Ghost Town in Cameroon
Ghost Town in Cameroon

Ghost Town in Cameroon

Greetings from Sierra Leone, where we are presenting the DML Basic Business Training to businessmen and women, as well as church leaders and pastors, from the Wesleyan Church.  I’m joined by Dr. Gaga, DML team leader from Nigeria and Rev. Lisa Travis from Liberia, who started this work in Sierra Leone last year.  We thank God for this open door!

But my heart is heavy from my time in Cameroon and as news channels are not covering what is happening, I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned and invite us to continue to pray for those suffering in this region.  

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, about 20% (or 6 million) of the Cameroon population are considered Anglophone (English speaking) while the other 80% are French-speaking.  They are mostly in the northwestern part of the country, next to Nigeria. Anglophones have long complained that they do not receive the same benefits as the French-speaking population and are often overlooked by the government. In 2017, a civil crisis began when a portion of the Anglophone community decided they wanted to separate, call themselves by a new name, have a new flag, new currency, etc.  Since that time, there has been conflict in the northwest.  

In my limited understanding, it seems that most of the country has simply ignored what is happening.  The government has tried several interventions but there has not been a serious effort to put an end to this – they simply seem to be waiting for this group to implode.  And those bearing the brunt of the cost are the citizens living in this part of Cameroon.

It is these citizens who are being kidnapped by this group wanting independence, to fund their side of the fighting.  When you are kidnapped, you must pay a “liberty tax” or face other members of your family or employees being kidnapped.  Those kidnapped are beaten and molested.  I’m told that just in this last month, more than $500,000 was received in the form of “liberty tax,” as tracked by mobile money transactions.

Every Monday, for years now, this part of the country has mandatory “ghost town days” in which no one is allowed to open their business or work.  Schools are closed and government buildings are also closed.  If you open for business, your place will be burned down.  At any time, other days can be declared a “ghost town” day for whatever reason is deemed appropriate.  For example, this past Thursday and for the next three Thursdays, “ghost town” is in place due to the death of one of their generals.

Let me relay some stories to you, shared by the DML trainers from that area:

  • One man shared that his father died in that area in February.  But because he is Anglophone and had left the area, he is considered a traitor and would be killed if he returned.  Therefore, he was not able to attend his own father’s funeral.
  • One woman shared that her father’s house was burned down a few months ago.  The reason was that he gave her in marriage to a Francophone.  These soldiers happen to respect this man, and so they allowed him and his loved ones to get out of his house before setting it on fire.
  • A woman who runs a school reported that before this crisis, no one could enter the school grounds in police/guard uniforms with guns, as that created stress for the children.  Now there are guards with guns on every school campus.  This has an impact on the children and their sense of security.
  • A woman who was kidnapped watched as twelve others were beaten in front of her. This was her second time being kidnapped.  The first time she was gone for two weeks.  This time, it was about 15 hours.  She had to pay two million francs (about $3,500) as a “liberty tax” or risk having five of her employees kidnapped.  But they also took her car and used it to transport others who were kidnapped.  That car can now be identified as a “rebel” car, which puts her at risk for driving it.  She is still sorting out what to do.

And I could go on.  If you leave this area, you are a traitor and will not be able to return to your home, family, or land.  If you stay, you are at risk of kidnapping and are paralyzed economically.  What to do?

Please pray for the millions of citizens affected daily by this, for years now.  There must be some resolution, but it is difficult to see.  At this point, we are praying for confusion in that camp, as there seems to be a struggle for who is leading this group.  We also pray for wisdom for the citizens who live there in terms of how they could organize protests.  And lastly, we pray for the government to have compassion for those who are suffering and enter into a serious engagement to put an end to this.

With all this, it was reported to me that there is an improvement between French and English-speaking citizens in the rest of the country, as many Anglophones have fled and resettled among the Francophones.  There is also a growing interest amongst French-speaking citizens to learn English and that has led to greater acceptance.

God is sovereign and He is at work in every place and space.  Please pray that His people may become aware of what He is doing and how to join Him.

(Pictured here – DML Cameroon team leaders)