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02.02.2021 Cameroon

Vatican No. 2 urges peace in visit to anglophone Cameroon

Cameroon.  By Valentina BRESCHI (AFP)
LISTEN FEB 2, 2021
Cameroon. By Valentina BRESCHI (AFP)

Vatican secretary of state Pietro Parolin has delivered Pope Francis's call for "peace and reconciliation" during a visit to a separatist region of Cameroon, an archbishop said on Tuesday.

Parolin addressed a mass on Sunday in Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest Region, which with the adjoining Southwest Region has been the theatre of a bloody conflict between government forces and anglophone separatists.

Militants are demanding independence for the two regions, where English-speaking people predominate in the otherwise francophone-majority nation.

"The pope has many times pleaded for dialogue in the anglophone regions," Monsignor Samuel Kleda, the archbishop of Douala, Cameroon's economic capital, told AFP.

"The visit by his emissary was rather significant. He chose to go to Bamenda... to give a message of peace and love."

He called it a "very strong symbol."

According to the UN and NGOs, civilians have frequently been victims in a three-year-old conflict that has killed more than 3,000 people and forced more than 700,000 to flee their homes.

Parolin, the Vatican's number two, told a mass in Bamenda on Sunday that "the pope is perfectly aware of the difficulties that you have encountered in recent years and that you are still undergoing."

Asking for God to comfort the victims and their families, he said Pope Francis had expressed his will for "peace and reconciliation".

Monsignor Andrew Nkea Fuanya, Bamenda's archbishop, hailed Parolin's visit, saying he was "the first foreign official" to meet residents of the two regions since the start of the crisis.

Cameroon's government was represented at the mass by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, secretary general to the presidency.