1404 AEFJN Visit to the Cameroon Antenna

Sr. Begoña Iñarra, AEFJN Executive Secretary, visited the Cameroonian Antenna of AEFJN (FJ-Cam) from the 1st to 17th March. She writes:


I joined the antenna’s Human Rights Observation Team as they visited Batouri and M’Bang in the east of the country. There was much discussion about land and land reform with Mathieu Vandi Fache, a land specialist and member of the team. At Batouri, we had a meeting with the bishop who explained the diocesan socio-economic commitments. There was also a meeting with the diocesan social team (Caritas, JP, development, etc.). Given the proximity of the Central African Republic, the pressing problem was the arrival of refugees. Sr Begoña visited the diocesan distribution centre for medicines in order to find out about the access to and quality of the drugs.


At M’Bang, the Daughters of the Holy Spirit chose to talk about the problem of malnutrition in children, the exclusion of the Baka pygmies and corruption. While we were there, we met Madame Man Simbe Jacqueline Christiane, a Member of the Cameroonian Parliament who spoke about the region and the Baka people.


In Yaoundé, I spoke to major superiors at their general assembly about the work of the AEFJN network, the issues we are working on and the AEFJN Manual on Economic Justice. The question of how to link the commitment of religious with the justice issues that go beyond their day-to-day preoccupations was much in the air. We spoke about the need for ongoing JPIC formation. There was also a presentation from EDISA, a sub-group of the Antenna that buys quality medicines at affordable prices. I was also able to lead a day on leadership.


Sr Annie Girard, FJ-Cam’s coordinator, and I also had meetings with representatives from Cameroon’s National Justice and Peace group, chiefly about the work being done with the people about sourcing gas in Logbaba. When we had meetings with INADES and the Centre for the Environment and Development, the central topic of conversation was land and land grabbing.


I was invited to attend a board meeting of the Antenna where we reflected on the social observation project and heard about the subjects chosen by the different regions. We saw that it was vital that this observation programme led to action. JPIC formation for religious seems essential. AEFJN’s Manual can help with this formation. The advocacy work on medicines and land issues will continue.


With the Douala Faith & Justice group, the Antenna team and I had a meeting with the people of Njock in the Central Province where a barrage being built to generate energy for the iron mines will flood their village.


In Douala, the team visited the central prison with the chaplain. The prison is over-populated and there are inhumane conditions with prisoners having to sleep in the open air, even when it is raining. The place where we met the doctor was unsanitary. We spoke about medicines that were available to prisoners. These are generics, including anti-retrovirals for AIDS and TB, but there is nothing for other illnesses like diabetes and sometimes stocks run out. Conditions for the young, VIPs and women are considerably better.


While we were there, we met Paul Eric Kingue, the mayor of the village where the PHP Banana company operates. He is in prison because he wanted to force PHP to pay taxes and he was defending the rights of the people. He appealed to the Court of Human Rights who censured Cameroon for imprisoning him and for its judgments.


Annie and I met the provincial of the West African Jesuit province and had a meeting with the Douala FJ-Cam group to speak to them about their future work and commitment. We also visited the site of the gas factory at Logbaba operated by ‘Rodeo Development Ltd’, a subsidiary of the English company Victoria Oil and Gas. We had a meeting with the victims who were forced out and then either poorly compensated or not compensated at all. While Rodeo is sending gas to businesses in Douala, the local people do not have running water.


The FJ-Cam team, the Douala group and I also met the Justice & Peace team of the Douala diocese to tell them about the work of the two organisations and to explore possible collaboration.


The final visit was to Action Paysanne (AP), an organisation for bio-farmers who are coming to the defence of family farming. The main problem seems to be that of land, alongside the need for infrastructure and both quality and quantity in production. As we explored the possibility of collaboration between AP and FJ-Cam, the only idea we came up with for the moment was putting together some simple information on land-grabbing that AP could distribute.


I would like to thank Sr Annie Girard, Xaverian and CJ-Cam coordinator for her welcome and availability.


Sr. Begoña Iñarra

AEFJN Executive Secretary





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