changed,” Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Cameroon's Bamenda Archdiocese has been quoted as saying in a Tuesday, April 13 report obtained by ACI Africa.

Amid the uncertainty surrounding the conflict, the Archbishop whose jurisdiction falls at the heart of the troubled Northwestern region adds, “We continue to pray, to hope and to be that constant reference for everyone in the search for peace.”

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.

Following the government’s crackdown on protesters, an armed movement claiming independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia near the border with Nigeria emerged.

Advertisement

Since then, the violent conflict has led to the displacement of over 800,000 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.

On January 31, Vatican’s Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin who was on a weeklong visit to Cameroon assured the people of God in the Central African country of Pope Francis’ solidarity amid the protracted Anglophone crisis.

“The Holy Father carries you in his heart and assures you of his closeness and prayers,” the Italian-born Cardinal who had arrived in Cameroon on January 28 told the close to 5,000 Christians gathered at St. Joseph’s Cathedral of Bamenda Archdiocese.

Cardinal Parolin added, “The Holy Father unites himself to the desire for peace and reconciliation that rises up to God from this precious land.”

Hopes for a resumption of the peace talks heightened with the 2020 alleged taking of the imprisoned self-declared leader of the Ambazonians, Sisiku Julius AyukTabe, to the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops conference to meet with top leaders and discuss the possibility of a ceasefire.

More in Africa

However, not much has happened since then as the imprisoned separatists “have set certain conditions: they want the military to return to the barracks, for all political prisoners to be released and for the government to declare the end of the war,” Archbishop Nkea says in the April 13 report.

Since the demands of the separatists “are not easy to grant,” the Local Ordinary of Bamenda Archdiocese says referencing the peace talks, “things go very slowly.”

It is not just the demands of the armed groups that have slowed down the peace talks, but also “the divisions that exist among the separatists (making) everything even more difficult,” he says.

“It is difficult to move forward, to establish a genuine dialogue because every time there are contradicting messages from the secessionists,” the 55-year-old Archbishop says in the report published by Agenzia Fides, the information service of Propaganda Fide.

He adds, “In this situation we bent down to pray, in the hope of being able to speak with the 'Boys' (the various groups of separatists) so that they form a single front and can dialogue with the government, which is united.”

Advertisement

In the observation of Archbishop Nkea, “Those who suffer the most are undoubtedly the people in the middle,” who “want to resume normal life, but everything gets complicated and everyday life becomes difficult.”

“On April 9, I was returning from Mamfa where I had ordained seven new Priests and, at the height of Bali (town), we ran into a firefight that made the passage impossible. There was a long queue of cars that were blocked for hours while we feared for our safety. The population needs freedom and peace,” the Cameroonian Archbishop recounts in the April 13 report.

Amid the protracted crisis, the Church in Cameroon “is constantly at the forefront of the process of dialogue and meeting between the parties in conflict and shows total availability in terms of mediation capacity and concrete support for the peace process,” Archbishop Nkea says.

He explains, “The Church in Cameroon has always been indirectly involved in promoting peace talks. The mission of the Church is that of its founder, whom we call the 'Prince of Peace', for this reason we can never stop talking about peace.”

“But, as foretold by the prophets and in the Psalms, there is no peace without justice, and that is why we also speak of justice. Justice is needed for the community: only in this way can peace be reached,” Archbishop Nkea emphasizes in the April 13 report.