In northern Cameroon, 'everyone is afraid of suicide bombers'
"Everybody is afraid of the suicide bombers. There is a kind of psychosis."
On Friday Feb. 19, 2016 a double
suicide bombing in a marketplace in Mémé in northern Cameroon
claimed the lives of at least 20 people and left several dozen injured. The
attack, by two female suicide bombers, is thought to have been the work of Boko
Haram. According to the government, more than 1200 people have been killed
since 2013 in the far northern region of the country. Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo of
the Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo, which covers this region, spoke with
international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
By Amélie de la Hougue
Who are these attacks meant to be targeting?
Bishop Ateba Edo: It’s the entire population they are targeting! Whether they
are Muslims, Christians, or animists, it’s the entire population you are
attacking in a crowded marketplace!
How are the people of Cameroon reacting?
Everybody is afraid of the suicide bombers. There is a kind of psychosis.
Whenever people gather together, as they do at markets, people don’t know who
is who, and it is impossible to keep tabs on everyone… In the villages they
have set up community watch committees in an attempt to protect these places,
but despite that, attackers are frequently able to infiltrate.
Are you witnessing an exodus of the population in northern Cameroon?
The suicide bombers generally work along the frontier, except that occasionally
there are attacks elsewhere—as in fact happened at Mémé, which is about 22
miles from the border with Nigeria. Many people are taking shelter in Maroua,
which is the major town in the area and a little further inland. It is
generally safer in the towns; the problem is nearer to the border, because it
is very porous.. Here the same major ethnic group, the same family is often in
different countries, with the uncle in Cameroon, the sister in Nigeria …
Sometimes even part of one house is in Cameroon and another part in Nigeria.
Have relations change between Muslims and Christians with the spread of
There is a good dialogue between the Christians and the Muslims, and good collaboration.
For example, the children of the village chief often attend our Catholic
schools. We are all afraid of the suicide bombers, whether we are Muslims or
Observers claim that Boko Haram seems to be weakening. What do you think
Militarily speaking, they are already defeated. But there are still the suicide
bombers. Previously there were armed attacks, but now there are these isolated
What is the Church doing to reassure the faithful?
We are preaching hope and we are praying for peace. We have a prayer for peace
which I myself composed, and we pray it every day after Holy Mass. We have also
called upon our Catholic faithful to show acts of mercy towards the refugees—both
the internally displaced and the refugees from Nigeria. We tell our people that
despite the suicide bombers, and despite the war, our prayers will help us
Bishop Bruno Ateba Ebo (l) and Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria visiting refugees in Cameroon; ACN photo