The Catholic Church is increasingly caught in the middle of an escalating crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions with priests shot dead, property destroyed and frequent detentions by armed separatists, according to a high-ranking church official.
“They threatened that they’re going to kill us,” said Bishop Michael Bibi of the Bamenda archdiocese, following a recent detention by armed separatists.
Bibi was detained twice this month by armed groups. On 5 December he attempted to travel from Bamenda, the capital of the North West region, to Kumba, 170 kilometres to the south west, intending to celebrate mass. However, on the road near Batibo his car was stopped and held up by a group describing itself as the “Amba Boys”.
The Amba Boys are one of a number of armed separatist groups fighting the Cameroonian security forces in the North West and South West of the country. The crisis in the Anglophone regions began with protests over perceived marginalisation of Anglophones by the Francophone majority, but has become increasingly violent.
“They saw that I was a Roman Catholic bishop, but they were not willing to listen to me, they demanded my phone and the phones of my driver and his brother,” said Bibi, describing how their car was forced off the road into a clearing in the forest. The Ambazonia fighters brandished hunting rifles and rudimentary weapons.