War in Southern Cameroons: A burnt Church, 8 hostages including 5 Reverend Fathers 0

Five Roman Catholic priests, a Religious Sister and two worshipers were kidnapped by unidentified people who set fire on the ST. MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH NCHANG some few kilometers from Mamfe, the chief town in Manyu Division, South West on Friday.

Murders, lootings and kidnappings are frequent in Southern Cameroons, where Ambazonia Restoration Forces regularly target schools and teachers in particular, but also Catholic and Protestant churches and their prelates. But local bishops say Friday’s kidnapping is “completely unprecedented” in its scale and five priests, a Religious Sister and two faithful were kidnapped,” lamented the Episcopal Conference of Bamenda Province in a statement made public by His Grace Archbishop Andrew Nkea.

Attacks and kidnappings have not been claimed but are frequently perpetrated by separatist groups and most often end with the release of hostages for ransom or negotiations with local traditional and religious leaders.

Southern Cameroons populated mainly by Cameroon’s English-speaking minority, have been the scene for nearly six years of a very deadly conflict between armed groups demanding the independence of a state they call “The Federal Republic of Ambazonia” and massively deployed security forces under the power of 89-year-old President Paul Biya, who has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist for nearly 40 years.

The two camps are regularly accused by international NGOs and the UN of committing crimes and atrocities against civilians, the main victims of this war, and Mr. Biya of showing intransigence and carrying out relentless repression, in English-speaking Cameroon but also against any political opposition in the country.

The conflict has claimed more than 46,000 lives since late 2016 and forced more than a million people to move, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

By Rita Akana with files from AFP and Camcordnews