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Coronavirus: Cameroonians defy prayer restrictions

Muslims in Cameroon have chosen to defy prayer restrictions set by the government to curb the novel coronavirus.

Muslims are protesting government restrictions on prayer attendance at mosques, imposed to reduce the spread of coronavirus, which has so far been confirmed in 92 people in less than a month.

When questioned, the Muslims said the government orders defies God’s teachings.

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Hundreds of Muslim faithful attended their Friday worship sessions in mosques throughout Cameroon despite the government order for prayers to be said at home and for numbers in worship houses to be limited.

As a sign to protest the orders, Muslims sat outside the mosque for 20 minutes.

The government assumes that those who protested are from central African state’s northern border with Nigeria.

In an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Cameroon on March 18 closed its borders and suspended issuance of visas into the country until further notice.

The central African state also closed all schools and asked Christians and Muslims to limit worship attendance and pray at home.

Koulanya Abo, 23, and a student said he went to the mosque in the town of Maroua in the Far North region of Cameroon to pray for Allah to rid the world of the disease.

“This is a time people have to go to the mosque and pray ceaselessly. Anything out of that will not be tolerated by Allah, because this is a period where people are facing a lot of difficulties due to the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19,” Abo said.

However, Bouba Bakary, the traditional leader and Muslim spiritual guide of Maroua, said that when he noticed resistance to the government order, he directed clerics under him to keep an eye on extremists.

He said he told the 1,200 imams and clerics under his authority that the measures taken by the government were aimed at saving their lives and protecting their communities from a deadly disease that has killed thousands of people all over the world.

He said there was a surprising amount of resistance, and he wanted the government to take further measures that would force the faithful to obey the instructions and at the same time maintain peace.
Bakary said he was also asking the government to use such local languages as Fulfulde and Haoussa to inform both clerics and the faithful who may not understand French that COVID-19 kills, and that the decision that people should stop crowding into mosques was made to save their lives.

Cameroonian Minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education Monouna Foutsou said the situation was very worrying.

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He has sent youths not only to the regions where there is resistance but all over Cameroon to inform civilians that they should abide by the measures or they will be punished.

He said President Paul Biya had instructed him to advise Cameroonians to be socially responsible, and he has dispatched youths to towns and villages with loudspeakers, flyers and banners to try to persuade the population to adhere to the lifesaving measures directed by the government.

Mr Biya said the government would not spare anyone who exhibited irresponsibility after the two-day education phase.

A crisis meeting was held at the Defense Ministry, where it was decided that the military would be deployed to areas where there is resistance.
The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Cameroon on February 6.

Health officials said that the number of confirmed cases had increased to 223.

Six people have died. 5 people have recovered.