Church leaders in Cameroon’s Anglophone region have spoken on the current crisis which has led to deaths, injuries and arrests after security forces clashed with protesters.
The Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) in a statement issued on Wednesday October 4, said the clashes created a ‘warlike atmosphere’ during the period spanning September 29 to October 2.
“The sighs of those who have lost property through looting or arson, the pain of anxiety inflicted on families and friends of those abducted or missing, the trauma caused on the young and the old by the fright from the warlike atmosphere of last weekend in particular have left another heap of painful memories in our minds and hearts.
The trauma caused on the young and the old by the fright from the warlike atmosphere of last weekend in particular have left another heap of painful memories in our minds and hearts.
“We want, in the first place, to express our profound grief and sympathies to those families who in the recent crisis have lost their dear ones. We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died,” they said in the 26-point statement.
The release signed by six Bishops gave a detailed account of what happened in the region as they saw it and reiterated past efforts they had undertaken to avert the crisis. They also declared October 14 a day of mourning for those killed in the clashes.
Significant portions focused on the highhanded nature of the security response to what they said were very peaceful processions.
Point 8 read as follows: “On Sunday, 1st October 2017, some Priests and some members of Christ’s Lay Faithful were prevented by the heavy military presence on their streets from going to church and so they failed to exercise their constitutional right of freedom of worship. In some areas, we noted with disgust that some Christians were teargassed as they came out of Mass!
“This move, by whosoever instructed, created a lot of confusion and chaos, especially as the faithful believed that the Archbishop’s letter, calling for prayers for peace and tranquillity and which had been endorsed by the Governor of the North West Region, was sufficient authorization for Sunday worship to go on as normal, despite the political tension.
“We, the Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference, are sad and disturbed, having learned that some of our Christians were pursued into their houses – some arrested, some maimed and some (including defenceless teenagers and elderly persons) were simply shot to death, some from helicopters.
“Elsewhere in the world, the Forces of Law and Order protect demonstrating citizens. In our country, peaceful demonstrations, except perhaps those organized by the ruling party, seem to be an opportune moment for our Armed Forces to demonstrate their shooting prowess both from the ground and from the air on unarmed and helpless civilians.”
Condemnation of the deadly clashes have been coming in thick and fast. President Paul Biya, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations chief among others have all called for restraint and dialogue to resolve the tensions.
Cameroon’s Eglish – speaking regions that have long protested marginalization from French Cameroon are now fighting for independence under the Ambazonia republic name. Younde, however, insists that the unity of the Central African country is non-negotiable.