Armed conflict in NW, SW : Campaigners appeal for ceasefire

Culled from Church Times

The Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon has called on the government of Cameroon to “declare a ceasefire and formally commit to finding a negotiated end to the conflict”.

In an open letter on Tuesday signed by 35 NGOs and humanitarian groups, the organisation condemned the shooting on Saturday of seven children by armed men who invaded the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy, Kumba, in the south-west of Cameroon. A further 12 people were seriously injured.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, the lead bishop for international affairs, issued a joint statement with other religious leaders last month condemning the “daily violations” of “human dignity” experienced by people living in Cameroon.

Eighteen people were killed and 15 others were wounded in August after a suicide bomb was detonated on a site for displaced people in Nguétchéwé, in northern Cameroon. Attackers also killed seven people and wounded 14 in a village containing internally displaced persons near the border of Nigeria.

The northern part of Cameroon is home to 360,000 people displaced by violence from the militant group Boko Haram, as well as from other armed separatist groups, which have been involved in looting and kidnapping, as well as attacks.

Bishop Chessun, and the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, whose diocese is linked to the Anglican diocese of Cameroon, said: “We hear the cry of our sisters and brothers in Cameroon’s Anglophone region, who are facing daily violations of their human dignity. Recent reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and attacks on civilians demand a response from the international community.

“We call on the UK Government to work with other European countries on robust diplomatic action to halt the violence and help bring about a negotiated settlement that protects the rights of all Cameroon’s people.

“We also express our closeness to the churches that are working with local communities to reject violence and pursue the path of dialogue, and we assure them that they have not been forgotten.”

Other signatories include the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Revd Declan Lang, the RC Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Philip Egan, and the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Richard Teal and Carolyn Lawrence respectively.

The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) requested prayers last month for those enduring “untold suffering” in Cameroon.

In a statement, the general-secretary of CAPA, the Ven. J. Kofi deGraft-Johnson, spoke out against “the sufferings of our sisters and brothers in the Republic of Cameroon in their struggle with a system that has divided them based on an imposed description of Anglophone and Francophone divide.

“The burden of this artificial divide, and the relentless effort by systems to perpetuate this divide has brought in its wake untold suffering — maiming, destruction of property and life, and needless disruptions in the lives of ordinary defenseless citizens caught in the divide. . .

“Many of our sisters and brothers face brutalities, oppression, and repression, denial of access of the necessities of life, and other deprivations on a daily basis. This situation is even worsened in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, where most of these innocent and defenseless sisters and brothers do not even have access to safety resources.”

He called on the leaders of Cameroon to “embrace and entrench a culture of peace that allows for full expression and exercise of freedom with responsibility by all citizens”.

A coalition of women’s groups, including the Christian Women Fellowship, the Cameroon Baptist Convention’s Women’s Department, and the United Methodist Women Association in Cameroon, launched a campaign in August, #TalksNotBlood, seeking online peace talks. A statement from the campaign called for “a written ceasefire agreement by November 2020, with each party clearly stating its commitment to making the process a success”.

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