By Benedict Mayaki
The Jesuit Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar have released a press statement advocating for peace and inclusive dialogue in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.
The communiqué was issued as a result of growing concerns about the violence and loss of human life in Cameroon’s English-speaking region since 2016, as a result of clashes between government troops and separatists seeking to create an independent English-speaking state called Ambazonia.
The statement signed by Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ., the president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), condemned the Cameroonian government’s continuous use of force by militia groups, saying it has led to the loss of innocent lives.
This comes in the wake of the recent February 14 attack on Ngar-buh village in the Donga Mantung Division of Northwest Cameroon, where at least thirty people, including ten children and several pregnant women were killed and several houses torched.
The JCAM called on Cameroonian President Paul Biya and his government to “go beyond repressive measures and take responsibility in order to find more lasting solutions to the crisis through mediated talks.”
Peace through dialogue
“Inclusive dialogue involving Anglophone separatists is the only sustainable solution to the violence” read the statement.
Proposing alternatives to violence, the Jesuit Conference pointed to the Swiss Initiative as an “opportunity for genuine dialogue.” Swiss Initiative, an NGO that initiates and supports cultural projects in conflict countries, is supported by a group of Catholic bishops from around the world and would seek to include separatist groups in dialogue for a lasting solution to the crisis.
JCAM also called on the Cameroonian government to “ensure the respect of human rights and freedom of expression and manifestation.”
Pope Francis’ call for Peace
In his message on the 53rd World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, 2020, Pope Francis noted that “our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts that affect especially the poor and the vulnerable” while calling for peace in the world.
Reiterating the Pope’s concern, the Jesuits in Africa noted that “Peace can be achieved only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family of today and tomorrow.”
Since independence in 1961 and the unification of French and British Cameroon, relations between the francophone majority and the anglophone minority have been strained.
In 2016, their relationship escalated into violent clashes after the presidency attempted to impose the French language in English speaking zones.
Since then, intermittent violence has broken out in the country and has led to an estimated 2,000 deaths and the displacement of several hundreds of thousands to neighboring Nigeria.