Montrealers brave the cold to protest against actions of Islamist group
Members of Montreal’s Cameroonian community—amongst a wider African diaspora—gathered this Saturday at St. Louis Square to pay respects to the victims of the ongoing violence in Western Africa, perpetrated by the Islamist Boko Haram group. A nod to a traditional way of calling out to assemble a public meeting saw a wooden drum sound in the cold whiteness of Quebec’s winter.
Numbering over a hundred, the vigil mirrored a simultaneous gathering held across time zones and an ocean in the capital of Cameroon. Though it was much smaller, it was no less vocal on the need for solidarity and support for those affected by the chaos caused by the terrorist organization. Chadians joined with Cameroonians and Nigerians in discussing the way forward.
“When the tam-tam resonates, somebody has news: happy news, as well as sorrowful news,” said Cameroonian journalist Cyrille Ekwalla. “We are not far from catastrophe.”
“You will hear much on the deteriorating humanitarian situation. But you will also hear … the message of pain we send to the Cameroonian authorities,” he said.
Though time was spent discussing the deteriorating humanitarian situation that has seen hundreds of thousands displaced, a fair amount of the day’s words were levelled on the seeming inability (or lack of willpower) on part of the governments involved to effectively tackle a group which has slowly expanded from the backwater to now virtually rule a sizeable portion of northern Nigeria.
“If we are gathered here, it’s not to support the government [of Cameroon], but simply in solidarity with the victims, and to denounce Boko Haram,” said Yacoubou Salissou, one of the event’s organizers. In addition to community leaders, the event also involved the Cameroonian High Commissioner Solomon Azoh-Mbi.
The worry of the organizers is that Boko Haram, which has recently stepped up years of already brutal warfare centered around a desire to cleanse the land of non-Islamic influences, will only become worse and spread across the entire region.
Boko Haram has already shocked many by using children as suicide bombers in crowded markets and bus shelters, as well as raiding and kidnapping young Christian girls who are forcefully converted and married off to fighters. The irony of all this carnage is that most of their attacks have fallen on their Muslim compatriots in northern Nigeria and Cameroon.