Catholic bishops in Cameroon have issued a pastoral letter to say voters should be able to exercise their right to freely, peacefully and responsibly choose leaders in the upcoming presidential elections.
“According to the teachings of the church, the people should be at liberty to exercise their sovereignty by freely, peacefully and responsibly choosing their leaders,” the bishops said in their pastoral letter dated Aug. 24.
Current President Paul Biya, hoping to embark on a seventh term, is now 85 years old and has been in power since 1982. In the presidential elections of Oct.7 he will challenge a divided opposition that is putting forward eight candidates.
Points of instability
These elections fall at a particularly tense moment and there are many areas of instability across the country. Since the beginning of the Anglophone crisis in 2016, the northwest and southwest regions have witnessed many deaths and there is no immediate end to the hostilities in sight.
The Nigerian border region in the far northeast is in a state of extreme volatility with deadly attacks carried out by Boko Haram. Since 2014 over 2,000 Cameroonians have lost their lives in terrorist violence and more than 1,000 have been abducted.
On top of these internal issues, are conflicts in Central Africa which have pushed more than 150,000 people over the border to seek refuge in eastern Cameroon.
Members of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon have expressed concern that these crises will have a negative effect on the upcoming presidential elections.
They state that free and transparent elections are the only way to “guarantee peace, stability and justice.”
They call on Cameroonians to choose candidates capable of dealing with the country’s social, economic and political issues and tackling inequality, corruption, unemployment and Boko Haram.
The Anglophone crisis
The Anglophone problem began in 2016 with remonstrations and complaints among lawyers and teachers who protested their marginalization in the country’s legislative and education systems, which are largely francophone.
Their protests led to strikes which turned into deadly confrontations between Cameroonian security forces and those supporting secession of Anglophone regions.
On July 25, Cameroonian religious leaders announced their involvement in resolving the secession crisis.
Among those who added their names are Cardinal Christian Tumi, retired archbishop of Douala, Babila George Fochang, a priest from the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, Tukur Mohammed Adamu, an imam from Bamenda Central Mosque, and Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, chief imam from Buea Central Mosque.
To this end, they were planning a general conference for Anglophones from Cameroon and the diaspora on Aug. 29 and 30 in the city of Buea (southeast). However, a few days after the announcement, it was reported that the conference had been postponed indefinitely.
Source: La Croix International