U.S. Senate calls for end to violence in Cameroon

Resolution advocates for peaceful solution to crisis

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Last week the U.S. Senate passed a resolution in support of bringing violent conflict in Cameroon to an end. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Witness)

LOUISVILLE — The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution in support of bringing violent conflict in Cameroon to an end.

The Senate agreed to the resolution last week. It calls on the government of Cameroon and separatist armed groups from the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions “to end all violence, respect the human rights of all Cameroonians, and pursue a genuinely inclusive dialogue toward resolving the ongoing civil conflict in Anglophone Cameroon.”

According to the resolution, the process should include a “credible, inclusive, good-faith effort” to end the conflict by “addressing the root causes of the crisis and grievances and seeking nonviolent solutions to resolve the conflict, including possibly involving an independent mediator in negotiations,” according to the resolution.

The resolution also affirms that the U.S. government will continue holding Cameroon’s government “responsible for safeguarding the safety, security and constitutional rights of all citizens, regardless of their region of origin or the regions in which they reside, or their religious beliefs or political views.”

The country has been rocked by “extrajudicial killings and detentions, the use of force against civilians and nonviolent protestors, torture, rape, kidnappings, and other forms of violence against women, and violations of the freedoms of press, expression, and assembly,” all of which are strongly condemned in the resolution.

Concerns raised by the Senate echo those expressed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the past through the Office of Public Witness; the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly; as well as various congregations and partners.

Catherine Gordon works on international issues in the Office of Public Witness.

Indeed, “our partner church in Cameroon as well as the many Cameroonians in our churches across our country have been praying and urging the United States to stand for its values in support of human rights and take action for the people of Cameroon,” said Catherine Gordon, OPW’s representative for international issues.

According to the Senate resolution, the conflict has caused “considerable instability and human suffering,” including more than 3,000 deaths as of 2018. It also notes that more than 3 million people in Cameron are estimated to need humanitarian assistance, that about 60,000 Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria and that about 700,000 people are internally displaced.

The Senate resolution and a companion bill passed by the House “are a welcome first step in addressing the horrific human rights violations currently taking place in Cameroon,” Gordon said. “It is wonderful that there is bipartisan support, and we hope to continue to press the United States government to do more to stop the current conflict and promote a diplomatic solution, reconciliation, and development.”

According to Senate Resolution 684, the conflict in Cameroon has caused “considerable instability and human suffering.”

During a PC(USA) webinar last November, Jaff Bamenjo, coordinator of the Network for the  Fight Against Hunger in Cameroon (RELUFA), also spoke of the need for a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Because neither side trusts the other, a third-party mediator will be required, Bamenjo said.

“The conflict cannot be solved with a gun,” he said. “It is a political problem that requires a political solution, which is dialogue.”

During the same webinar, the Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, spoke of the human toll of the conflict, noting, “We lost a pastor to a bullet. Some have been kidnapped, and some have run away from their parishes,” he said. “We had to close our lone university.”

Forba expressed appreciation for those remembering the country in their prayers.

“I will advocate for your prayers and your continuous concern for us Cameroonians,” he said. “That gives us a glimmer of hope we are not alone. We have brothers and sisters in America supporting us.”

The Office of Public Witness is one of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries.

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