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La Crosse groups to host town hall in response to sister city in crisis

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - La Crosse's sister city in West Central Africa is in crisis -- as members of the government and military are killing civilians. The conflict in Cameroon has caused millions of residents to need life-saving assistance, according to the United Nations.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and La Crosse's Friends of Cameroon are hosting a town hall to explain the conflict and its connection to our area. 

The conflict stems from the English-speaking parts of Cameroon wanting to have independence from the French-speaking majority of the country. 

"That's where the problem came from. There was no understanding. Because they were still trying to mix English regions and French regions," said Emmerensia Yenyeh, a Viterbo University student from Cameroon. 

A series of protests in 2016 brought the issue to a tipping point. 

"That was the first time that the government started killing the Anglophones from that peaceful demonstration," Yenyeh said. 

She's quick to point out that as she speaks, people are being arrested or fleeing for their lives. 

"It's three weeks that my godmother was being killed-- and my family I'm not [reaching] my family. They're hiding in the bush. I have not talked to my mom," Yenyeh said.

It may sound distant, like something you only see in movies or in the news.

"But the truth is to these people in the area around Kumbo that are suffering they are people that we have real connections to," said Mike Swenson, a member of the Friends of Cameroon.

For more than 20 years, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have had a mutual exchange with a congregation in the area. It's out of this exchange that Kumbo became a sister city in 2013. 

"Over the years, a number of students have come from Cameroon because of the Franciscan Sisters and studied at Viterbo and Western Technical College and then gone back to Cameroon to do work there," Swenson said.

It's the group's hope that people in the Coulee Region will come to the event to advocate for stability and peace in the country. The U.S. government has taken some steps in responding to this crisis. But they hope that people will learn the ways they can bring more attention to the issue. 

"La Crosse has always been a very caring community and this is an opportunity for people who are interested in global citizenship to be able to really help people who have really close connections to La Crosse," Swenson said.  

The town hall meeting and panel is open to the public. It will be held April 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cargill Room in La Crosse. You do not need to RSVP.

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