A Bible translator in Cameroon was brutally killed this past weekend when Fulani herdsmen attacked him with a machete and also cut off his wife’s arm. The attack happened in the town of Wum in Cameroon’s war-torn English-speaking region. For the past few years, the area has been ravaged by violence, not only from Fulani herdsmen, but also from Cameroon’s French-speaking government and anti-government separatists.
“I don’t know what prompted the attack. They just came in and killed people at the home,” Efi Tembon told The Christian Post. Tembon is a native of Cameroon and a U.S. citizen who is now a resident of Hutchinson, Minnesota, reports the Hutchinson Leader. He was doing missions work in Cameroon when the violence in the country started escalating, and he heard the news about the Wum attack from sources there.
Fulani Attack Wum
Last Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Fulani herdsmen attacked five houses in Wum. Bible translator Angus Abraham Fung, who was in his 60s, is said to be among seven people killed during the attack. Most of them, said Tembon, were older men. He does not know how many other people were injured besides Fung’s wife, Evelyn. Said Tembon, “They went into houses and pulled out the people. They attacked in the night and nobody was expecting. They just went into the home, pulled them out and slaughtered them.”
Working with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Fung had helped to complete a translation of the New Testament in the Aghem language. Even though 3,000 copies of this translation have been published, workers have not been able to distribute them because of the regional conflict.
Tembon told the Post, “This war is a complete disruption of what has been going on. We haven’t been able to dedicate [the translation] because of the war. We are doing what we call listening groups. We have done the recording and started listening groups where people come and listen to scriptures together in the community.”
Violence in Cameroon
The division of Cameroon (formerly the German colony of Kamerun) into English- and French-speaking regions occurred after World War I. Voice of America News (VOA) reoports the country’s current war began in 2016 when Anglophone lawyers and teachers protested against the Francophone goverment because of “alleged discrimination.” Violence ensued and escalated. Tembon, who was in the country at the time, told the Leader, “Helicopters were used by the government to start killing peaceful protesters.”
There is credible evidence that the government’s security forces and the separatist rebels have both been guilty of serious human rights abuses. VOA reports that tens of thousands of people attempted to flee the Anglophone region this past weekend after 40 people were killed and a Catholic bishop was kidnapped as a result of fighting between separatists and the government.
One woman trying to escape the region told VOA that separatists had ordered businesses to close for a minimum of two weeks and attacked anyone who disobeyed. Another woman said she is fleeing after seeing the military kill six civilians and a baby. The most recent violence has come after separatist leader, Julius Ayuk Tabe, was put on trial in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. The tribunal found him and nine supporters guilty of “secession, terrorism and hostility against the state” and sentenced them to life in prison.
After this sentence was handed down, separatists responded by issuing a lockdown in the Anglophone region, preventing schools from re-opening. Children there have not been able to attend school since the violence escalated three years ago.
What About the Fulani?
Tembon told the Post that the government is involved in the recent Fulani attacks on Fung and others, although he acknowledges that not all Fulani (who mainly live outside of Wum) collaborate with the government. Some live with the local people in town, and some have joined the separatists.
Still, he said, “The government knows that the local people are supporting the local forces. The Fulani are Muslim and they are a minority in the area. And they always have a farmer-grazer problem between the local people and the Fulani. The government uses that now to get the Fulani on their side as an ally to fight the local people. So they have been armed and protected by the government and terrorize the local people.”
Efi Tembon is trying to bring international awareness to the atrocities that are happening in his native country. The government is promoting a different narrative, saying that the people who are fleeing are actually students who were on vacation and are returning to their schools.
And while the U.N. says the number of people killed in Cameroon as a result of the violence is 2,000, Tembon believes the death count is closer to 7,000. He told the Post that 700,000 people in Cameroon have been internally displaced, and 50,000 have left the country.
Despite his tragic death, Angus Abraham Fung has left a legacy for God’s kingdom and for the people he worked among. Said Tembon, “He was one of the key community leaders in the whole tribe and he was part of the translation services and also coordinated literacy efforts. So, he was a huge part of the literacy work because their language had never been written before…So many people now can read and write the language as a result of Angus’ work.”