Concern as Plight of Pastoral Caregivers Burying the Dead in Cameroonian Crisis Overlooked

Nobel Chimenyi. Credit: Nobel Chimenyi/Facebook

Amid the ongoing killings in the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions of Cameroon where bodies are reportedly left strewn on the streets and on river banks, it is those taking care of the dead that are forgotten the most.

According to Nobel Chimenyi who shared his fears as a Seminarian studying and working in the warrying Northwest region, which is covered by the Catholic Archdiocese of Bamenda, the needs of pastoral agents, including Priest and women and men Religious who are on the ground giving the dead a befitting send-off have been ignored.

“Special attention and concern need to be given to the pastoral agents assigned in such difficult terrain. The experience has been that their plights are often overlooked,” Seminarian Chimenyi said in the Wednesday, September 7 interview with ACI Africa.  

He added, “These agents, who play the intermediary role of recovery and burial of abandoned corpses of separatists and military personnel are the most traumatized of all and should be given appropriate care for the continuation of Christ’s mission.”

The Seminarian with St. Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill (MHM) underlined the need for intervention by the international community to end the crisis given “the abhorring living conditions of the people in these areas”, and the fear that the surviving locals risk contracting terrible diseases owing to the poor disposal of bodies in the region.


“There is fear of an outbreak worse than the recent cholera outbreak in the Southwest region that claimed many lives. This may be caused by the disposition of dead bodies in water bodies and improper burial in the course of random killings,” he said.

The Cameroonian Seminarian who is currently in Kenya echoed the sentiments of local and international publications, that it is only the coffin-making business that is booming in Bamenda, which is experiencing heavy fighting between the Separatist Ambazonia militant groups and the country’s law enforcement agencies.

In an August 22 report, BBC asserts that “Bamenda is all but dead.”

“Only the coffin trade is booming. Bodies are dumped regularly all over the city – in the mortuaries, on streets and in rivers,” the international media organization reports, adding, “Council workers pick them up and give them a pauper's burial.”

Those who spoke to BBC said that it is a blessing to be buried at all, “let alone by family and friends,” and that demand for coffins has skyrocketed, with locals opting for cheaper options to lay the dead to rest.

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“Coffins that used to sell for a million CFA francs [about $1,500, £1,270] are out of commission because nobody can afford them. Most people can only afford coffins for 50,000 CFA francs,” a source told BBC.

In the September 7 interview with ACI Africa, Seminarian Chimenyi described the situation in his village, Baba I in Northwest region, as “very disheartening”.

He said that violence in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions has been characterized by sporadic gun firings and brutal killings of both parties and the innocent populations.

He narrated that there have also been long periods of complete lockdown and arbitrary ghost town days.

The regions, he said, have experienced a series of kidnappings for heavy ransoms and the detention and jailing of both victims and innocent civilians by the law enforcement agencies.


In an attempt to describe the fate of the Central African country, Seminarian Chimenyi said, “All these up-to-date happenings makes the talk about the Northwest and Southwest regions gaining normalcy an illusion.”

He described the situation in the embattled Cameroonian regions where over 4,000 people have already lost their lives as “completely depressing” and called on the world’s attention on the crisis that the Central African country is facing.

 “The International bodies directly responsible for establishing peace and justice and the Universal Church have been passive to an extent about the whole issue while innocent souls perish in the hands of war and power mongers,” the MHM Seminarian said.

He underlined the need of financial aid, especially in terms of subsidies, to facilitate the effective running of private and mission institutions providing education and other social services in the embattled areas.

The Seminarian said that Church institutions are the only facilities open to everyone as Separatists have barred other places from operating. This way, he said, the Cameroonian government has ceased her usual subvention to Church institutions, thereby causing them to operate at high costs, unaffordable by the deprived and displaced natives who have remained in the land.

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“The Church and Religious Congregations running schools, hospitals and other services are in real need of aid in order to keep providing quality services without any bias,” Seminarian Chimenyi said.  

 Additionally, there is need for psychosocial support to provide rehabilitation to people who have suffered mental breakdown owing to the protracted crisis, he said.

But above all, there is a greater need for the fundamental human right to life and dignity to be restored among warrying groups in Cameroon, Seminarian Chimenyi said, noting that “lawlessness has become the order of the day and grave crimes go unjustified”.

“Cases of brutal killings by either of the warring parties go nowhere and so, the silent war and killings continue. There is every reason to aid the Church which is the moral voice of the society in such an area in order to restore the lost values,” he said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.