YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Cameroon’s bishops have condemned the “continuous misery in which our population lives, among the many evils that beset our country,” after their annual meeting.

The prelates denounced “the continuous crises in the North West, South West and Far North Regions as well as “the tribalism promoted by certain elites pitting the poor against each other.”

The bishops were alluding to the separatist crisis in the Anglophone regions in the West of the majority French-speaking country and the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in the North.

“There are crises that are perpetuated because there are certain people who sustain this, precisely because it suits them,” said the Bishop Emmanuel Abbo of Ngaoundere, in the north of the country.

“There are some who would not be ready for this war to end because, for them, it includes certain advantages…. financially, materially and otherwise. The information we have received clearly shows that these conflicts are really sustained, starting with the actors themselves, on the ground, because we have the impression that it has become a business,” he said.

The Ambazonians [the name the Anglophone separatists give themselves] who are on the ground, who commit exactions, who rob the population, it has become a business for them, a way to get rich. And also, certainly, by some authorities who would not like this war to end because it is to their advantage,” the bishop said.

Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo said while he couldn’t speak for the rest of the bishops, he agreed with Abbo.

“I have seen people who are benefiting from this war,” Nkuo told Crux.

“Kumbo is blocked now, for example, because there are people fighting for their interests. Kumbo for one week is blocked. The markets are closed, the roads are blocked, nothing moves. I traveled from Jakiri to Kumbo [a distance of 14 miles] yesterday by motorbike. There is no doubt about the fact that there are people benefiting from the crisis. There are people who want the war to go on because they are benefiting from it. And who is suffering? The people are suffering,“ the bishop said.

Nkuo said the separatist crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions has resulted from decades of injustice against the country’s English speakers.

Very often, government officials have insisted on a return to peace as a way out of the crisis. But Nkuo said peace can’t come without a sense of justice.

“Justice and peace go hand in hand and when we talk about these two intertwined issues, we are talking about the mind of the Church,” he told Crux.

‘You can’t have peace without justice; there is a lack of peace today because there has been an unjust situation which has been perpetuated. And we aren’t just talking about the Anglophones in Cameroon. The Scripture tells us: If your hand is aching, the whole body is sick. So Cameroon is sick, and needs healing.”

He said the way to heal the nation must start with addressing the root causes of the conflict.

Cameroon was a former German colony divided between Britain and France after World War I. The French-administered part of the country gained independence in 1960 and became known as La Republique du Cameroun. The English-speaking part of Cameroon gained independence a year later but reunited with the French part to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon.

However, the federation became a unitary state in 1972, and the current president, Paul Biya removed the word “United” from the country’s official name in 1984.

Nkuo said the changes in name were just one part of the problem. Decades of marginalization and neglect of the English-speaking part of the country lie at the core of the problem. In 2016, a series of protests by English-speaking teachers and lawyers were violently suppressed by the central government, leading to the present insurgency. So far, over 4,000 people have been killed, and over 700,000 people displaced.

The bishops announced that April 24, Divine Mercy Sunday, will be  a day of national pilgrimage and prayer for peace. The country will be consecrated to Mary at the shrine in Marienberg in the Diocese of Edea.