Comments on ICN Cameroon report and author's response

There have been a large number of emails and tweets on the ICN article 'Refugees flood into Nigeria to escape ethnic cleansing in Cameroon' by Rebecca Tinsley, published on 25 January 2018. A selection is published below, with Rebecca Tinsley's response.

Clement Gavi points out:

The sorrowful reality is that the President of Cameroon, Mr Paul Biya is supposed to be a Christian Catholic who even had the opportunity to be a Seminarian. And he has been President since I think 1982. And who is present at any single ceremonies held at Vatican.

How is living out the values and principles that Christians are called to print in how they live their lives: If they can't exercise Christianity who will do it?

Genocide Alert tweets: Paul Biya and his minitia are killing Southern Cameroonians - villages and being wiped out, the elderly are burned alive, rampant killing, rape and arrest.

RC Birmingham tweets: Let us pray for Bishop Egan on his pastoral visit to the twin Diocese of Banemda, Cameroon, currently experiencing political turmoil, and violence. Let us pray for the Bishops , Priests and Holy People of the Bamenda Diocese and Providence for courage and strength.

Mancho Bernard states in an email:

Please verify the facts in the article 'Refugees flood into Nigeria to escape ethnic cleansing in Cameroon posted on January 25th, 2018 by Rebecca Tinsley. There is so much in that article which is entirely misleading. I will quote a few examples:

I'll begin from the caption on ethnic cleansing. It is unbelievable that at this time and age, such poorly researched extremely sensitive captions can be published. Ethnic cleansing in the context of this article will mean that anglophones all over Cameroon are being murdered, that is not what is happening.

'The English-speaking minority (20% of the population) was forced to choose between either joining Nigeria or the French-speaking Cameroon, rather than the desired third option, independence.' - There was a referendum which is simply being contested now. But the article fails to point out that another part of the then Cameroon willfully joined Nigeria, so the accusation of the use of force during the referendum is highly controversial.

'Soldiers were reported to be doing "a brisk business" selling the possessions of people who have fled to Nigeria, leaving behind deserted villages.' - There is no proof of this.

Their pleas have been ignored by President Biya: he has the support of the international community because of Cameroon's role in fighting Islamist Boko Haram militias in the far north of the country. - Absolutely no proof exists of this assertion.

Independent Catholic News is worth more than this poorly researched article. Cameroon is going through a very serious crisis now which does not need the wrong kind of attention. Many anglophone Cameroonians have paid the price of the instability in their regions in some way. We need honesty now more than ever before and articles like this simply help to worsen the situation. We need God to intervene and the God I know is not found in misrepresentations and lies, we all know who the father of lies is and everything based on lies is from him.

Anglophones in Cameroon have a problem and I have never thought any different, we need a way out. We need to use the truth to defeat Biya's government and all his supporters, this is the ONLY WAY to deliver anglophones and Cameroon.

Journalist Rebecca Tinsley responds:

A reader of ICN, Mancho Bernard, understandably wants to know the source of several assertions in my January 25th article about the deteriorating situation in Cameroon. Below are links to the articles and reports used to write the article. I also interviewed several members of the Cameroonian Diaspora, seeking their opinions and news they get from family and friends back in Cameroon.

The use of the phrase ethnic cleansing does not imply Anglophone citizens are all being murdered, as Mancho Bernard suggests in his criticism of my article. Ethnic cleansing is the deliberate targeting of a group on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief. Since only English-speaking villages are being targeted by the Cameroonian armed forces, the goal is clearly to dissuade people from staying in their homes. This is the definition of ethnic cleansing.

Mancho Bernard suggests I wrongly said there was violence used during the referendum of 1961. I did not: I suggested that people in the English-speaking regions should have been given a third option to have an independent country. Failure to provide a third choice continues to haunt today's political situation in Cameroon.

Mancho Bernard also says there is no proof that President Paul Biya enjoys the support of the international community because Cameroon is in the front lines in the war on terror. This is a matter of opinion, but it is an opinion shared by the International Crisis Group, source of the most impartial and authoritative reports on Cameroon:

Mancho Bernard does not want the violence in Cameroon to be publicized. Yet, many Anglophone Cameroonians are keen for the international community to know more about the deteriorating situation in their homeland. Hence many have welcomed the attention paid by the International Crisis Group and Amnesty International, which has also covered the use of disproportionate violence by the Cameroonian armed forces against unarmed civilians:

Amnesty has also condemned the arrests of 10 Cameroonian secessionist leaders (the number arrested varies from 10 to 12, depending on the reports) meeting in Abuja in January 2018, saying they mustn't be handed over to Cameroonian government because they would not receive fair treatment:

The United Nations has also reacted with profound concern to the spiral into violence in Cameroon. In response to the Cameroon government's attacks on unarmed civilians in October 2017, the UN Secretary General condemned the violence and called for dialogue:

The office of the UN General Secretary issued the following statement, calling on the authorities to investigate the attacks on civilians, urging restraint, and calling on Anglophone leaders to seize opportunity for dialogue and to work within the Cameroon constitution.

The UN High Commission for Human Rights has also condemned the violence:

My article mentions the latest incursion by guerillas based in Nigeria into Cameroon was on January 25 2018:

I also quote a Nigerian commentator who criticizes her own government for arresting the Cameroonian secessionist leaders who were meeting in Abuja:

This article gives further context on the Francophone-dominated government's crackdown on English speakers in Cameroon:

The impartial All Africa website carried detailed reports of the Cameroonian army campaign of violence in sundry villages in the Mamfe area:

All Africa also carried a report about the growing number of Cameroonian people (about 40,000) seeking refuge across the border in Nigeria. While the UN has registered more than 12,000 so far, there are known to be many more Cameroonian refugees who have not registered with the UN authorities. They are staying with friends and family, rather than in formal refugee camps. Cameroonian Diaspora in touch with relatives in Nigeria have estimated the number of refugees is currently 43,000. The UNHCR is warning that the numbers will grow if the conflict continues.

Rebecca Tinsley

Tags: Cameroon, Rebecca Tinsley

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