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Biya meets Pope in Rome today as Catholic schools in Cameroon remain paralysed

Biya is meeting Pope Francis at a time when education in Catholic Schools is stalled. President Biya and his wife…

Biya is meeting Pope Francis at a time when education in Catholic Schools is stalled.

President Biya and his wife Chantal Biya are guests of honour at the Vatican today. The presidential couple are expected to meet the pope at the headquarters of the Catholic Church. President Biya is in Italy on a three-day official visit which started on Monday March 20. He was invited by Italian President who was in Cameroon last year.

It is expected that the President would discuss with the clergy, regarded by Catholics as God’s representative on earth, the crisis in English-speaking regions of Cameroon- crisis which Catholic Bishops have expressed their availability to be mediators in government- civil society negotiations that may bring it to an end.

The bishops, grouped under the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province, before signing a communique in which they notified government of their availability, had earlier sent a strongly worded memo to President Biya, pointing out that some of the problems raised by protesters in the minority Anglophone regions of the country were real and needed to be solved as soon as possible.

Government for its part, a few months later, blamed the Catholic Church and other denominational schools for keeping their doors shut; a move which observers saw as an indirect accusation that the churches were supporting or sympathising with protesters. This prompted the Catholic Church to sign a joint press release with officials of other denominational schools, informing the public that the doors of their schools have always been open all through the strike which will soon enter its 6th month.

Since the announcement, parents have however kept their children at home. While government says children are staying at home because they are scared of being attacked by some extremist protesters who may attack them in school, other analysts argue parents would only send their children to school when government solves the issues raised by protesters.

It should be noted however that the protests which started late last year as industrial protests by teachers and lawyers is now coordinated by the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Organisation. The civil society organisation was formed when many other civil society organisations and activists in the North West and South West regions joined the strike and turned it into a regional protest against inequalities in political representation and wealth distribution.

Though the pressure group was banned in January this year, it still coordinates the strike through interim leaders based abroad. Some of the initial leaders will appear before the military tribunal in Yaounde today to answer terrorism and rebellion charges while others are on the run.

 

 

 

 

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