Bishops at the Forefront of the Civil War in Cameroon

September 09, 2019

The conflict is intensifying in Cameroon between the English-speaking separatists and the Yaoundé central government. People, especially young people, are being held hostage and can no longer benefit from the education system because most schools are closed. Several English-speaking bishops undertook yet another attempt at mediation between the belligerents.

The 67th provincial synod, gathering the four bishops of the English-speaking region of Bamenda, Cameroon around their archbishop, took place from August 16-23, 2019. At the end of the meeting, the prelates published an open letter in which they demanded that the separatists allow the reopening of the schools.

The bishops speculate: “If the [Anglophone] crisis continues for the next ten years or more, will the children have to stay home all this time?” The open letter also explains that it is “unacceptable” to “take the children hostage, compromise their future and use them for political purposes.”

The prelates of the province of Bamenda took the opportunity to refuse to get involved with the argument for the separatists,—some of whom “set fire to the schools and inflicted torture, mutilation... and took the lives of those who were going to school”—as well as the representatives of the central government who failed in their duty to “protect citizens and defend territorial integrity,” exercising “an exaggerated force against innocent civilians,”—certain soldiers having “sometimes committed horrible crimes against children.”

The Catholic Church, in view of its position in Cameroonian society and its mediating role, is at the forefront of the civil war that is undermining part of Cameroon.

In 2016, in fact, the English-speaking regions of the North-West and South-West of the country began to rise, demanding more recognition from the central state.

Faced with the latter’s refusal and subsequent repression, some of the separatists took up arms in 2017. Since then, the conflict has degenerated causing nearly 2,000 deaths, according to the Crisis Group International Geopolitical Analysis Center (ICG), and more than 530,000 displaced, according to the United Nations.

The situation was further aggravated on July 20, 2019, by a military court in Yaounde handing down a sentence of life imprisonment to Julius Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the English-speaking separatists in Cameroon, and nine of his supporters.