five priests, a nun and two lay people kidnapped in the South West
The Catholic Church continues to suffer the effects of the Anglophone crisis in which the far west of Cameroon has been entangled for six years. Friday, September 16, an unprecedented kidnapping took place: five priests and a nun, as well as two lay people, were kidnapped from the parish of St Mary de Nchang, in the diocese of Mamfe, in the south-west of the country, and their church parish was burnt down. Reacting to this kidnapping, Archbishop Andrew Nkea, Archbishop of Bamenda and President of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon issued a press release on Sunday, September 18. In this text, he expresses the « great shock » and the« total horror » English-speaking bishops gathered within the ecclesiastical province of Bamenda. “At present, no concrete reason has been given for this heinous act against the house of God and the messengers of God. “, he adds in this press release.
Abductions and murders
Following this press release, the Archbishop of Bamenda recalls that since the beginning of the Anglophone crisis in 2016, the Church has been targeted by attacks, acts of intimidation and kidnappings in the North-West and South- West. the “People suffered terribly, and men and women of God were easy targets for kidnappers, torturers and unscrupulous gunmen”denounces Bishop Nkea, who highlights the persecutions and threats against the Catholic Church, as well as the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches in Cameroon.
This new kidnapping of clerics in the English-speaking part of Cameroon comes on top of that, a year ago, of Bishop Julius Agbortoko, vicar general of Mamfe who was kidnapped on August 29 and then released on August 31, 2021. A little more early in the same year, on May 22, Father Christopher Eboka, director of communication for this same diocese, was kidnapped and then released ten days later.
Cardinal Christian Tumi, late archbishop emeritus of Douala and main mediator of the Anglophone crisis, was also kidnapped, twice (November 5 and 6, 2020, then January 30, 2021). As well as Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi, current Bishop of Buea in the Southeast, kidnapped on December 5 and 6, 2018, when he was Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda.
In 2019, Bishop Cornelius Esua Fontem, then Archbishop of Bamenda, was kidnapped on June 25 and then released on June 26. On November 23, 2018, four religious from the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – better known as Claretians – had been abducted with their driver. They were held for four days and tortured by a group who suspected them of being “Spies from Yaoundé”.
In addition to these kidnappings often attributed to separatist troops, there are also the murders of clerics of which the regular army and the separatists accuse each other mutually. Father Alexandre Sob Nougi was killed on July 20, 2018 in Buea, and Gérard Anjiangwe, a seminarian from the diocese of Bamenda, died on August 4 of the same year, in front of the parish church of Bamessing, killed by soldiers of the regular army according to the official declaration of his diocese. On November 21, 2018, Father Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Kenyan missionary, died.
An endless crisis
The Anglophone crisis began in 2016 with an outburst of Anglophone civil servants who felt aggrieved by the central power in Yaoundé. It then spread with, in particular, the emergence of numerous separatist groups, some of which are demanding the independence of this part of the country.
In 2019, after three years of calling for dialogue, the Cameroonian authorities organized the Grand National Dialogue, the aim of which was to find a concerted solution to the Anglophone crisis. The Church, which had largely participated in this dialogue, had also contributed to the exchanges with the English-speaking populations on its resolutions. Three years after this meeting, the killings continue in the English-speaking area of Cameroon. They often target schools.