By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) — Pope Francis has added his voice to calls by the bishops of Cameroon for the release of five priests, a religious sister, a cook, a catechist and a 15-year-old girl kidnapped in southwest Cameroon, where a civil war has been raging between the French and English-speaking communities for years.
on September 25, the pope said he was praying for peace in Cameroon. “I join in the appeal of the bishops of Cameroon for the liberation of people kidnapped in the diocese of Mamfe,” reported the Catholic News Agency.
In addition to the kidnappings on September 16, gunmen set fire to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Nchang, Cameroon, Vatican News said.
Catholic bishops in Cameroon strongly condemned the attack in a statement that called for the immediate release of the kidnapped Christians.
“We insist on this because this act has now crossed the red line and we must say that ‘enough is enough,’” they said in the statement.
The roots of the current Anglophone problem can be traced back to the First World War when the British and French occupied the “German Kamerun Protectorate” and divided its territory into two parts. This partition gave rise to the development of a different cultural heritage and identity in the British and French regions, a development that would create problems for future attempts at reunification.
In 1961, the UN held talks to determine whether the British territory should be annexed to Nigeria or Cameroon. Critics labelled the talks “false negotiations” involving parties with asymmetrical powers.
“As the British Southern Cameroons’ nationalist conflict continues to wax and wane, the people of former British Cameroons live with a sense of deception in the present-day République du Cameroon,” wrote scholar Fonkem Achankeng in the Journal of Global Initiatives.
The proportion of Anglophone Cameroonians to French-speakers is currently at around 16%, down from 21% in 1976.
Attacks on the church were also denounced by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA)—an independent, non-governmental, apolitical and non-profit making organization dedicated to the protection and advancement of human rights.
In a related development, the rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, reports the re-arrest of prominent Cameroonian Anglophone peace activist Abdul Karim Ali. He is accused of possessing a video on his phone showing alleged human rights abuses committed by a Cameroonian soldier against civilians in the country’s English-speaking regions. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 September 2022]
Photo: The church of St. Mary’s in Nchang burned on 16.09.2022. Source: YouTube
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