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Female Genital Mutilation in Cameroon- Man of God Killed by Chief’s Henchmen.
By Austine Arrey –Today Cameroon
The age old practice of female circumcision has for a long time been a source of controversy, pain and discord within the communities where it is practiced. Men have used it to enhance their dominance over the women.
In recent years however there has been a real push towards the abolition of such practices that are deemed degrading to the women. Chief amongst these practices is female genital mutilation a practice which involves cutting away part or a woman’s entire clitoris. This has not however been accepted by the men who usually are in the position of dominance within the village structure. To them and most especially the chief’s it is a key aspect of their stronghold on the women who are al considered children of the chief’s palace just because they are born in the village.
Associations that have spoken and are still speaking against such practices have met with a lot of hostility from the chiefs men who are usually a gang of thugs living and feeding from the palace and are prepared to do what ever the chiefs demand of them.
In Mfuni village for example the bishop of the Littoral and South West division of the “Eglise du Christianisme” Celeste was refused an audience by the chief when he came to inaugurate the Women’s center that had been donated to the village by the church because the pastor of the village church is involved with and usually preaches against female genital mutilation. It was shocking that the day after the inauguration Pastor John Ayuk came to see that the center had been vandalized and painted with slogans like …respect our tradition…respect the council and the chief…and many other slogans. He called in the police but was advised to sort out the issue with the Chief according to the calls of the tradition.
He decided to confront the Chief in order to resolve the problem once and for all, but unfortunately in the course of the argument the chief warned him to watch his back. The chief was upset that he had criticized, disrespected him before his subjects, and out rightly informed him of authorizing the destruction of the center because it only constitutes a bad influence in the village. He contended that it was aimed at taking away women from their husbands.
Two days after the altercation at the market square Pastor Ayuk’s home was broken into, Ayuk and the wife were severely beaten and told that this was a warning for smearing the institutions of the village that is the chief’s palace and the “Monenkim” cult of women who carry out the circumcisions.
Things became worse when 2 members of the church lost their 7 year old daughters to bleeding after they had been forcefully removed from their parents and taken to the cult and circumcised. The pastor blamed the chief and his council for spilling the blood of young girls in the name of a tradition that did not have any equality between man and woman. The Pastor’s placed a lot of emphasis on this genital circumcision during his sermon and the sermon was later on published on the newsletter. The chief and some of his elders confronted the pastor and told him that Christianity in no way shall super pass tradition, and that his mission to change their tradition will be paid dearly by him. He was accused of blaspheming the “Monekim” as the girls death was a result of witchcraft and not from circumcision. The chief then went forward to add that the pastor had lived his last days. He reminded him of the influence he had in the country’s ruling class and he could teach him a lesson and no official would raise a finger.
Later that night the pastor and his wife escaped death by running through a back window of their burning house. He decided that he could no longer live in the village and was transferred to the Anglophone parish of Ndobo-Bonaberi. He continued his work and still preached against female circumcision in Mfuni village. He also became a very active member of MCDA (Mfuni Development and Cultural Association) and during their monthly meetings he kept reminding them of the ills of female circumcision that is young girls getting betrothed to older men, HIV-Aids, prostitution and death. He also reminded them that the cause of his transfer was his stance against FGM, and the threats made to him by the Chief and his council of elders because of this position. .
During the Annual General Assembly of the national MDCA held in Douala and attended by the chief and some of his elders he again preached against the ills of the village and top on his list was the issue of female circumcision. The chief in his characteristic manner told him that he had missed him once, but will not be a coward to do that again. He then clearly warned Pastor Ayuk that being the custodian of the village; he will not live and see him undermine institutions of the village, and strongly advised him to concentrate on religious issue and not tradition. He declared he will use whatever it will take him to strengthen the village institutions. The event was interrupted by the loud altercation and the police was eventually called in. However since no one was willing to say anything that would upset the chief no charges were filed.
Later that night after the reception hosted by the MDCA Douala branch, the pastor on his way home was attacked by some unknown people. He was beaten and discovered later by innocent passer-bys who took him to the hospital. He later died of his injuries.
The people were later arrested after one of them surrendered to the gendarmes and confessed that they had been ordered by the chief to exact punishment on Pastor John Ayuk for defying him. The chief has never been arrested. He has never even been questioned. The chief is a staunch member of the CPDM Central Committee and thus one of the un-touchable people of the current regime
Despite the strong intervention from educationist, Men of God, genital circumcision remains so difficult to eradicate from our societies in Cameroon. The government is not doing much to educate and apprehend defaulters or Law breakers. However, all hope is not lost because journalist and some Non Governmental Organizations are pressurizing the State to do more to improve on this situation. As long as the government of Paul Biya decides to turn a deaf ear to the plight of the Cameroonian then chiefs and other unscrupulous rulers will have their way with the people in the name of tradition. Chiefs and Fons are known to exact their own king of justice and even though they are not authorized to do so they go un-punished. The president –Paul Biya is the chief of chiefs and Fon of Fons. Most chiefs are part of the CPDM central committee and they are considered princes in Biya’s palace.