YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Cameroonian Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya says extra-judicial killings in the country have reached alarming levels.

The archbishop, who is also the president of the country’s bishops’ conference, was speaking during the 48th plenary assembly, taking place April 16-22.

“In the recent months, we have been very saddened by the various extra-judicial killings that have been taking place in our society,” Nkea said.

He pointed to the murder of journalist Martinez Zogo as an example of one of the most gruesome murders in recent months.

The journalist went missing on Jan. 17, 2023, but his body was found on Jan. 22, nine miles from the capital Yaoundé. Preliminary observation showed that Martinez had been tortured.

He was an ardent critic of corruption in Yaoundé, and his gruesome murder sent a dangerous signal that opponents of the Yaoundé regime could easily be eliminated by extra-judicial violence.

“The bishops of Cameroon together with the Universal Catholic Church have always called on all peoples to respect human life, which is a gift from God from the moment of conception to its natural death,” Nkea said.

“To kill someone is a sin against the 5th Commandment of the Decalogue and this commandment clearly states: Thou shall not kill.”

He said the Church was hopeful that “the real killers” of Zogo “will be clearly identified and brought to book according to the laws of our country.”

Some of the key suspects in the assassination of the journalist have already been arrested, including business tycoon Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga; the head of Cameroon’s counterintelligence service, Maxim Eko Eko; and his Director of Operations, Justin Danwe.

But the archbishop’s talk of the “true killers” suggests that more people might have been involved in what Reporters Without Borders has called “a state crime.”

Bishop Sosthene Leopold Bayemi of Obala told Crux that Zogo wasn’t the first journalist to have been murdered in questionable circumstances. The first journalist to be murdered in Cameroon, he  recalled, was a priest by name Father Joseph Mbassi who was the director of the Catholic monthly newspaper, L’Effort Camerounaise.

“The bishops have always decried the killing and has always called for justice to take its course. Public officials need to investigate,” Bayemi said.

“There are so many killings and assassinations that have never been investigated,” he said, noting that many of the murders directly touched on Church officials.

He cited the cases of Monsignor Yves Plumey, Father Joseph Yamb, and Monsignor Benoit Balla.

“None of these cases have been fully investigated and the assassins brought to book,” he said.

The bishops therefore appealed on Cameroonians to “stop killing one another.”

“We are all brothers and sisters of the same Fatherland, and children of the same God who is Father to us all,” they emphasized.

But it is not only these killings plaguing the Cameroonian society. The bishops also talked about issues of insecurity, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency and the separatist crisis in the countries English-speaking regions.

Nkea noted that Cameroon was “marked by various sufferings – socio-political crises, agricultural difficulties, the lack of farm to market roads, repeated killings, the COVID-19 pandemic, high cost of living and other social injustices, to name just a few.”

“In this kind of atmosphere, we must continue to bear witness to our faith in a world that seems to have lost its bearings and which now gives way to all kinds of abuses.”

He said the efforts towards peace have been bearing fruit, “because, despite the continuous threats from Boko Haram in the North and the prevailing insecurity in the North West and South West Regions, we do not give up, instead we ask Christ the Risen One to shower us with His peace.”

“Thanks be to God, relative calm is returning to the North West and South West Regions, some businesses are reopening and many children are going back to school. This is a great sign of hope, but the situation of insecurity still remains very preoccupying,” the archbishop said.

The two English speaking regions were plunged into violence when government launched a violent crackdown on peacefully protesting teachers and lawyers. The protests were sparked by concerns that the Anglo-Saxon education and Common Law systems handed to the two regions by their British colonizers had come under the over-bearing influence of French – a language not very much spoken in that part of the country.

The government’s violent response led to the development of a separatist fringe who have for the past six years been fighting to create a separate nation.

The International Crisis Group says at least 6000 people have been killed and over a million forced to flee from their homes.

Nkea said the Easter message should be seen as a triumph of life over death, and insisted on the need for peace to return to the troubled regions.