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Pope petitioned over human right abuses and other crisis in Cameroon


The Progressive Initiative for Cameroon known by its acronym as PICAM has urged Pope Benedict XVI to include discussions on human rights, justice, democracy and freedom on his agenda as he visits Cameroon come March 2009.


The Cameroonian, US based Non Governmental Organisation specialised in the domain of human rights and democracy, beckons the Supreme pontiff to “ include discussions on democracy, human rights and the plight of Cameroonians” during his private discussion with the president of Cameroon, Paul Biya.


According to the release available on its webpage and signed by CEO, Eric Ngonji Njungwe, the visit of the pope is not only welcome by the over 3.5 million Catholic Christians in Cameroon, but, the choice of Cameroon for the first visit of the pontiff to Africa, is also perceived with “mixed feelings” . PICAM says the visit could be "blessings to the misconduct and suffering [the Biya government] have caused its people”.



However, PICAM holds that the voice of the pope may not only be heard by the Cameroon government, but, will at least draw world attention on the poverty, corruption, human rights abuses and suffering under which Cameroonians live daily under the regime in place. “An authoritative voice such as yours will draw the attention of the government of Cameroon and will draw the focus of political leaders world wide”, it reads.



The NGO has also posted an online petition to the Pope which has already been signed by several Cameroonians, most of whom have been compelled to remain abroad due to the precarious environment at home. The NGO also acknowledges that the Holy Father has constantly condemned the injustices, violence and conflict in areas like Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, forgetting that such ills also exists in areas considered “peaceful” as Cameroon. Though gravity of situation may not be as in the aforementioned countries, the human right crusader notes that “citizens of Cameroon are routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests, torture and imprisonment where prolonged periods of detained in squalid and decrepit conditions often result to death and disease”.

A senior Cameroonian Catholic cleric once said “the absence of war in Cameroon does not mean there is peace at all”



The PICAM release dating January 15, also affirms in very strong terms that those who protest even peacefully do risk seriously beating and shootings. It would be recalled that in 2005 and 2006, four University of Buea students were killed as they protested for the reduction of fees and in the second incident, as students clamoured against open fraud in the “competitive examination” results to the Medical school in that university.

Still in 2007, a GTC Kumba, student was shot dead as students protested against intermittent power cuts. A similar situation equally occurred in Abong Mbang in the East province. In the same year, a motor cycle rider was shot dead in the North West province as they protested against wanton police harassment.



The peak of the abuses was in February 2008 where trigger-happy government troops in different parts of the country under instructions, opened fire killing 40 people according to government sources and over 200 according to independent sources. Several hundreds were beaten and imprisoned as they took to the streets due to the rising cost of living. At the time, President Biya claimed the, protesters, mainly youths, were being manipulated. But, in his 2009 New Year state of the nation address, he admitted his mea cupa to the fact that the protests were due to the frustration, employment and poverty. In a related development, protests against the modification the constitution to permit Biya who has already ruled for over a quarter a century, from running for another mandate, were also violently suppressed.



PICAM also says it “recognizes that dialogue and engagement of dictators, supported by diplomatic pressure may be fruitful in bringing about positive change.” The NGO notes that though the arrival of the Pope is in prelude to the October 2009 meeting of Africa Bishop, the Holy Father should use the opportunity to pressure Biya.

Benedict XVI would be the second pope to visit Cameroon and the third pontifical visit to the second. Pope John Paul II had earlier visited Cameroon in 1985 and in 1995 during which he baptised Biya’s son. Cameroonians who believe the pope represents good values are urging him not to endorse injustice, poverty, oppression and despair in Cameroon by speaking against it clearly.



Cameroon’s Christian Cardinal Tumi, has often spoken vehemently against such ills, to the extend of being labelled “rebelled and opposition cardinal”. His lastest outing was on New Year Day when he called for embezzled funds to be reinstated to state coffers. Later and meeting Maroua mid January, the bishops of Cameroon also condemned insecurity, bribery, tribalism, impunity and corruption which have been institutionalised in the country by the regime. These ills are what have been described as a crisis and a time bomb in Cameroon

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