22 November 2021
Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
Dr Olubunmi Olayisade, Africa Partnership Coordinator, shares this update on the situation in Cameroon.
Cameroon is beautiful country, formerly considered the food basket of Central Africa. It is a bilingual country with 80% Francophone and its Anglophone population based in the Southwest and Northwest regions of the country. In recent years, the central government has increasingly imposed assimilation approach of socio-political engagement with the Anglophones. This has led to the Anglophones feeling politically, socially and economically marginalised, especially with very few representatives in the government.
In 2016, there were frequent protests against the imposition of French in Anglophone schools, courts and public institutions. By 2017, many schools had closed and many families fled, today we have about 800,000 children out of schools. In addition, the separatists implemented lockdown measures affecting livelihoods and crippling its economy. As at 2018, insurgencies increased as the armed separatists sought greater autonomy from President Biya, when he started his 7th term of office. By 2019, the government retaliated with a repressive approach contributing to socio-political instability in the Anglophone region.
The escalating violence led to more than 65,000 refugee families in Nigeria and more than 1 million people internally displaced (Reliefweb 2021) . Consequently, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon (PCC), asked for me as the Africa Partnership Coordinator if MC Britain could assist and accompany as a partner to restore peace and justice in Cameroon. The MCB Grants stream kindly accepted and offered various grants to support the church and to appoint a Parliamentary Officer to improve engagement with the Office of President and advocate for dialogue with the separatists. In addition, the Joint Peace Issues Team, also engaged with our Anglican, Baptist and Catholic colleagues, to pressurise the British Parliamentarians influence the Cameroonian government to acknowledge and tackle the crisis.
With increasing violence in the region, PCC partners formed an ecumenical forum for peace and justice to engage with Cameroonian religious leaders. Members of the forum sponsored peace workshops and campaigns to dissuade youths from engaging in riots and the arms struggle. Sadly, the Kumba school massacre took place at Mother Franscica International Bilingual Academy, where 7 children were killed and 13 injured on 24 October 2020. The Methodist youths in sympathy organised a prayer session in solidarity with the Cameroonians. No one claimed the atrocity though the government accused the armed separatists. Fast forward to October 2021, another 5-year-old schoolgirl was shot on her way to school, at a checkpoint on 14 October 2021. The government appealed for calm as the police officer was lynched by a mob in Buea. The civilians endure the most of the indiscriminate killings across the region, with women leading the peace campaigns and lamentations to end the crisis.
In light of the persistent violence on the streets leading to closure of churches and businesses, the ecumenical partners decided to engage with religious leaders, civil societies, faith based organisations and non-governmental organisation based in Cameroon. The 4-day consultation was held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and it was hosted by the All African Conference of Churches, and the World Council of Churches. The Methodist Church in Britain contributed £17,500 to sponsor the engagement of Cameroonian religious and civil bodies in a safer environment, to develop an effective peace advocacy strategy for Cameroon at all levels of the society.
We shall continue to pray for peace in Cameroon and for the Cameroonian government to initiate dialogue with the separatists. May the Prince of peace touch the hearts and minds of all stakeholders, that they may choose peace over violence in Jesus’ name?
Psalm 27 (NIV version)
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me
to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Dr Olubunmi Olayisade, Africa Partnership Coordinator