The Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference, BAPEC, have gone under scathing attacks from Cameroon’s Minister of Communication and Government Spokesperson, Issa Tchiroma Bakary.
Tchiroma’s verbal attack came days after the Prelates issued a declaration, whose content, according to the Minister, is preaching secession.
In a strongly worded declaration dated October 4, 2017, following the ugly events of October 1 in the Northwest and Southwest Regions that led to killings through gunshots, BAPEC called on President Paul Biya to “stop the bloodbath and genocide that has skillfully been initiated in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.”.
The declaration was signed by the Archbishop of Bamenda, Cornelius Esua, the Bishop of Kumbo, George Nkuo, Andrew Nkea of Mamfe, Immanuel Bushu of Buea, Agapitus Nfon of Kumba, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda, Michael Bibi.
Tchiroma termed the Prelates’ declaration and a report by the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, REDHAC, announcing that over 100 demonstrators were killed in the Northwest and Southwest Regions between September 28 and October 1 as false.
He debunked the claims at a press conference in Yaounde on October 9.
Picking on the BAPEC Bishops, Tchiroma said it was “surprising, and unconceivable that the moral authorities who are supposed to be above the quarrel, find themselves in the arena championing those who deliberately chose to breach the Constitution and the laws of the Republic to incite people to question their citizenship and their sacred duty of respect for the law and the authority of the State.” He maintained that Anglophones have heavily invested in Francophone Regions likewise the Francophones in the Anglophone Regions, and blamed the church authorities for claiming that Anglophones are being persecuted in the French speaking parts.
The Bishops had in the declaration, especially following reports of mass arrests in Anglophone dominated neighbourhoods of Yaounde, observed that “…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,” the Prelates wrote in their declaration.
According to Tchiroma, such a declaration is untruthful and geared at creating tension and antagonism between Francophones and Anglophones, two communities, which according to him, are living together in harmony.
He questioned what would have become of the two Regions if the defence and security forces had not invested in the protection of the population and property, institutions and persons that incarnate them, and territorial integrity of the nation.
“Through their messages of imaginations and untruths, one wonders whether, without their knowledge, these men of the Church have not become objective allies of these secessionists. If not, how can we speak in favour of those who burn down churches, student dormitories and place bombs to decimate an entire city and its people,” he quipped.
Apparently praising the defence and security forces, the Communication Minister declared: “How can we condemn with incomprehensible frivolity these men and women who, at the risk of their lives, protect and safeguard the territorial integrity of our nation, even though they are confronted with hordes armed with firearms and weapons with the aim of dividing our nation?”
He said soldiers know fully well that if they are caught in flagrante delicto of violations or brutality against the population, they would be taken to the military court, adding that they are forbidden from using firearms except in situations of legitimate self defence.
He appreciated the forces for “conducting their actions in strict compliance with the rules required in this regard.
Such ethics is based on the observance of international humanitarian standards to which Cameroon has duly subscribed.
“In any case, invested with the sovereignty of the people and conscious of its supreme mission, the Head of our nation will spare no effort to ensure that our country, with its cultural diversity and its ethnic plurality, continues to be this haven of peace…” he told reporters.
“As for those of our compatriots driven by unquenchable thirst for power, they would have to realise that by their excessive madness, they are inflicting suffering, loss of life, huge material damage, knowing that secession will never be on the agenda in Cameroon,” he affirmed.
On the other hand, Tchiroma hailed the President of the National Episcopal Conference, Mgr. Samuel Kleda, for calling for the preservation of the best interests, unity, dialogue, peace and saying no to secession, which according to that religious body, is not a solution to the problems Cameroon is facing.
He promised that “the arsonists, bombers and all those who took up arms against the Republic and their accomplices will be hunted down and brought to justice for their actions. “I avail myself to warn all those who, without any evidence, disseminate and relay allegations of the massacre of civilian populations against the devastating effects of such an undertaking. Let me remind them that they could be held accountable for spreading false news and inciting revolt if they persist in such a path.,” Tchiroma threatened.