THE rapid escalation of violence in Cameroon, including reported murders of women and children in the north of the Central African country, have been condemned by the World Council of Churches (WCC) as “atrocious” and “disproportionate”.
The acting general secretary of the WCC, Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, said on Monday: “The WCC condemns all forms of violence in Cameroon, and calls on the government to stop using any force to punish its people in the English-speaking region of Cameroon.
“Cameroon authorities must immediately cease the use of disproportionate and deadly force against civilians, and protect the human rights of all.”
The United Nations has described the situation in Cameroon as “an unprecedented complex humanitarian crisis” caused by violence between its government and both English-speaking separatists in the west of Nigeria and the militant group Boko Haram in the north-east.
The country has been affected by the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians and Cameroonians; and by insecurity; malnutrition; and a “very disturbing” risk of epidemics, because of the ongoing conflict, the UN says. It estimates that, between 2014 and 2016, the number of people in need grew from two to 2.7 million, and to almost three million last year.
The WCC has condemned, in particular, the escalating violence against women and children. In the past month, a video that appeared to show Cameroonian soldiers in the Mayo-Tsanaga region killing two women, a young girl, and a baby was circulated widely on social media. The government initially denounced the video as “fake news”, but has since announced a formal investigation and arrested four soldiers.
In June, another video was broadcast in which soldiers wearing Cameroonian uniforms set fire to two houses in a village in the English-speaking region of the country. “As in most conflict situations worldwide, violence disproportionately affects women, who become especially vulnerable when law and order break down,” Professor Phiri said.
The WCC has also expressed fears that the forthcoming presidential elections — scheduled for 7 October — would occasion further violence. The current President, Paul Biya, has been in power since 1982, and announced last month that he would be running for a seventh term.