Cameroon, Nov 23: The Roman Catholic Church in Cameroon’s restive Anglophone region, where separatists are waging an armed insurgency, said it suspected the army of killing a Kenyan priest two days ago.
Cosmos Omboto Ondari, a 33-year-old cleric, was shot dead on Nov 21 at a church in Kembong parish in the Southwest region.
“Eyewitnesses said that he was killed by government soldiers who were firing at random from their vehicle,” said a statement from the bishop of Mamfe, Andrew Nkea, whose diocese covers Kembong.
“A certain Mr Johnson Ndip Nchot was also gunned down in front of his house, a few metres (yards) from the church building,” he said.
“We ardently wish that these murders cease in our diocese and the Anglophone regions of Cameroon,” the bishop said, urging “all people involved in the killing of innocent civilians to abstain from these inhuman and monstrous acts”.
In Yaounde, defence ministry spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck dismissed allegations that the army had acted lawlessly.
“We shall have the first elements of an inquiry and we shall communicate them as soon as possible,” Badjeck said on social media.
Speaking to AFP on Thursday, a local source said there were “no ‘Amba Boys’ in Kembong” at the time of the murder, referring to the armed separatists, but confirmed that Cameroonian troops were there.
The Kenyan priest had only been ordained in March 2017 and a month later, he was put in charge of Kembong parish, working with those displaced by the conflict.
Clashes between the armed forces and separatists take place almost daily in the two Anglophone regions on the western flank of Cameroon, where resentment at perceived neglect and arrogance by the French-speaking majority has led to an uprising.
Separatists in scattered groups in the equatorial forest attack troops, who are in turn accused of atrocities against civilians.
An American Catholic missionary was killed at the beginning of November in the Northwest region. The government blamed separatists but Washington said he died in crossfire.
The UN recently warned of worsening violence in Cameroon. The conflict has displaced more than 437,000 people, according to UN data released in October.