Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Ambazonia: a report from the Catholic Church of Kumbo is cold in the back

In its 2019 report, the activist group Human Rights Watch said that more than 170 people have been killed in the crisis since October 2018. The report also indicates that since the escalation of the conflict in 2017, some 420 civilians were killed by the belligerents.

Human Rights Watch also accused the Cameroonian army of "carrying out extrajudicial executions, burning property, arbitrary arrests and torture of detainees".

The government rejected this report, calling it "partial".

The Minister of Communication said the report reflected "a systematic tendency to discredit the public authorities and that the Cameroonian government categorically refutes these reckless accusations directed against the Republican Forces engaged in a struggle for the preservation of the territorial integrity of the country. State and the protection of persons and property".

For its part, the Catholic Church stated that neither party offered adequate accounting.

In an exclusive interview with Crux, Elvis Nsaikila's father Wanyu Njong, Kumbo's director of diocesan communications, said that Human Rights Watch "can only give (number) deaths that they have verified and are sure of." The government was rather on the defensive. "

"Our Justice and Peace Commission has documented," Nsaikila said. "Many people are killed every day and they (government and HRW) may not take note."

The condemnation of the priest results from a report of the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission of Kumbo on "the deterioration of the situation in the Diocese of Kumbo".

The report released on April 8 indicates that since the end of 2016, a total of 358 civilians have been killed by warring parties in this diocese alone - a number that is likely to be even higher, as bodies are still being discovered.

"It's hard to know how many state forces or separatist fighters could have been killed," Nsaikila told Crux.

"Disappearances have recently occurred and bodies have been found in various communities. In the last seven months, several civilians have been killed. Among the people killed, there were people with disabilities and elderly people who could not escape safely, "says the report.

The report also refers to cases of looting and rape and notes that people may use the crisis situation as a smoke screen to settle personal accounts.

Thousands of people have been displaced, including more than 9,900 in August 2018 in the 34 parishes of the diocese.

"Many live days and weeks on farms and shrubs. Kumbo, the seat of the diocese, is largely deserted and many settlements turn into ruins, "says the report.

In the last seven months, many homes, business centers and private and public properties have been destroyed.

"In total, more than 750 houses and structures have been burned in the diocese since the end of 2016, a figure that should also be higher," he said.

According to him, it is "scary" that such figures come from the only diocese of Kumbo, suggesting that the total figure of 420, given by Human Rights Watch and challenged by the government, is grossly underestimated.

He accused the separatist fighters of blocking the roads, crippling economic activities and disrupting the education and social life of the diocese.

"There have been reports of kidnappings and, in some cases, torture and ransom demands. The saga of Saint Augustine's College is among the kidnappings: on February 16, 2018, 176 college members were kidnapped, including 170 students generally under the age of 18, "said Nsaikila.

"Three priests who tried to track the abductees were also arrested and all were released the following evening. The incident forced the institution to close, parallel to the minor seminary.

He also deplored the effects of the crisis on health care.

Kumbo is home to the Saint Elizabeth General Hospital and Cardiac Center, Shisong (the only heart health center in West and Central Africa, both Catholic-owned), Banso Baptist Hospital (BBH), and a health center. led by psychiatrist Eric Gohla. "Many people would have died at home and may have survived if they had access to health facilities," Nsaikila said.

"It's hard to imagine how many lives are lost for the simple reason that patients can not move," he said.

Nsaikila said the crisis meant that drugs and other hospital supplies could not arrive in the area, and patients referred to these hospitals often remained stranded.

"The people in the area, who could possibly find a motorcycle to transport them, pay huge sums of money to go to the health centers. They end up no longer having money to pay hospital bills or pay for their drugs, "said the priest.

The situation was compounded by attacks on hospital staff, including three nurses who were killed.

"State forces have entered health facilities with firearms, looking for anyone suspected of being a separatist fighter in the process of treatment," he said.

Nsaikila said that pastoral activities were slowing down and becoming "more tortuous" even though no parish had completely closed. He said that this alone is "proof of our deepening faith," praising the clergy and the faithful for this commitment.