Thursday, July 4, 2019

Anglophone Crisis: Can religious people do anything

In May, a report by the International Crisis Group encouraged dialogue initiatives launched by religious denominations.

In 2019 as in 2018, the report of the International Crisis Group - an NGO whose aim is to prevent conflicts - designates the Catholic Church as "the most credible institution in the Cameroonian social landscape" and therefore the most apt to promote dialogue between separatists and the Cameroonian government in the crisis in the far west of the country. It also encourages initiatives initiated by religious denominations in collaboration with each other.

Since 2016 a serious crisis has shaken the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, located in the North-West and South-West. The tensions began with strikes by English-speaking teachers and lawyers before getting bogged down in deadly clashes between separatists and the regular army, resulting in many deaths. Until then, all calls for dialogue have remained a dead letter.

According to the report of the International Crisis Group published in May 2019, in twenty months, the conflict has made 1,850 dead, 530,000 internally displaced and tens of thousands of refugees.

The organization encourages the initiatives of religious denominations to overcome this conflict. "If the conflict continues, it could lead to a problem even more serious: a generation growing up in the hatred of Cameroon, which could be the backbone of future armed groups," fear the report's authors.

Can religious resolve the crisis ??

According to the report of the International Crisis Group, religious leaders can help resolve the crisis. The Church also seems to be convinced of this because she has repeatedly called for dialogue and offered her mediation.

Questioned in December on the issue, Archbishop Michaël Bibi, Auxiliary Archbishop of Bamenda (in the North-West), saw however a prerequisite: "The State should give the Church permission to organize this dialogue, that it frees the separatist prisoners and that it invites the exiles to return. The dialogue must be inclusive. "

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, also believes that the solution to the crisis will come from religious. "The political actors have failed to find a solution to the crisis," he said in an interview with La Croix Africa on December 5. It is now up to us, religious guides, to act by uniting all the stakeholders around our cause. It is a question of setting a framework of debates between different protagonists ".

But the 2019 study of the International Crisis Group points to a "divided" episcopate "between pro-federalism Anglophone bishops and French-speaking bishops who are more favorable to decentralization or regionalism." She believes that mediation by the Catholic community Sant'Egidio "seems the most taken seriously by the head of the Cameroonian state, especially as it is supported by the pope."

Other faith-based organizations such as the Cameroon Association for Interreligious Dialogue (Acadir) are also trying to mediate but the work is made difficult, according to the International Crisis Group, by the impossibility of finding a consensus on the issue within the religious denominations.

The report also encourages the organization of the Anglophone General Conference. This initiative of Cardinal Christian Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Douala in collaboration with Pastor Babila George Fochang, Presbyterian Church of Cameroon (EPC), Imam Tukur Mohammed Adamu, of the Bamenda Central Mosque, and Imam Alhadji Mohammed Aboubakar from the Buea Central Mosque was launched on July 25, 2018 but was never able to hold himself out of government approval.

Religious, Collateral Victims of Crisis

If religious can find a solution to the Anglophone crisis, they are also the collateral victims. After Bishop Michael Bibi, Auxiliary Archbishop of Bamenda, in northwestern Cameroon who was kidnapped and released on December 6, 2018, Archbishop Cornelius Esua Fontem, the titular archbishop of the same diocese instability in this part of the country. He was indeed kidnapped on 25 June by rebel troops and released on 26 June.

The Church lost three religious in this crisis in 2018. Father Alexandre Sob Nougi was murdered on 20 July in Buea, in the South-West, and Gérard Anjiangwe, a seminarian of the Diocese of Bamenda, in the North-West, is died August 4 in front of the parish church of Bamessing, killed according to his diocese, by soldiers of the regular army, according to the official declaration of his diocese. On 21 November, Father Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Kenyan missionary who died "under the bullets of the army," according to the Bishop of Mamfé (southwest), his diocese host.