Diocese in Cameroon is hard hit by violence triggered by country’s political crisis

GROWING UNREST and violence in the northwest and southwest of Cameroon—the two Anglophone regions in the Francophone country—have gravely affected the Diocese of Buea. Aid to the Church in Need has reported on the situation drawing on sources in the country who asked to remain anonymous. The crisis centers on Anglophone activists’ demands for autonomy for the Anglophone region.

At present, 20,000 people have had to leave their homes. Since November 2016, eight communities have been burned down, 70 were raided and 25 were abandoned, forcing the inhabitants to seek refuge on farms and in forests. Based on statistics and estimates of local and international human rights organizations, more than 200 civilians (not only Catholics) have been killed, including women and children, within the boundaries of the Buea Diocese.

This sociopolitical crisis has badly disrupted the local Church’s pastoral life. About 10 parishes and mission stations have been forced to suspend their pastoral work. Several parishes have been attacked during fighting between government security forces and pro-independence fighters. Priests have also been threatened. The brutal killing of Father Alexander Sob of Bomaka Parish in July 2018 in the Muyuka deanery is but one example.

Not only the pastoral work but also the diocese’s educational activities have been hampered; 40 Catholic primary schools have been closed since 2016. Others have been attacked and vandalized, plus armed civilians assaulted the iconic St. Joseph’s College Sasse in Buea. About 20 people, including students and teachers, were injured in the attack, which forced the temporary closure of Catholic educational insitutions in the diocese.

Diocesan medical centers such as Mt. Mary Hospital Buea and Regina Pacis Hospital Muntengene have witnessed a drastic fall in the number of patients. This has been largely due to the mass exodus of people to other areas. ACN’s sources report that state security forces have entered Catholic medical centers with firearms in search of suspected pro-independence fighters undergoing treatment. There have been cases of women giving birth without any medical attention.

The sources predict severe food shortages and rising prices due to the fact that farmers are forced to leave their villages and farmland. Threats to food security, malnutrition and other health-related problems look to be inevitable in the near future. The current crisis began to escalate in the diocese in October 2016 when Cameroon’s security/defense forces used live ammunition during protests by the population of the Anglophone regions in the southwest and northwest of the country, who feel marginalized by Cameroon’s French-speaking authorities. They accuse them of imposing the French language and traditions, and demand greater autonomy and respect for their customs.

Sources report that in the face of all these challenges the clergy and the faithful in the Diocese of Buea continue to show perseverance and great faith in observing their pastoral commitments.

Aid to the Church in Need has supported in the Diocese of Buea with more than 20 projects in the last 25 years. In 2018 most of ACN’s help was dedicated to female religious congregations affected by the crisis.

—Maria Lozano