5, February 2019
The government of Cameroon has apologized to Israel for an incendiary remark made by one of its officials describing the Nazi Holocaust as having been brought on by Jewish “arrogance.”
Deputy Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Momo made the comment during an interview on state television on Sunday in the context of the African country’s current political woes. Asked why he thought the detained opposition leader Maurice Kamto had refused to accept defeat following the Oct. 7 presidential election, Momo invoked the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
“In Germany, there was a race of very rich people. They had enormous economic power,” the deputy minister said. “And they were so arrogant that the German people felt a little nervous. Then one day, a certain Hitler came to power and put these populations in gas chambers.”
The remark was understood as a warning to the Bamiléké ethnic group which Kamto belongs to, who have a “reputation for being successful businessmen,” according to the BBC‘s “Africa Live” program. Momo, who is also an ethnic Bamiléké, said it would be wrong for the group to seek political power alongside its economic influence, and suggested that trying to do so could be dangerous for the entire community.
In a statement on Monday, the Israeli embassy in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, “strongly” condemned Momo’s comment, which it said “makes a tacit justification of the Holocaust by Nazi Germany.”
Shortly after Israel voiced its criticism of Momo, the Cameroon government distanced itself from the deputy minister’s remarks.
“The government of the Republic of Cameroon would like to stress that the minister concerned was speaking in a personal capacity,” Communications Minister René Emmanuel Sadi said in a statement to the AFP news agency on Tuesday. Sadi added that the government “deplores” the Momo’s comment, but did not elaborate on whether he would face further censure.