Cameroon: New Battlefield for Boko Haram?
At least 25 people were killed in Cameroon, among them a church leader, as militants carried out two massive attacks in the far north of Cameroon at the end of July. In the attack in Kolofata, the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister and her maid were kidnapped, raising fears that the area has become a new battlefield for Nigeria’s Islamist group Boko Haram.
Pastor Jean Marcel Kesvere of the Lutheran Brethren Church of Cameroon was kidnapped in the second attack. His family found out later he’d been killed.
Recently, regional governments from Niger, Chad and Cameroon pledged to join Nigeria in setting up a joint-force to fight the Boko Haram crisis that has seeped across all of their borders. But for now, the radical sect, responsible for the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, continues its deadly killing spree.
About 10 members of security forces were killed in a daring attack targeting military positions at Bargaram during the afternoon on Thursday, July 24. This assault, carried out by heavily armed men, lasted throughout the night and into the next day. An unknown number of people were abducted, among them Pastor Jean Marcel Kesvere. His decomposed body was found the following Monday in a bush about four miles from Bargaram.
Pastor Kesvere, aged 45, was born in Cameroon, trained to be a pastor in neighboring Chad, and was sent back to Bargaram by the Lutheran Brethren Church, where he served for more than two years. He is survived by his wife and 8 children. Pastor Kesvere’s kidnapping and murder has plunged the local Christian community into shock. ”We are in great pain for the loss of a colleague devoted to his ministry” says a church member.
According to local sources, the second attack in the area was particularly violent and well-coordinated. Early Sunday morning July 27, hundreds of militants wearing Cameroonian army uniforms stormed the town of Kolofata, about three miles from Nigeria’s border, shelling indiscriminately and looting homes. The assailants targeted the residence of Amadou Ali, the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of parliamentary relations, who’d arrived in his hometown earlier to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Mr. Ali was not present during the attack, but his wife and her maid were abducted, along with an influential local community and religious leader, the Sultan of Kolofata, Seiny Boukar Lamine, his wife and their 5 children.
Around 22 people were missing. The assailants also targeted the hospital, apparently in search of two workers of Western origin, but the foreign employees were on holiday. Attackers killed at least 18 civilians and members of security forces. Local sources contacted by World Watch Monitor said that the lifeless bodies of the victims were strewn all along the path of destruction to the residence of the Deputy Prime Minister. Some of them, mutilated by machetes, were unidentifiable.
The far north of Cameroon is a vast semi-desert bordered by Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic. The region has witnessed a number of abductions targeting expatriates in recent months. Most of those kidnapped were released after payment of a ransom. But this is the first kidnapping case targeting a Cameroonian church leader.
Since the announcement of the death of Pastor Kesvere, WWM has heard reactions have come in from Christians and Muslims alike encouraging Christians in the region not to give in to fear, but to stand firm in their faith. A number of people headed to Maga, Kesvere’s birthplace to offer moral and spiritual support to his family as they laid his body to rest.
These two recent incidents follow attacks in May and June in Gorsi Tourou and Biboumza where churches and houses were torched, church members were killed, a number of women were raped, and food stores were looted.
A forum was to be held this past Thursday to promote peaceful cohabitation among youth regardless of their religious backgrounds.
Authorities in Cameroon are stepping up their efforts to protect their borders against the illusive Boko Haram. The recent deadly attacks seem to be in retaliation against a verdict pronounced on July 14 against Boko Haram members; 14 militants charged with the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and of plotting an insurrection were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
Father, while Jesus was with His disciples, He warned them that in this world, there would be trouble and certainly we see that happening today in Cameroon. We pray for the security forces there; that they might be equipped to protect their people from Boko Haram’s attacks. We pray for Christian targets; that they would be kept safe, and that they would have both courage and discernment as they live out their daily lives in the strength of the Spirit and gather together for worship. And we take heart that Jesus also said that He has overcome the world, and so we live in the certainty that Satan will not be successful in thwarting the work of Christ to gather His church from among the nations. We pray that the eyes of Christians in Cameroon will look toward Christ and the sure hope of glory set before them. In the name of Jesus, our strength in times of trouble, Amen.
Source: World Watch Monitor