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Up to 50 Christian schools and hospitals have been affected, and the military has kidnapped four churches. “We need peace and the UN intervention”, a Cameroonian Christian says.

Last October, Paul Biya (86), the second longest serving president of Africa, won the elections in Cameroon with more than 70% of the votes.

The octogenarian, who has been in power for 36 years, will continue in office at least six more, despite the complaints of the opponent Maurice Kamto, who appealed the elections and unsuccessfully claimed their nullity.

THE CONFLICT IN AMBAZONIA

One of the most difficult scenarios for the president is the conflict with the self-proclaimed Republic of Ambazonia, in the West and English-speaking region, with three million people.

Up to now, the president’s policy has been based, above all, on military actions in favor of the defense of a unitary and centralized state in Yaoundé, against the groups in favor of independence that denounce what they consider to be privileges of the French-speaking part.

The conflict, which has its origins in the colonial division of the continent and the incorporation in 1961 of the former South Cameroon, occupied by the British, to Cameroon, of French exploitation, has caused the death of hundreds of people, including an American missionary killed in October, and the displacement of tens of thousands since 2016.

“WE NEED PEACE AND THE UN INTERVENTION”

Christians are not exempt from constant confrontations either. In fact, they have been the object of one of the last actions by the independence militias, which in early November kidnapped 80 students from the Presbyterian school in Bamenda.

Although the students have been released, “we need peace and the UN intervention”, says a Methodist Christian in Cameroon, who has agreed to speak with Spanish news website Protestant Digital, preferring to keep his identity anonymous.

“Many people die every day, homes and villages are burned, there are famished people and also those who take refuge in Nigeria. We do not have a voice in our country”, he adds.

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

Up to 50 primary and secondary schools and Christian hospitals have been affected by the conflict, according to the secretary of communication and information of the Council of Protestant Churches of Cameroon, Gustav Ebai, who has lost four relatives in the clashes.

The military has also kidnapped four churches to turn them into barracks. “The government of Ambazonia, which controls most of the Northwest and Southwest, has placed a group of soldiers in the school until the crisis is resolved”.

“There are often shootings between different forces, and a stray bullet can kill a minor”, explains the Methodist believer. Because of this tension, the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC), published a statement last October, in the community bank holiday.

“Given what the English-speaking community is going through at this time, we cannot have a celebration while many of God’s children are being killed, suffering or living as internal or external refugees”, says the text signed by the Reverend Fonki Samuel Forba, of the PCC.

“The emphasis should be placed on supplying the Working Fund for the Mission, to allow the church to continue assisting our pastors and brothers displaced by the armed conflict that has brought pain and suffering to many”, the document adds.

CAMEROON RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY

53% of the population in Cameroon is considered Christian, according to the Joshua project. Of these, about 39% are Catholics, 22% Protestants and just over 33% belong to other denominations.

The sources consulted explain that “Cameroon is a country of religious tolerance. There is freedom of worship. Most of the Christians in the country are Catholics, Presbyterian, Baptists and Evangelicals, but there are also Pentecostal groups that are growing”.

In addition, “the main challenge is to meet, and this has made it difficult for the church to have a strong voice in the country”.

According to Central African missionary of Assemblies of God in Cameroon, Adongo Augustin Atilas, “believers are not united and live much more the syncretism and its ritual practices, especially when there is a birth or during the mourning after a funeral”.

Ethnic religions represent the third largest group of people in the country, with almost 22% of the population. The second group is Islam (24%), especially in the Northern part of the country, which lives in conflict because of the presence of Boko Haram and Fulani shepherds.

“Muslims and Christians have no problem in Cameroon. They live well and sometimes can share views on Jesus, although it is a taboo for some Muslims. They can visit you at night to pray and study the Bible, but they will never go to church”, Atilas says.

POLITICAL INTERFERENCES

The increasing conflict in recent years has mainly generated two political reactions to the religious fact: indifference and suspicion, depending on the point of view from which one looks.

“The government does not care about anything, it has no solution for the problems of the people, nor is it prepared to listen to the weeping of the masses”, explains the Christian Methodist.

Atilas believes that “Christians in Cameroon are not free to express their beliefs and are threatened by the bad government of the country”.

“We knew that there would be fraud in the elections since the beginning. Biya organized the vote, counted the ballots, registered them and proclaimed the results, despite being also a candidate. What can you expect?”

Lately, politics has also become part of “the prominent churches” of the country. In fact, according to the Catholic newspaper La Croix, Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Catholic leaders, have created an alliance with representatives of the Muslim community to mediate in the conflict.

It is estimated that about one hundred pastors of the PCC have fled from the southwest and Northwest regions, because of the conflict.

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Author: Jonatán Soriano

Source: evangelicalfocus.com

A priest serving in Cameroon has been killed by military gunfire, amid a military and political conflict that has rocked the country in recent years.

Fr. Cosmas Ombato Ondari was reportedly killed Nov. 21 in Mamfe, a city in the country’s southwest, CNA has learned. Onari, a member of the Mill Hill Missionaries, had been serving in the country since March 2017, when he was ordained a priest.

Ondari is the second priest killed in recent months in the country. Fr. Alexander Sob Nougi was killed July 20 in the same province where Onari was shot. Nougi was shot at close range, in an attack that Church officials said was a targeted assassination.

In October, a 19-year-old seminarian was killed in a neighboring province, the epicenter of the country’s military conflict.

Earlier this month, a group of religious sisters was kidnapped by guerillas in the country’s northwest and released the next day.

Since 2017, guerillas in Cameroon have been fighting for the separation of the country’s English-speaking regions from its French-speaking territory. The fighters declared in October 2017 the independence of a new nation they have named ‘Ambazonia.’

The nearly three-year conflict has led to several hundred deaths on both sides, and sent 300,000 refugees to Nigeria. There are more than 80,000 internally displaced persons in Cameroon.

The separatist fighters are known to dig up trenches on the main road leading from Bamenda, the capital city of the Northwest Region, to many other villages and towns surrounding it, mainly in a bid to prevent military transport and soldiers from reaching their hideouts.

On May 30, 2017, Bishop Jean Marie Benoît Bala of Bafia, Cameroon disappeared from his residence. His body was recovered in a river two days later, although an autopsy determined he had not drowned.

Cameroon’s bishops’ conference maintains the bishop was murdered and accuses the government of failing to investigate the crime. His death is not believed to be related to the country’s military conflict.

Source: catholicnewsagency

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The re-election of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya — in power since 1982 — could be bad news, not just for Cameroon and the region, but for the United States.

Cameroon for a long time was regarded as a paragon of stability in a part of the world too often marked by insecurity, civil wars and coups. During the Cold War, the country remained close to France, which served French political and economic interests while also suiting the United States, which appreciated French dominance in the region as a barrier to Soviet influence, not to mention Cameroon’s status as a modest but stable oil producer.

More recently, in 2013, Cameroon emerged as a valuable counterterrorism partner when the Boko Haram insurgency spilled over from neighboring Nigeria. Cameroon’s military joined the fight alongside regional militaries and with the backing of France and the United States, which boosted security assistance to the country, according to USAID data (the level of aid has since dropped), although as many as 300 U.S. soldiers remain deployed to the country to support and train the Cameroonian military. Cameroon also benefits from French security assistance (in 2013, Cameroon played a key role in France’s military intervention in the Central African Republic as a logistical hub and port of entry). Bolstered by outside help, the Cameroonian security forces have proven remarkably effective.

The problem is that under Biya, the Cameroonian government is rapidly becoming more authoritarian and bloody-minded, making insecurity worse, rather than better. The country’s days as a reliable partner seem numbered.

In the fight against Boko Haram, the Cameroonian military has racked up a deplorable record of human rights abuses committed against civilians in the name of counterterrorism, including abuses committed by the American-trained Rapid Intervention Brigade. This summer, videos emerged of Cameroonian forces killing civilians, including particularly shocking footage of an execution of women and children. One of the women was shot with a baby strapped to her back, which was also killed.

Cameroon’s harsh tactics might be working, at least in the short term: Violence committed by Boko Haram has declined, according to data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. History, however, suggests that Cameroonian forces are only sowing the seeds of future conflict. The bloodshed, moreover, increasingly is overshadowed by a much more dangerous conflict that is entirely of the Cameroonian government’s making: A violent insurgency in the country’s English-speaking regions, known as Ambazonia, a vestige of British rule over a portion of the country after Britain and France took the country from Germany at the end of World War I.

The conflict has been “decades in the making,” ever since 1972 (before Biya), when Cameroon’s government abandoned federalism and tried to integrate the once British-governed regions into a centralized state without taking steps to protect the rights of anglophones, heed their interests or ensure their enjoyment of a proportionate share of benefits and opportunities. Thanks largely to heavy-handed repression under Biya, people who might once have protested peacefully have now taken up arms, to which the government has responded with mounting violence. The entire crisis, it must be stressed, was entirely avoidable, as at any point since 1972 the country’s leaders might have found ways to accommodate better their anglophone communities.

Under Biya, Cameroon is on track to become weaker and less stable, and therefore less useful as a partner, even if one were to set aside the question of the propriety of working closely with an increasingly abusive regime. Indeed, even French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly has been slow to congratulate Biya for his election victory. Rather than being part of the solution to the region’s terrorism problem, Biya may be becoming part of the problem.

Author: Michael Shurkin

Source: www.upi.com

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