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Leadership of Peace Entity Condemns Targeting of Catholic Clergy in Cameroonian Conflict

Credit: Courtesy Photo

The leadership of the peace and charity foundation, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), has expressed concern over the increased kidnapping of the Catholic Clergy in Cameroon, saying that the situation is terribly impacting the Church, which is working hard to restore peace in the Central African country.

In a Tuesday, September 7 report shared with ACI Africa, officials of DHPI highlight various incidences of kidnapping and torture of Catholic Priests and Bishops in the country, including the recent abduction of Fr. Agbortoko Agbor, the Vicar General of Mamfe Diocese.

“The kidnapping of this Priest is a sign of the enormous insecurity that lives in this African country and that affects the Catholic Church as well,” officials of the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) says in the report.

They recall, in reference to other cases of kidnapping in the embattled Southwest and Northwestern regions of Cameroon, that Fr. Christopher Eboka, the Director of communications for Mamfe Diocese, was also kidnapped on May 22 and released ten days later.

“The same happened in November 2018 with four Claretian Religious and Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi, who was the Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda, and is currently at the head of the Diocese of Buea. The following year, Archbishop Emeritus of Bamenda, Archbishop Cornelius Esua and Archbishop George Nkuo, Bishop of Kumbo, were also kidnapped,” DHPI leadership laments in the report shared with ACI Africa.

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The organization has shared a message Dabney Yerima, Vice President, the Federal Republic of Ambazonia who condemns the abduction of Church ministers in the embattled region, noting that the Catholic Church is specifically an important pillar of peace in Cameroon.

“The kidnapping of members of the Clergy is unfortunate, unacceptable and underscores the need for all the factions involved in this conflict to seek ways of reaching a peaceful resolution,” Mr. Yerima says, and adds, “Those who kidnap men of God are crossing a dangerous red line, and all God-fearing Southern Cameroonians must condemn this unconditionally.”

According to the official of the self-declared State, the Catholic Church in Southern Cameroon has played a significant role since the war in the region started in 2016.

“We must not make enemies of our allies and sympathizers. Religious institutions are indispensable parts of the Southern Cameroon structure, and any attack on their members and workers is an attack on the Ambazonia we intend to build,” he said. 

In their September 7 report, officials of DHPI note that Cameroon’s struggle for independence has taken a heavy toll not only on human lives but also on poverty, forced displacement of people, and fear in communities.

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“It is estimated that since 2016, more than 3,000 people have been killed and around 500,000 are living outside their homes, villages and towns. They are internally displaced,” the foundation that has been monitoring the five-year conflict in the Anglophone region reports.

It adds, “This issue of internally displaced persons is very relevant and is forcing the Church itself to mobilize towards welcoming those who have been forced to flee because of the violence.”

The leadership of the peace entity of SACBC acknowledges that the problem facing Cameroon is complex, much as it can be reduced to the ambition of the region where the English language predominates.

Aggrieved English speakers in the Southwest and Northwest of the country have for a while wanted to gain independence from what DHPI describes as the inefficiency of the central power, which is controlled by essentially French speaking people. 

“The inefficiency of power in the face of the problems that citizens face on a daily basis has aggravated this feeling of exclusion in a part of the country that feels diminished by the authorities,” the leadership of DHPI says, and adds, “Cardinal Christian Tumi has already said, in several speeches, that the reasons for the crisis in Cameroon lay in bad governance.”

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The organization that is monitoring the evolution of violence in a number of other African countries including Nigeria and Mozambique likens the Cameroonian crisis to a civil war.

“The conflict has gained enormous violence since then, with people murdered, kidnapped, a climate of intimidation and the destruction of infrastructure and villages. There are records of burnt down schools, hospitals and villages,” the leadership of the Catholic peace entity reports, and adds, “It is common to speak of civil war.”