Home / English / La Crosse FSPA, Friends of Cameroon call for peace in Kumbo

La Crosse FSPA, Friends of Cameroon call for peace in Kumbo

La Crosse Tribune | When Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Eileen McKenzie went back to Cameroon, Africa, in 2015, she was amazed at the new housing and business developments.

When she went again a year ago just before the violence of the Anglophone Crisis began to escalate, she was shocked by the security.

“We were going through military checkpoints regularly. I think it was because it was the sisters’ vehicle and I was white, we weren’t targeted as much, so we didn’t have to get out of the vehicles,” McKenzie said.

When she traveled with a local man, they were stopped and separated.

“I was concerned at that point. I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’” she said; though they did make it through all right.

The FSPA and La Crosse Friends of Cameroon will host a town hall event to call for peace in La Crosse’s Sister City of Kumbo, Cameroon, from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Cargill Room at The Waterfront Restaurant.

“We have a sister-city relationship. We have personal relationships with people who have studied here and others who have gone over there. We just couldn’t sit and allow that to happen without doing everything that we could,” said Lee Rasch of the Friends of Cameroon.

Rasch and his wife have visited several times, including with the Sister City delegation.

“What we found was this was a very open, friendly nation and it was relatively peaceful,” Rasch said. “There was conflict in bordering countries, in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Congo, but Cameroon was kind of doing its thing in a peaceful way.”

The underlying conflict in Cameroon dates back to colonialism and the first World War. After World War I ended, Cameroon, which was a German colony at the time, was divided between France and England. Now Cameroon is independent and bilingual; however, some provinces primarily speak French and others speak English.

“Unfortunately, the cultures didn’t mix as well as you would hope,” Rasch said, comparing it to relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada or Catalina and the rest of Spain.

“This is colonial-related. This is not tribal-related or anything else,” Rasch said.

The capital of Cameroon was in the French-speaking portion of the country.

“There was a feeling of the English-speaking provinces not getting the same status and support,” Rasch said.

The conflict came to a head about three years ago, when the Cameroon government required all public schools and the court system to conduct all business in French.

“The teachers and the lawyers went on strike,” Rasch said.

The strike was focused on civil disobedience, McKenzie said, with lawyers and teachers calling for their rights and marching in the streets.

“Unfortunately, the government squashed them pretty hard,” McKenzie said.

The government called in the military and the violence spiraled from there.

While language is being used as a divisive factor, McKenzie said the issue was not about the people, but about a corrupt government.

“There are incredible resources in those areas, as well,” McKenzie said. “They’ve marginalized their power, and they’ve been taking the resources out all of this time.”

The fighting has shut down schools, made communication spotty and closed the state-of-the-art cardiac center in Shisong.

“The health centers are functioning, barely. They have teams that go out into the bush for basic health surfaces. They’ve had their automobiles hijacked, they’ve had their medications stolen,” McKenzie said.

The government has shut down the internet for months at a time; however, McKenzie and Rasch are occasionally able to get through to their Cameroonian friends.

“You’re talking with someone, a friend you’ve studied with … and you hear gunshots in the background,” McKenzie said. “They might not be able to be in their house. They say, ‘OK, government forces are around,’ two trucks came into Kumbo, so they go out into the bush for two or three days.”

Kumbo Mayor Njong Donatus, who oversaw the creation of the sister city relationship from the Kumbo side, was kidnapped and released last fall.

“The mayor is not there in Kumbo any longer. He’s in the capital of Yaounde. Some of the other people we’ve met in our visits, also have left. They’re in Yaounde because they’re fearful of being caught in the middle,” Rasch said.

Twenty Cameroonian sisters in a bus were traveling last fall and kidnapped.

“The superiors, they were contacted by people who wanted ransom. Then the following day they were released,” McKenzie said.

From the summer on, the violence got worse.

The last two months have been especially hard on Kumbo, particularly men. There are more than 200,000 internally displaced people and 50,000 refugees have fled to Nigeria, according to the Human Rights Watch, and both sides are using rape as a weapon.

“When you’re hearing that on a consistent basis, you think, ‘We have to do something,’” McKenzie said.

Rasch and McKenzie are organizing the town hall event to help raise awareness of the conflict and get people to sign a petition calling for peaceful intervention to end the conflict.

“We know the international community knows what’s going on. How much blood has to be shed in order for them to do something?” McKenzie said.

The group has been in touch with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, who has been helping advocate for U.S. government action. While the U.S. State Department has taken some action — including sanctioning 20 military personnel, civilian actors and government ministers — the group is calling for more.

“What we want to do is keep the ball rolling and not assume it’s just going to keep rolling on their own,” Rasch said.

The event will feature a video of La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat and Mayor Njong, as well as panelists including three La Crosse residents from Cameroon.

“We’re also big advocates for prayer for peace,” McKenzie said.

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  1. Bashir and Boutheflikha, did not leave power, because the people were praying.
    The peoples, went to them and confronted them headon. Prayers, will not help
    weaklings and disorganized peoples, win or succeed in any action.
    To who exactly, have cameroonians been praying to and for how long now?
    That is a sign of weakness.

    • @ Joshua, Yes the people went to them by marching in their capital and not by hiding in bushes kidnapping and demanding ransom, preventing kids from going to school or beheading their own people.

  2. there cannot be peace without JUSTICE and Freedom of Human Right which that white woman enjoys in her own native country.It is always easy to deceive black people to ask for peace and prayers which is mental slavery.all developed countries fore fathers fought and dies for Democracy not prayers and peace yet Cameroonians have had two tyrant dictators in 60 years worshiped by 99% of it’s citizen because there is no Human Rights of Freedom and every citizen is scared to criticizes the regime, citizens can only change a bevil regime if they fight for their right in mass demonstrations,face the terrorist shot to kill army of biya.

  3. after careful observation of many countries in the world and their economic performances.i notice something similar in countries with majority christian and muslim populations.the progress they make in 50 years is not even half of what non christian and islamic populations make in ten years.why is it that the northern part of america which is not christian is richer than the south populated by christians?
    if we allow the truth to speak for itself base on evidence.we can say with absolute certainty that those who are not christians and muslims are far more intelligent than those who are christians and muslims.reason why they are more intelligent putting heads together for collective prosperity.with more rational minds base on a philosophy like ancestor worship.

    • christians and muslims with a dogmatic mindset base on believe,meaning accepting what can not be proven are easily manipulated with fictive concepts like democraczy,human rights,global warming,climate change.if you tell a christian that climate change is a strategy calculated and put in place by aryan societies to hold non aryan societies from using thier agriculture land to build a solid competitive industrial system.they will all call you a fool,but have they ever taken time to think through the propaganda called climate change?
      the few africans that will take africa through complete economic ,scientific and technical transformation will be non christians and muslims.i am one hundred percent sure they will be grounded in the trandition of paying respect to ancestors.

  4. Excellent statement @bonnie.
    Peace proceeds justice. Those who burn homes of people seeking self autonomy must be tried and sanctioned as the sentence demands.

  5. I wonder why the White French speaking Canadians call themselves Québécois or Quebecers and don’t call themselves Francophones even though most of them can trace their ancestry to the French settlers and the White English speaking Canadians don’t call themselves anglophones even though most of them can trace their ancestry to the British settlers. It’s only foolish Africans who will identify themselves by using their colonial master’s languages. What a shame. Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery my so-called Ambazonia brothers and sisters for none but ourselves can free our minds. As the great lady from Liberia said and I quote “There is no such thing as Anglophone or Francophone Cameroon but there is Cameroon” end of quote.

    • BOBJAZZ,,,,,in oder to cut the channels of inslavement,we must have an african language as vehicle of thinking.without it,it is impossible because what control human thinking is language.
      not to say any civilization that can not produce knowledge in its language does not exist.

    • @Bobjazz and what is Cameroon? Is it not a Portuguese construct? My man, anglophones are idiots like you who are bend on staying together with people sleeping with gorillas in the rainforest. Ambazonia is here to stay, if you don’t like it you can bark and jump or better still jump and bark. Thug

      • A dream never to be realise. Be honest to yourself.
        Ambazonia my head. Big man, we are all anglophones and i wish again to remind you that you will lose the war and we will prevail. It’s not good to be ignorant.

        • @Jampsy, speak for yourself you idiot. You cannot force an appelation on anyone. Baga say we are all anglophones. Thug

  6. @jampsy Did u say u are going to win the war? Ha ha ha ha..In other words,what u are saying is that French Cameroon will conquer British Cameroon,right? in this age and time? May be u are equating British Calmeroon to be the UPC political party that u and your French master’s conquered during your fight for independence. Sudan could not conquer South Sudan in this age and time, and u believe that this house that u built and sandy soil will stand the test of time? u are truely a dreamer…Lets see how French made Cameroon is going to conquer British made Cameroon….

  7. @bobjazz Did u say in order to overthrow Biya,we need to march in Yaounde? ha ha ha..Have u forgotten that there is a law in Cameroon that states that if u want to protest u have to come and ask for authorization from the colonial DOs and SDOs? Who will give u the authorization to protest? do u think that before the colonial president of LRC enacted that into law,he did not know what he was doing? do u want to send people’s children to jail? Where is Marice Kamto today,with his protest march that he organised? First,they told him that the march was not authorised by the DOs and SDOs,and they are charging him that he was planning an insurrection couple with the fact that the Cameroon embassy in France was attacked.If u must know,the military is with Biya,so the population is powerless.

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