Date: Thursday 5 August 2004
Subj: Cameroon: Foreign Islamists infiltrate to incite hate.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.
Foreign Islamists have infiltrated the northern provinces of Cameroon and are attempting to incite the local Muslims against the local Christians.
The great African ethnic/religious fault line that runs from the Sierra Leone/Liberia border in the West through to Asmara, Eritrea in the East, through central Cote d'Ivoire, central Nigeria and central Sudan, also runs through northern Cameroon. Cameroon shares its porous western border with Nigeria which has experienced a dramatic rise in religious violence over recent years, since the northern states adopted Sharia (Islamic) Law. Garoua, the capital of North Province, Cameroon, is only some 500 kilometers due east of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria which suffered serious religious violence in September 2001 and again in 2004 and is now under emergency rule.
On 3 August 2004, Inter Press Service (IPS) (Johannesburg) ran an article entitled "Cameroon: Religious Tensions On the Rise in the North", written by By Sylvestre Tetchiada, reporting from the capital, Yaounde. (Link 1)
Garga Aoudou, a community activist with a Dutch development organisation told IPS that Garoua has been "literally inundated with fliers inciting Muslims towards a hatred of Christians". Aoudou continues, "Religious fanatics exhort Muslims to increase the number of marriages between young Muslim men and Christian girls in order to convert them to Islam, to refuse to rent houses or sell land to Christians - or to get them to move by raising the rent."
This is confirmed by Yves Steven, the Bishop of Maroua (capital of the Extreme North province)and of the town of Makolo. Bishop Steven told IPS, "Several Christian families have come to me to complain. They were subjected to physical violence. Some of them were forcibly evicted from their homes with bats and at knifepoint before they could collect their property."
Lele Lafrique, the Chief of Police in the North province is quoted as saying, "Now more than ever, an extremist current threatens the national unity for which we paid so dearly." Lafrique fears the situation may yet get worse. "We're calling upon...all Cameroonians not to fall prey to those seeking to create the chaos we've so often witnessed in neighboring countries".
According to the IPS report, local Muslim leaders who are keen to preserve the peaceful co-existence are equally concerned about "outside agitators" inciting violence against Christians. IPS reports: "In response to these developments, government has created a special joint task force to conduct raids against those suspected of encouraging religious extremism. Provincial governors also met towards the end of last month to discuss the situation."
Mbonji Edjenguele, an anthropologist at the University of Yaounde, told IPS, "We're on our guard because of what's happening right now in the north. We're not immune to the sociopolitical events currently taking place beyond our borders, which continue to be porous."
Edjenguele says that due to lack of education and high rates of illiteracy in the north, "prophets of doom from neighboring countries or elsewhere are able recruit followers to spread their disastrous ideas".
- Elizabeth Kendal
1) Culture-Cameroon: Religious Tensions On the Rise in the North
By Sylvestre Tetchiada in Yaounde, 3 Aug 2004
Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)