YAOUNDE - Hundreds of women whose children have been killed or are missing as a result of the separatist war in Cameroon marched in the capital Sunday. The women called for a cease-fire between the government and the armed groups demanding independence for Cameroon's English-speaking regions.
These are women who have escaped to Yaounde from the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, where a war has raged between the military and separatists for the past year. The women are praying and singing for peace to return to the central African state.
Among them is Gladys Arrey. She says her 24-year-old son has been missing since March, after she says the military destroyed his motorcycle to get revenge for the killing of a policeman in the southwestern town of Mutengene.
She says she came out to add her voice to the protest.
"We could not miss this opportunity to come and say enough is enough," she said.
Last November, President Paul Biya declared war on people he called secessionists after armed men attacked and killed two policemen in English-speaking southwestern Cameroon.
The government of Cameroon reports that about 200 civilians and more than a hundred soldiers and policemen have been killed since then.
Ernestine Mbah, who fled from the northwestern town of Batibo, says she has lost her husband and two children in the war. She says she is taking part in the march to let the government know that when the military burns houses and businesses, youths are radicalized and escape to the bushes where they join armed fighters.
"In old times that I was a child, we used to live in peace, we used to share together, we used to talk," she said. "What is happening? Whatsoever thing, whatsoever devil that is coming into their hearts please let us stop and make peace. If we humble ourselves God is going to give us our heart desires. I plead for peace, I plead for love."
In June, rights group Amnesty International accused Cameroon's government of using unnecessary and excessive force that frequently placed civilians in the path of violence. The government said the report was biased and denied using excessive force.
The crisis in Cameroon's two English speaking regions started out as a protest against marginalization by French speakers who constitute a majority in central African country.
Some French-speaking Cameroonians joined in on Sunday's march.
Marie Menanga, a Yaounde resident who is housing three people displaced by the fighting, says she wants the government to declare a ceasefire and stop what she describes as a senseless war.
She says armed separatists should also drop their weapons.
She says no woman who is normal and who kept a pregnancy for nine months and went through labor pains will want to see her child or children killed in a senseless war. She says every one should drop their weapons and come out of the bushes because the best gift of live is love and peace.
The United Nations reports that about 200,000 people have been internally displaced and tens of thousands have fled across to Nigeria for safety since the fighting began.