By Ngala Killian Chimton
YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon (OSV News) — The bishop of Mamfe in Cameroon’s volatile Southwest region has strongly condemned the Nov. 6 “massacre” in Egbekaw village in his diocese that left at least 20 people dead and several others injured.
“Up till this moment, we cannot find any reasons to justify this heinous act,” Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo of Mamfe explained.
The attack was carried out by gunmen suspected of being separatist fighters.
“It was a very horrible incident that started around 3 a.m. when we started hearing threatening voices,” said Enu Hannibal, a security officer working for Caritas Mamfe.
“They started knocking on people’s doors threatening to kill all of them. Those who opened their doors were killed. Those who didn’t open their doors, the assailants forced them open, and shot them. People’s houses were also burnt, and we later on discovered charred bodies in those burnt houses. Some were raped before being killed. Even children were killed. I was a witness to what happened,” he told OSV News.
In a Nov. 6 press release shared with OSV News, Bishop Abangalo vehemently condemned “the atrocious act that brought about the destruction of the lives of so many innocent men, women and children.”
“The massacre of human beings is an intrinsically evil act because it violates the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue: ‘You shall not kill,'” the Cameroonian bishop said.
The bishop also expressed his condolences “to the bereaved families” and assured them of his prayers.
The diocese’s communications director, Father Christopher Eboka, who in 2021 spent about two weeks in separatist captivity, questioned the efficacy of the Cameroon military with respect to the latest attack. It took place not far from the military camp, he said, yet soldiers only arrived at the scene after the assailants had fled.
“It was a timid and inexperienced kind of response,” the priest said.
“Where the ‘boys’ (separatists) were operating is not very far from where the gendarmerie brigade is, and not very far from where the military base is. That the ‘boys’ would carry out such an attack and then go away before the military gets there speaks volumes about the
alertness of our military and the military intelligence,” Father Eboka told OSV News.
He said the latest incident illustrated the changing dynamics of the conflict. He said the area has for the past two years enjoyed relative calm, but noted that such calm could be deceptive.
“The attack tells me that the dynamics of the fight keep changing, and so we cannot at any point say that because there is calm, then the fight is over. … I have been saying for the last two weeks that the way places have been calm for a long time, we need to be very careful,” he said.
Local administrator Viang Mekala, however, said the security forces have launched a manhunt for the attackers and that when they are found, they will be arrested and charged.
Residents said they suspected the attack was meant to disrupt celebrations marking the 41st anniversary of Paul Biya becoming Cameroon’s president that were to take place in Mamfe and other centers on Nov. 6, Reuters reported.
Cameroon’s two English speaking regions have been gripped by separatist violence since 2017 when the government took a hard line following strikes by Anglophone teachers and lawyers.
Ngala Killian Chimtom writes for OSV News from Yaoundé, Cameroon.