, 20 February, 2020 / 4:13 AM
Following a military invasion of a village that is part of a Catholic parish in the Central African nation of Cameroon leaving 24 civilians dead and hundreds displaced, the Local Ordinary of the area has confirmed the attack, termed it a “disaster” and “a very sad incident”, and declared Friday, February 21 a day devoted to “prayer and mourning” in the entire diocese.
“On Friday 14th February 2020, the military invaded Ngarbuh at 4 a.m. and we are told that twenty-four (24) people were killed among whom were pregnant women and little children,” Bishop George Nkuo of Cameroon’s Kumbo diocese who has been, “reliably informed,” recounted in his February 18 letter.
“Some of the victims were burnt alive and several others wounded. A total of nine (9) houses were burnt down,” Bishop Nkuo has stated and added, “Hundreds of people from Ngarbuh are currently displaced and seeking for refuge in nearby villages under deplorable human conditions.”
In the letter seen by ACI Africa, the Bishop declares Friday, February 21 “a day of prayer and mourning in the entire Diocese of Kumbo for the victims of Ngarbuh Disaster.”
In marking the day of prayer and mourning, Bishop Nkuo says, “we shall vehemently say, Yes to life and no to death in solidarity with the recent message of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon,” which said it is “necessary to organize a day of prayer throughout the country for the respect of life and promotion of sacredness of human life.”
The nearly 67-year-old Bishop has emphasized the participation of everybody “calling on all the priests, religious, the faithful, men and women of good will in the Diocese of Kumbo to keep this Friday 21st February 2020, as a day of prayer and mourning especially for our brothers and sisters who were brutally killed, wounded and rendered homeless in Ngarbuh.”
“A Requiem Mass should be celebrated in all our Churches,” the Cameroonian Prelate has instructed and added, “Where possible, an Ecumenical Service be organised to implore God for an end to this socio-political crisis that has plunged us into a senseless and painful war.”
“I count on your full collaboration for the success of this Day of prayer,” Bishop Nkuo has concluded.
Cameroon, with 80 percent French speakers and 20 percent English speakers, has been experiencing violence since 2016 after Francophone judges and teachers were sent to the historically marginalized Anglophone region.
Bishop Nkuo’s narrative of last week’s incident in his diocese seems consistent with that of Cameroon’s opposition who blamed their country’s army for conducting a massacre on Ngarbuh villagers.
The government, on its part, attributed the deaths to an “unfortunate accident” due to a fuel explosion.
Cameroon’s army spokesman, Colonel Cyrille Atonfack Guemo denied claims of a deliberate massacre, terming them “false allegations.”
“It was quite simply an unfortunate accident, the collateral result of security operations in the region,” the army spokesman stated in his February 17 Press Release availed to ACI Africa.
According to Col. Guemo, “Five civilians – woman and four children – died, and seven terrorists were neutralized.”
Meanwhile, in a statement issued Monday by the UN, the spokesperson said the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres was “deeply concerned” about the February 14 incident and called on Cameroon’s government to “conduct an investigation and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
In another development, the Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon facilitated the intervention 16 Catholic Bishops outside Cameroon in the protracted Anglophone crisis, with the Bishops from across the globe calling on President Biya’s government “to participate in Swiss-led peace talks aimed at ending the violence in Cameroon's North West and South West regions.”
In a message sent to ACI Africa Tuesday, February 18, the Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon calls on the international community to get involved in helping resolve the Anglophone crisis and says ignoring “escalating atrocities of the kind happening in Cameroon, it often ends up paying a massive bill.”
“Sooner or later, we must fund refugee camps and peacekeepers, host negotiations, accommodate thousands of migrants seeking asylum, and then help rebuild shattered nations,” said Rebecca Tinsley of the Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon in the Press Release dated February 17 shared with ACI Africa.
“It makes more sense to use diplomacy to stop the violence at an early stage, finding a political solution to a political problem through inclusive peace negotiations,” concludes the statement.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa