A second Bible translator has been killed by suspected Fulani extremists in the civil war-ridden Anglophone region in southern Cameroon this week, a ministry source has confirmed.
Bible translator Benjamin Tem was murdered in his home in the Wum region Sunday night, reports Efi Tembon, a Cameroonian activist who heads a ministry called Oasis Network for Community Transformation.
According to Tembon, who met the victim while working on a translation project in 2013, Tem served as a Scripture engagement facilitator for the Aghem Bible Translation Project, which completed a New Testament translation in the Aghem language in 2016.
Tem, 48, was also a promoter of Bible listening groups in the Wum area. He was buried on Monday and leaves behind five children.
No one has claimed responsibility Tem’s murder. However, Tembon told The Christian Post that locals have blamed Fulani radicals, saying they have been encouraged by government actors to carry out attacks against separatist-supporting farming communities in southern Cameroon.
Fulani herders in Africa have long butted heads with farmers over land rights to graze cattle.
“He was attacked last night by people suspected to be pro-government Fulani herdsmen,” Tembon told friends on Facebook. “They butchered him and cut his throat.”
Tem’s death comes two months after fellow translator Angus Fung, who also served in the Aghem Bible Translation Project in Wum, was killed in a similar fashion in his home.
According to Tembon, Fulani attackers have killed at least two dozen people and burned several houses in the Wum area alone.
“I think our authorities have actually been working with the Fulanis,” said Tembon, who regularly travels to world capitals to urge the international community to push for an end to the bloodshed and human rights abuses in Cameroon.
“There is a war of independence going on in the area and so the local population supports independence for southern Cameroon. And these attacks toward the local population is not just by Fulanis, the military is also attacking and burning homes. So the military is working hand-in-hand with the Fulanis. They have actually armed some Fulanis to help them fight the local population.”
Tembon accused the government of trying to “inject a religious aspect to the conflict.”
“[T]hey know that the Fulanis are Muslim and the local population tends to be Christians,” he said. “And so trying to create a conflict will create chaos in the area.”
According to the Joshua Project, the Aghem community in Wum is 75 percent Christian.
Since Tem’s death, residents have fled the area, much like other local populations that have come under attack. Tembon assured that “attacks are taking place far and wide” in Southern Cameroon.
“All the areas where attacks have been carried out have been deserted,” Tembon stressed. “Now the Fulanis will graze and try to take advantage of the chaos and take over the land.”
According to the United Nations, at least 700,000 people have been internally displaced in Cameroon amid the violence over the past two years.
Many in the Aghem area have either fled their villages into other bigger towns or fled out of Cameroon into Nigeria.
“In Wum, the military has killed more than the Fulanis,” Tembon said. “They have killed hundreds of people.”
In August, Fung, a 60-year-old Bible translator, was hacked to death by suspected Fulani radicals in Wum, where he and his wife were attacked in their home at night. While Fung was killed, his wife, Eveline, had her hand chopped off.
According to Tembon, Mrs. Fung left the hospital earlier this month.
“We are trying to get her to another hospital for just a checkup,” he said. “We also got some contributions, which I'm trying to send to her so she can move. We're going to move her to a safe location after she goes for a checkup in this other hospital.”
In the spring, Tembon reported that Pastor Elijah Koh, a graduate of Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary in Ndu, was killed during a military invasion in the Mfumte area.
The Anglophone conflict, also known as the Ambazonia War, began in 2016 when separatists demanded autonomy because they felt underrepresented by the majority-French-speaking central government. In 2017, Anglophone territories in the Northwest and Southwest declared their independence. Since then, fighting has spread across the Anglophone regions.
Church leaders in Cameroon have called for the release of Catholic humanitarian leader Paul Njokikang who was arrested on Sunday and reportedly sent to a torture camp near Bamenda.
Njokikang addressed the United Nations Security Council in April, where he detailed the horrifying humanitarian conditions amid Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis and human rights abuses carried out by the government and separatist fighters.
“Father Paul represents a moderate Anglophone voice in an increasingly polarized conflict. The international community must demand his unconditional release,” United Kingdom Parliament member David Alton said in a statement, according to Crux.
“There can be no constructive dialogue while the Biya regime undermines the work of impartial charities. The U.K. should use its influence at the U.N. and in the Commonwealth to press the Cameroon authorities to hold genuine and inclusive negotiations.”
However, Karim’s lawyers have filed a habeas corpus request to the Yaoundé High Court on grounds his arrest was unlawful, according to Human Rights Watch.
As for Tembon, he has not returned to his native Cameroon since he testified before U.S. Congress in 2018 about the human rights abuses being committed by the Biya government.