Yaounde, 9 February 2019 – The Cameroon government has backed down from having a protracted diplomatic row with Israel.
On Monday, 5 February 2019, Cameroon’s minister of foreign affairs apologized publicly to Israel for statements made by the country’s Deputy Minister of Justice Jean de Dieu Momo made light of the Holocaust and of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.
Momo compared Cameroon’s majority ethnic group – the Bamilekes, accounting officially for over 14 percent of the 25 million inhabitants of the country – to Jews killed by Hitler in Nazi Germany.
Momo blamed the Jewish people who were mass slaughtered in Hitler’s gas chambers for being “arrogant” and “rich.
Four days after those comments were aired by state-owned Cameroon Radio Television on Friday, 1 February 2019, the Israeli embassy in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital, slammed Mono for justifying the Holocaust and called for a public apology.
“In Germany,” said Momo, “there was a race of very rich people. They had enormous economic power. And they were so arrogant that the German people felt a little nervous. Then one day, a certain Hitler came to power and put these peoples in gas chambers”.
In a statement the Israel embassy cited Momo as making “anti-Semitic comments”, regretting that they came barely a week after Cameroon joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Day for the Remembrance of the Holocaust. The Israeli embassy statement said the comments were “a big disappointment for bilateral relations between Cameroon and Israel.”
Later Monday, the government disassociated itself from Momo, saying he acted “on a strictly personal basis.”
“The government strongly deplores the irrelevant comments of the said personality and completely dissociates itself,” the statement added.
Yaounde explained that Cameroon’s minister of foreign affairs had already rendered sincere regrets of the government to the Ambassador of the State of Israel.
The Israeli statement and the response from the government of Cameroon failed to discuss or apologize for the fact that Momo also made light of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. He also elected to victimize the victims of mass atrocity crimes and gruesome rights violations committed in the 1990s by a government-funded militia belonging to Biya’s ethnic group.
Momo told tele-viewers that he was personally one of the victim of the militia, but instead chose during his television outing to warn his Bamileke brothers and sisters to know that if all were to be burnt down, they would lose the most.