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Overcoming the burden of the colonial past - the Evangelical Alliance of Cameroon as a peace mediator

The Cameroonian Evangelical church needs to recover her historical face, in order to strengthen her ecclesial and societal identity.

FEATURES AUTOR 273/Johannes_Reimer 12 DE ABRIL DE 2024 16:00 h
Yaounde, capital of Cameroon / Photo: [link]Ariel Nathan Ada Mbita[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

At the end of February, I traveled to Cameroon in West Central Africa.

The regional coordinator of the Network for Peace and Reconciliation and the head of the Cameroonian Development Associates International (DAI) Benvictor Dibankap, invited me together with the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance in Cameroon, Dr. Jean Li Libom Likeng, to hold consultations on the topic of reconciliation between the long-disputed Francophone and Anglophone parts of the country.

The meetings took place in the capital city of Cameroon Yaounde at the SIL Center (francophone) and Limbe at the Emmanuel Baptist Church Bota (anglophone).

The meetings were attended by 20-30 leaders from different evangelical denominations and ministries from both parts of the population.


Cameroon - growing population, many churches, and conflicts.

Cameroon is located in Central Africa and in many respects has everything that makes up the continent of Africa.

There are high mountains, deep valleys, rainforest and dry desert, one of the most beautiful coasts in the Atlantic and, above all, one of the youngest populations in the world.

Of the 26 million people [1], almost 43% are under the age of 15. [2]  The country is home to representatives of over 200 different ethnic groups and more than 400,000 refugees from neighboring countries such as Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic. [3]

There are 285 languages spoken in the country. [4] The two colonial languages, which have now become the national languages of Cameroon, are spoken by 80% French and 20% English.

In Cameroon, around 69.2% of the population are Christians, of which around 38.4% are Roman Catholics and 26.3% Protestants, most of whom hold Evangelical views and are members of the Evangelical Alliance of Cameroon. 20% of the population are Muslims

The proportion of the population adhering to traditional African religions is less than 10%. 5 Witchcraft is widespread in the country, including in churches. [6]

Like other African countries, Cameroon is strongly influenced by its colonial past. Between 1884-1919, the country was under German and then British and French protectorate.

During the German colonial period, Cameroon lost tens of thousands of cultural and artistic objects, around 40,000 of which are now in German museums. [7]

France pursued a massive assimilation policy. The use of local languages in schools was banned. Mobility was also restricted after 1929 as a result of the global economic crisis and a forced labor statute was imposed, which was reminiscent of the German forced labor system before the First World War.

From 1945 onwards, freedom movements fought for the independence of the French part of Cameroon from France.

In 1960, Cameroon finally became an independent republic and in 1961 the British part of the country also became independent, and the two parts merged to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon.


Tensions, unrest, war today.

Cameroon's first president, the Muslim Ahmadou Ahidjo, established a one-party dictatorship in the country soon after independence.

In terms of foreign policy, he closely aligned the country's leadership with France. With the help of covert and overt French support and brutal repression, Ahidjo succeeded in consolidating his regime.

On September 1, 1966, the single party Union Nationale Camerounaise (UNC) was founded, which since 1985 has been known as the Rassemblement démocratique du Peuple Camerounais or Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (RDPC).

In 1972, a referendum was held on the future form of government. As a result, the Federal Republic of Cameroon was transformed into a unitary state, the United Republic of Cameroon.

On November 6, 1982, Abidijo was dismissed his Prime Minister Paul Biya became his successor. He won the elections in 1984, promising a far-reaching democratization of the country and more social justice.

However, it was not until 1992 that Biya allowed other parties into the country. Thanks to French support and cleverly playing off his political opponents, Biya was able to maintain his majority in parliament until 1997 and was confirmed in the elections of the same year.

Since independence, in particular the creation of a unitary state and the renaming of the "United Republic of Cameroon" to the Republic of Cameroon in 1984, there have been repeated attempts to force an autonomy in the English-speaking part of the country.

The South Cameroons National Council and the South Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front (SCACUP) are fighting for a state of Ambazonia, whose name is derived from the local name Ambas Bay of the Cameroon estuary.

The Republic of Ambazonia was first proclaimed in 1984. Protests took place from 2016 to 2018. In 2017 they were bloodily suppressed by the army. There were deaths and injuries. [8]

Since then, neither tensions nor armed conflicts have ceased. The protests against the elderly President Paul Biya and his French-backed fat-cat economy are growing ever louder.


PRN consultations: Reconciliation and coming to terms with the past.

Our consultations began on February 27 in the capital city Yaounde. Between 20-30 leaders took part.

The real problem became apparent on the very first day. The people of Cameroon are weighed down by the heavy burden of the colonial era.

From the very beginning, the country's francophone majority was in power. Francophone President Paul Biya has ruled the country for over forty years, successively suppressing the rights of the Anglophone population, dissolving their structures and neglecting their educational and cultural opportunities in the cities.

To the great annoyance of the population, the government is pursuing a far-reaching political and economic proximity to France. According to the unanimous opinion of most participants in the consultation, France still has its hands in most of the government's decisions and economy.

The anger of the anglophone population is directed against this political dependency. They may no longer be a colony, but the former colonial power has its say everywhere.

Armed resistance in the north-west has already claimed many victims. And there are even fears of an open war.

In our conversations, the actual trauma of the people - the colonial rule itself - soon overshadowed the current conflicts. Again and again, men and women reported on the atrocities that the French colonial authorities and the army caused.

"My family was forcibly resettled to the East, I was born in a foreign country and today I don't even know which tribe I belong to," said one of those present. "Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a foreign country where I had to learn a foreign language. If I'm honest, my heart is not free of hate."

And this evangelical pastor was by no means the only one. A leader from the Pentecostal churches, whose family lost all its property to the French, complained bitterly about his feelings towards the French, the French government and also President Biya's own autocracy.

"If the French intervene here, as they did recently in Mali, I will give up my ordination as a pastor, pick up a gun and kill every Frenchman who crosses my path." The man had tears in his eyes.

Others also spoke openly about their feelings. Almost all of them were Francophones who had attended French-language schools and thus assimilated in the eyes of the government, but the pain of colonial injustice, which continues to this day on the part of France, runs deep and saps strength and energy.

We prayed for each other and I told the participants my own family story of persecution in the former Soviet Union, the deep hate in my heart towards the Soviet Russians, who killed my grandfathers and many other relatives.

Four times my family lost all property and possession. And I myself was imprisoned, tortured and almost died in a Soviet labor camp. There was more than one reason to hate. But God gave me grace when I emptied my heart at the cross of Jesus and He freed me from my hatred. [9]

I was able to forgive and love the Russians today with the love of Jesus. Some of the troubled participants decided to follow my example und Jesus did a miracle in their heart. The process of reconciliation started.

At the same time, however, it also became abundantly clear that the many Christians in the country do not have a common voice in society.

Most evangelical Christians in the country are paralyzed because their leaders are too deeply involved in the pervasive corruption in the state and society.

We agreed that the Evangelical Alliance in Cameroon should set up a working group for dealing with the post-colonial consequences and start a working group for reconciliation and peace in the country.

In Limbe, on the Atlantic coast, we conducted our second consultation with anglophone participants. The dynamics that became visible in Yaounde repeated itself here too.

We met in one of the largest Baptist congregations in the city, the Emmanuel Baptist Church. Stories of discrimination by the francophone government and the subversive role France plays in all of this were told.

But as in Yaounde, here, too, it was the colonial experience that overshadowed the pain of the tensions in the country. There was also the realization that, as a result of colonial and post-colonial policies, the churches are literally left without a history of their own.

A growing need for the repatriation of missionary documents and other historical artifacts to Cameroon was expressed and the creation of a historical institute in Cameroon discussed.

All consultations in Yaounde and Limbe were accompanied by intensive prayer.


What is the next step?

My visit to Cameroon highlighted the following next steps for the Evangelical Alliance of Cameroon.

First, the Evangelical Alliance of Cameroon will establish a working group for peace and reconciliation. The PRN Coordinator for Central Africa, Benvictor Dibankap, will coordinate the process. PRN Global will assist the process where-ever needed.

Second, the example of the Peace Pilgrimage in South Africa has motivated the participants to start something similar. 10

PRN Global is called upon to help out in this area, especially in relation to the former colonial powers France, England and Germany and motivate the Evangelical Alliances in these countries to start a process of reconciliation and support the return of historic artifacts back to Cameroon.

Third, the participants ask the WEA to assist a process of establishing an Historical Institute and Archives to build a collection of historical materials on the history of Mission and the Christian movement in Cameroon.

The Cameroonian Evangelical church needs to recover her historical face, in order to strengthen her ecclesial and societal identity.

And last but not least, the participants invite the global Evangelical movement to pray for Cameroon, for real independence from France, a just government and an inclusive national identity.

The Cameroonian church needs prayer support in her engagement with society and politics, since such an engagement will require courage and clarity, a unified voice and spiritual authority.



1.  Population, total. In: World Economic Outlook Database. World Bank, 2022.

2.  World Population Prospects 2019, Volume II: Demographic Profiles. (New York: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.

3.  UNHCR: 2015 UNHCR country operations profile - Cameroon.

4 SIL: Cameroon – Languages, In: .

5.  Etat et structure de la population: indicatorurs démographiques. Institut national de la statistique du Cameroun, archived from the original on May 19, 2011;

6.  Joana Breinbach: The witches eat the state

7.  Richard Tsogang Fossi: "Cameroons" becomes German. History of a manipulative removal. In: Mikaél Assilkinga et al. (eds.): Atlas of Absence. Cameroon's cultural heritage in Germany. (Berlin: Reimer 2023, 40).

8. Dionne Searcey: As Cameroon English speakers fight ro break away, violence mounts. In: New York Times June 28, 2018.

9.  See in this regard my book: Johannes Reimer: Liberty in Confinement: A Story of Faith in the Red Army. (Winnipeg: Kindred Press 2000).

10.  See report in: Johannes Reimer: Pilgrimage of grace – Reconciliation in South Africa. In: Evangelical Focus, 4.10.2022.




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