The Vice Chairperson of Portsmouth Bamenda Committee has issued the following statement:
National Justice and Peace Network meeting 10.2.18
Cameroon currently sits alongside countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Myanmar on an early warning watch list of ten countries and regions at risk of conflict or escalation of violence (www.crisisgroup.org).
For decades the Anglophone population of Cameroon has expressed concern and experienced violence as the central government has repressed their dissent over perceived discrimination and marginalisation of the English-speaking minority (BBC World Service – “Talkabout Africa – Merging Communities in Cameroon”).
There are now many reported deaths and tens of thousands of refugees and displaced persons within Cameroon and across the border in Nigeria as a result of the violence that has occurred in the NW and SW provinces. Amnesty International has prepared a document for the UN Universal Periodic Review in May 2018 on widespread Human Rights Violations in the country (www.amnesty.org).
This week there have been calls for transparency regarding the wellbeing and whereabouts of the leaders of the Anglophone “Ambazonian” movement who were arrested in Nigeria a month ago and have not been seen by their families or lawyers since. (BBC World Service Africa Today 5.2.18).
The Archdiocese of Bamenda in NW Province Cameroon and Portsmouth Diocese in the UK have sustained a twinned relationship for 44 years now. This partnership has seen a sharing of spiritual, practical and emotional support. Both dioceses have exchanged Fidei Donum priests; worked on collaborative projects under categories of Faith, Education, Health and Social Welfare; twinned schools, parishes / groups and made cultural exchange visits.
Recently two members of the Portsmouth Bamenda Committee visited in solidarity with their friends in the African archdiocese who have been facing many challenges in the current socio-political situation. They found people living in fear of the unstable atmosphere who have been prevented from going about their daily lives freely by a heavy military presence, curfews, civil disobedience days, sporadic violence and economic hardship. On visiting current projects there was a mixed picture. Efforts had been made to reopen schools following the 2016/7 teacher’s strike and lost academic year but attacks on those establishments by unidentified arsonists were discouraging. Although numbers were still low, attendance was gradually increasing and many people were showing great courage and determination to rebuild and maintain a sense of normality.
Positive progress had been made on a project bringing clean water to 3 remote rural villages and faith communities were demonstrating hope through their collection of stones, sand and bricks for building churches.
Further project details and an account of the Committee trip will be available on the Bamenda and Portsmouth website shortly. Portsmouth’s Bishop Philip Egan is planning to write to our MPs to bring governmental pressure for a positive resolution for all and will be sharing a series of reflections on his own recent visit to Archbishop Cornelius Esua in the Portsmouth Diocese weekly online ‘Enews’.
Crisis Group suggests that early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace in the countries and regions identified on the watch list.
Please spread awareness of the injustice and human rights violations and pray for a peaceful resolution to the troubles and upcoming elections in October 2018.
Mrs Jo Overton
Vice Chairperson Portsmouth Bamenda Committee