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“Football is not more important than human dignity”: Cameroonian Catholic Priest in Chad

Fr. Ludovic Lado holding a poster of those detained as a result of the Anglophone crisis. Credit: Fr. Ludovic Lado

A Cameroonian Catholic Priest ministering in Chad has called for a stadium boycott of the African Cup of Nation (Afcon), faulting his native country that is hosting the continental football tournament for not paying keen attention to human dignity. 

In a Monday, January 10 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Ludovic Lado said, “It is time football and sport at large begin to pay attention to human rights issues.”

The member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) explained in reference to Cameroon that is hosting the month-long football tournament that kicked off Sunday, January 9, “Playing in a country killing its own citizens and abusing human rights is a sacrilege.”

Fr. Lado added, “It is time for human dignity to take precedence over money and games.”

“Cameroon has become a very repressive country. Football is not more important than human dignity,” the Cameroonian Priest further said, and declared, “That is why I will not watch any AFCON game in Cameroon.”

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Cameroon is hosting the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the 2022 competition that has brought together 24 countries that qualified for the tournament. 

The competition is taking place at a time when the two English speaking regions of the Central African country, the North West and the South West, are in a protracted conflict that was sparked by a protest involving lawyers and teachers in 2016. 

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

English speakers make up around 20 percent of the country’s population and have long complained about being marginalized by the French-speaking ruling class.

In the January 10 interview, Fr. Lado called for stadium boycott of AFCON matches in Cameroon.

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“I simply invite Cameroonians who care about human dignity to boycott stadium in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the bushes in the North West and South West regions and with those jailed in violation of human rights and public liberties,” the Jesuit Priest who serves at the Centre for Studies and Training for Development (CEFOD) in Chad said.

“I protest against an Afcon conceived in corruption and financial mismanagement,” Fr. Lado who has launched an online campaign protesting against Cameroon hosting the football competition told ACI Africa during the January 10 interview.

He added, “I protest against an Afcon played over the corpses and in the blood of English-speaking Cameroonians (Anglophones). I protest against an Afcon in a country that is insensitive to human rights and dignity.”

“I protest against an Afcon in a country that officially imports prostitutes with taxpayers’ money for the competition,” the Jesuit Priest who has been vocal about the ongoing violence in the English-Speaking regions of Cameroon further said, adding, “It is time to re-humanize world soccer soaked in corruption.”

Last year, Fr. Lado embarked on a 245-kilometre pilgrimage dedicated to efforts toward dialogue, peace and reconciliation in the Anglophone regions of his native country.

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“I am walking to pray and plead on the one hand for dialogue, justice, peace and reconciliation in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon and on the other hand to do penance for the reparation of crimes against human dignity committed in these regions,” Fr. Lado said in a message shared with ACI Africa on 12 October 2021. 

Days later, the Cleric was arrested by the police who accused him of carrying out “an illegal activity on a public road”. 

In August 2021, Fr. Lado launched a fundraiser to support the education of at least 300 children displaced by the ongoing Anglophone crisis.