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Pope Francis Appeals To Cameroon’s Anglophone Separatists To Embrace Peace

The Secretary of State of the Vatican, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, has called on English-speaking separatist fighters in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon to lay down their arms and give peace a chance.

Speaking at a mass during which the pallium was placed on the Archbishop of the Bamenda Archdiocese, the Rev. Andrew Nkea, on Sunday, Parolin said the message for peace was from Pope Francis.

The mass which was attended by thousands of Christian faithful in spite of calls for lockdowns and boycott from separatist fighters, was an ideal occasion for the papal envoy to encourage Christians to be prayerful and steadfast in their faith in the face of the debilitating crisis.

“The pope is well aware of the difficulties which you have experienced in recent years and are still experiencing,” Parolin said.

“He asked the Lord to console you and in a particular way those who have been victims of violence or who have lost friends and loved ones in this crisis.

“The Holy Father unites himself to the desire for peace and reconciliation that rises up to God from this precious land,” the cardinal said.

The papal envoy called on the Christians of the Bamenda ecclesiastical province to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

“Put on the whole armour of the Lord so that you may be able to stand against the wilds of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the power, against the rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

“Dear brothers and sisters, in the difficult situation in which you find yourselves living, you are experiencing actions close to the power of evil that are in the world. Unfortunately, there is much news of violence, division and struggles that affect this beloved land.

“We are all responsible for peace. All the actors of society are responsible, from the smallest to the biggest person. No one can feel exonerated from the struggle against evil. 

“This is the challenge that faces you today. That finally, arms may be put down, and peace and reconciliation may reign within us and around us. 

“Violence never solves problems. It only creates more problems. Peace is a journey of hope, dialogue, and reconciliation. Dialogue, therefore, is the best way to solve conflicts and misunderstandings,” Parolin further admonished.

HumAngle reports that the gallium, which was placed on Nkea, is a symbol of a particular bond of communion with the pope. 

Woven with the wools of lambs, blessed by the pope on the feast of St. Agnes, it evokes the figures of the good shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep and places it on his shoulders.

Aggrieved Repentant Fighters Protest Negligence By Government 

Meanwhile, former separatist fighters who have laid down their arms and lodged at the National Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) Centre in Buea, on Monday protested against poor living conditions at the centre.

The former separatist fighters went into the streets and blocked traffic in protest against  “the poor living conditions in the centre which are a far cry from what the government promised separatist fighters who lay down their arms.”

The former combatants argued that besides the uncomfortable living conditions, they were not being trained in trades that could offer them opportunities to be reintegrated into the employment market as promised by the government.

Besides calling on the government to hastily reintegrate them into the job market, they asked that their living conditions at the DDR Centre be improved.

“I have been here for close to 18 months and there are no prospects that I will be reintegrated. I am tired of listening to your promises,” one of the protesters told the Secretary-General in the Governor’s office.

“We want a solution to our grievances, not new promises. We want our freedom. We just want to be told that we are free and we will leave from here and see what to do with our lives,” others echoed in agreement.

Attempts by the Divisional Officer for Buea, Abba Abdouraman, and the Secretary-General in the Southwest Governor’s Office, Dr Mohamadou, to persuade the ex-fighters to return to their centre were first turned down but after some pressure, the ex-fighters decided to return to the centre in the hope that their problems would be looked into.

Observers regard the inability of the  Paul Biya government to resettle the former combatants as a failure and demonstration of bad faith.

“Tell me how the boys still in the bushes would take the government serious when they see what is happening to their former colleagues.

“It sends a message and goes to confirm incessant allegations that some individuals in high government offices do not want this crisis to end because they are benefitting from it,” a civil society activist in Buea, who asked for anonymity, told HumAngle on Monday evening.

Another activist added: “Surely, some individuals in the command chain have been embezzling the money budgeted to ensure that the boys are comfortable and trained in trades that can easily offer them jobs.”

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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