Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference, BAPEC, have once again issued a sterling memo to President Paul Biya, urging him to “stop the bloodbath and genocide that has skillfully been initiated in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.”
The seven page document is titled: Declaration of the Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference following the massive demonstrations and the curfew imposed on the Northwest and Southwest Regions:”
The memo, signed by the BAPEC Bishops viz: Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua, Mgrs. Immanuel Bushu, George Nkuo, Andrew Nkea, Agapitus Nfon and Michael Bibi, is dated October 4.
According to the Prelates, Anglophones went through a torrid period from September 22 to October 2.
“From Bota in Fako to Ako in Donga Mantung, from Bakassi in Ndian to Menji in Lebialem, families are weeping for their children... Since September 29, there have been various forms of violence and atrocities that have bedevilled most towns and villages of the Northwest and Southwest Regions... The groans from the dying and shrieks of the wounded make our hearts bleed from pain. 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 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 express our solidarity with those who have sustained injuries and those suffering in any way, those arrested and incarcerated, and the families that have been separated from their loved ones or displaced. May the crucified Lord, with whom they are now hanging on the cross, be their consolation,” they wrote.
The men of God recalled that following the escalation of the crisis in 2016, they (BAPEC Bishops), said it was important to respect the country’s bicultural and bijural nature.
“We also condemned in very unequivocal terms the violence perpetuated by some groups of young people on one hand and the acts of brutality, torture, inhuman and unjustified treatment meted out on some youths by the forces of law and order on the other hand.
We called on the Government to restrain such barbaric action of the forces of law and order and to bring to justice those of them who had been irresponsible, so that peace may reign.”
The men of God bemoaned that Government did not heed their appeal, but rather “the CPDM ruling party went on to organise a so-called Peace March, which provoked the resistance of most of the people and the subsequent reaction of the forces of law and order that led to further violence on December 8, 2016.
The consequent result of the violence on that day was the shooting of unarmed youths by the forces of law and order.”
The Prelates regretted that despite their request for audience with the Head of State to brief him of the exact situation in the Anglophone Regions and to present a Memorandum on the Anglophone Problem, was discarded by the presidency.
“In the Memorandum, we gave the historical background of the Anglophone Problem, articulated the Problem, gave various instances in which the Problem is manifested and proposed a way forward to solve the socio-political impasse in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
The requested audience was never granted...rather, we have been erroneously accused of being the invisible hand supporting the activists and keeping the schools closed as it is evidenced by the fact that we were dragged to court for treason... and other related accusations.”
The Bishops said September 22, was a turning point in the Crisis, as people of all walks of life stormed the streets of the former West Cameroon to express their right to self-determination.
To the clergy, the climax of the Anglophone Crisis came in prelude to October 1, when Government slammed a curfew on the two Regions, forbidding movement and public assembly of more than four persons
“On October 1, some Priests and Christians were prevented by the ...military 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 tear-gassed as they came out of Mass... BAPEC is sad and disturbed, having learned that some of our Christians were pursued into their houses, some arrested, others maimed and some were simply shot to death...
Elsewhere in the world, the forces of law and order protect demonstrating citizens. In our country, peaceful demonstrations, except those organised 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.”
Prelates Whack Tchiroma
The Bishops slammed Communication Minister for lauding the professionalism of the Armed Forces, in total disregard of the brutality and barbarism meted out on the population.
“Either the Minister of Communication was not adequately informed or he was misleading the national and international communities. The enthronement of lies, no matter from which side in our country, does not help in nation building.
It rather destroys the efforts of honest and God-fearing Cameroonians who truly seek to be free and responsible, not only for themselves but also for others and for their environment.
Today, at least in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, there is a huge gap of credibility between the population, those calling for restoration and the administration.”
They condemned the irresponsible use of firearms against unarmed civilians.
“The divine injunction: “Thou shalt not kill!” remains valid even in such circumstances. We call on the Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to stop the bloodbath and genocide that has skilfully been initiated in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
Mr. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, said “a genocide begins with the killing of one man – not for what he had done – but for who he is”.
The statement by Government Spokesperson that some Anglophone Cameroonians are “terrorists” is a subtle call for what can be described as “ethnic cleansing” or a genocide as all Anglophone Cameroonians are now considered as ‘terrorists’ and as such qualify for elimination, just because they are Anglophones.
We need to stop the imminent genocide. We, as a nation, need a change of orientation to forestall any further deterioration of the situation in the Anglophone Regions.
We call on all stakeholders to exercise restraint, develop a sense of respect for the truth and for human dignity and return to an inclusive and facilitated dialogue that will begin a process of national healing and reconciliation.”
The Bishops said the massive turnout of people on September 22 and October 1 has proven that: “The Anglophone Problem now truly touches the hearts of very many people in all villages, towns and cities of the Northwest and Southwest Regions, it is no longer just a problem of “a few disgruntled Anglophones at home and in the Diaspora, as some people have tried to play it down and it is no longer just a problem of lawyers and teachers, as it seemed to be from the outset last year.
At the moment, the Anglophone Problem can no longer be taken lightly or ignored. It needs urgent attention, to avoid the growing genocide.
People have lost loved ones to brutal killings and do not even know where some of their corpses are. Every individual who is killed increases the number of aggrieved persons and families, resentment and anger, which are very difficult to address.”
BAPEC Condemns Irrational Way Of Achieving Independence
Meanwhile, the Prelates condemned the intoxication and exploitation of the masses by restoration groups and the irrational marches into Government offices to arrest civil administrators to reclaim their territory on October 1.
To the Bishops, the results of this irrational and unfeasible move were torture, arrest and killing of so many people.
The clergy denounced biased reporting, military acrobatic display with the use of helicopters on civilians, the killing of peaceful demonstrators and the arrest and transfer of Anglophones to Yaoundé.
“This adds to those arrested earlier during the year whose release the populations have been requesting from the Government. This only makes a bad situation worse.
Citizens of these two Regions have been branded as terrorists and are being treated as such. It is hard to believe that the hundreds of thousands of children, men and women, who came out to demonstrate peacefully on September 22 and October 1 are all terrorists.
We shall soon all be considered terrorists. Anglophones living in Francophone Cameroon are now targets.
The military have broken into some of their homes, looted and arrested people. The mere fact of being an Anglophone now looks like a crime in itself.
Hypocrisy Of Cameroon’s MPs
“The very fact that the Presidents of the Senate and of the National Assembly organised a rally at the Reunification Monument in Yaoundé on the same October 1 under the pretext of celebrating National Unity, when the military was intimidating, torturing, arresting and killing people in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, can be considered a mockery of the Anglophones, who were literally under siege and brutality for daring to air the same concerns.
This is an indication that the Government is insensitive to their problems and welfare and that they do not belong.”
Appeal For School Resumption
Meanwhile, the Prelates further stated that since all men ...have an inalienable right to education, all children in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon should be given the opportunity to continue formal education.
“The Church believes that the school as a place of learning should always remain open, no matter what problems the people are undergoing.
The reason is that learning is absolutely essential for the better mastery and resolution of the same problems. It is precisely because such problems can take years to resolve, the best way for children to be involved in the struggle is by being in school, by studying.
We urge and encourage everyone to stand by all the schools in our two Regions so that our children may not be left behind through our own fault.”
The Prelate urged Government to release all arrested Anglophones, return the corpses of those killed on September 22 and October 1 and demilitarised the two Regions.
“We condemn all forms of threats, intimidation, wanton arrests, torture, and killings. We call for honest and meaningful dialogue with the right people to determine the nature and form of the State to be undertaken as soon as possible...”