Any message to be taken back by Arch Bishop Samuel Kleda after visiting in the Southern Cameroons? Come on let’s peep into the envelop.
Since October 2016 the English speaking part of Cameroon (West Cameroon/Southern Cameroon which constitutes the North West and South West Regions) has been in for a nonviolent civil strike action which was initiated by the Common Law Lawyers and later gained much energy when the Teachers Trade Unions lent their support to the struggle. This strike action is what is commonly called “The Anglophone Problem” in Cameroon
It is six months plus since the struggle began. During this time a number of persons including the prime minister, Philemon Yang, and a host of ministers have been to that part of the country to calm the unrest. A number of promises have been made by the government to address the situation but have fallen on deaf ears.
This week saw another delagation. This time around a delegation of church ministers of the Roman Catholic Church led by the Arch Bishop of Douala and President of the National Espiscopal Conference in Cameroon, Samuel Kleda, paid visits to the different diocesses of the Bamenda Ecclessiastical Province, with the exception of the Diocese of Kumbo, in an attempt to get Catholic schools which have been closed since four months ago as a consequence of the strike action to reopen.
The Arch Bishop Samuel Kleda and his team wrapped up their visit yesterday in Bamenda. After following through with the delegation’s tour, one of the Roman Catholic priests, Rev. Father Gerald Jumbam resolved to pen the letter below to express his thoughts on the struggle and the mission of the Arch Bishop Samuel Kleda’s visiting team. The letter is here reproduced unaltered.
AN OPEN LETTER FROM FATER GERALD TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF CAMEROON (NECC) – Archbishop Samuel KLEDA
When I yielded to the earnest desire within me that I should write you, a friend encouraged me to do so. I consented with something of the reluctance which I developed when I thought of the huge and exalted task of writing you. I rejected the thought of writing. After a little moment, I went on deep thought, meditation and personal prayer about this issue. When I felt the call, I held my pen and began writing until I arrived at this letter before you. It may happen to some persons to feel surprised that it is a priest who is writing an Archbishop. I do so with the happiness and conviction of speaking my own mind, in conscience, about a situation which touches us all in Cameroon. These are my own thoughts and solutions to our recent predicament – welling from unshakeable convictions. I have written them freely without coercion from anyone but only being guided by my conscience – a small voice telling me, ‘Gerald tell the archbishop and the world your own convictions about the crisis bedeviling your homeland. Do so freely without any fear knowing that you and the Archbishop are just citizens and Christians seeking to know and serve God’. It is this voice in me that has enabled me send you this letter in its entirety and helping the world also – by addressing it an open letter – to learn from its ideas. I am happy to embrace this challenge.
I wish to begin straight away by informing Your Grace of the raison d’être of my letter. I share the conviction of the Cameroonian who has recently commented about your letter that “It is discernible from an anxious reading of the first letter of the Bishops of Cameroon, that of the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda and the present letter of the Bishops of Cameroon that the latest letter of the Bishops of Cameroon is actuated by political rather than Christian motivations.” To me the tone and spirit of your recent letter is not only Pontius Pilating your brother bishops of the Southern Cameroons, but the silence over what you were supposed to have done and have not done, is an impeachment of your brother bishops West of the Mungo. What were you supposed to do? I fear to expose my own ignorance of Episcopal policies and proceedings, but I had thought that as leaders who feel for their suffering brothers of English speaking Cameroon, you bishops of French speaking Cameroon would write a public letter condemning the act of taking whole bishops to court. We know who is behind these things; not so Archbishop? Why are we pretending to call a spade a spade when we have been given the mandate as Apostles of Jesus (who is The Truth) to defend the truth even on to the cross. To me it has been a betrayal which the Church leaders of East Cameroon ought to hang their heads in ashamed.
Your silence has given the impression that the Bishops of our Church province have been disobedient to the country. Our Bishops have not been unfaithful to the State. They have been united to the State very much like a believing wife to a husband who is about to commit suicide and so as a Christian wife holding to the relationship, the Bishops have struggled recently to save not themselves, but the government from the crime of political apostasy.
We of the Southern Cameroons, if we act consistently with our history, we cannot be loyal subjects to the despicable and tyrannous Yaoundé government. Archbishop, you speak of Decentralization and you offer us it as the best gift you think fitting for the resolution of this crisis? We are determined to decline a gift so laden with spurious promises and deceitful propensities. And who can blame us for so doing? Who should be surprised that Yaoundé would still do to Buea what it did after the Foumban constitutional conference of 1961 – turn traitor to the very constitution that bound them together as brothers with two equal strengths (and not that spurious decentralization you are talking about that wants to equate Buea with Garoua as if you do not know that Buea is the capital of a country and Garoua is a mere region of another country) or turn Cain against his brother Abel by killing everything we (Abel) had as culture, economy, jurisprudence, education, politics, military etc. The Church is the joy and happiness of all of us, and therefore, when justice cries out as it did in the Southern Cameroons (with rapes and killings and abductions and military bestiality over defenseless civilians), it is the duty of the Bishops to speak out loud for the poor and the underprivileged. You spoke but we never got that loudness and that weak voice gave the Yaoundé political cabal encouragement to go ahead. Our Bishops of the Southern Cameroons took the bull by the horns and spoken out loud for the poor and used history, scriptures and the Church’s social teachings to state their case because they love the Church which is people and not money.
The world of politics has its own logic and truth that brooks no breaking. One of them is that of nemesis – that any despotism that goes up would come down. Yaoundé has perpetuated that tyranny on Buea and that tyranny is about to have its nemesis. Remember history – that there are two states in Cameroon represented by Yaoundé and Buea. That is why I will always equate the two capitals for that is how it was supposed to be.
I wish to let you know something of the people of the Southern Cameroons which many French Speaking Cameroonians seem to be ignorant of. They are people who do not distinguish between their love of country and their love of the Church. They love those two things with their whole hearts. Their patriotism is ethical, concrete, and religiously dutiful – reason why your brother bishops of Southern Cameroons (in the example of that pragmatic culture) have spoken for their subjugated and dispossessed people against such a stinking political tyranny as Biya’s. That is why though many from East Cameroon are comfortable with the atheistic political system glorifyingly baptizedlaicite, it has been scandal of the highest order to the religious sensitivity of Southern Cameroons who like true Africans (and tinged by Anglicanism’s reverence for God and respect for the Monarch) believe that without God and indigenous culture life is impossible. We know very well that this atheism we see in Cameron politics is not from your own ancestors but it is borrowed from France. The people East of the Mungo have been educated in Gallican opinions. We of the West have been educated in Anglican opinions. The respect of each other’s opinions from those educational systems have been what La republique du Cameroun has deprived us of, and it pains us to the marrow. That is why our teachers and lawyers took to the streets to peacefully demonstrate their anger and protest against an evil system. They were met with an autocratic response by a government you fear to criticize.
The Testimony of Early Church History
To explain my case I make the first century of the Church my special model; It was a virgin Church, yet, a period afflicted by the political autocracy of the Roman empire and its emperors. When Emperors Decius and Diocletian slaughtered thousands of Christians because they stood for truth, the Christian family stood courageously strong against that political cruelty. Both bishops and laity were one against such political tyranny in the example of the Bishops of Southern Cameroons with their maligned flock. They publicly and formally abjured to worship the gods of the Roman empire’s totalitarianism. The picture is what is happening today in our land the Southern Cameroons by the colonial emperors of La Republique du Cameroun. St. Athanasius as a result would go on exile and St Chrysostom would be sent off to Cucusus to be worried to death by an empress. St. Ignatius of Antioch would be arrested by the political authorities and taken to Rome to be given to wild beasts to eat him up because of the Truth. And that is why I am angry with the behavior of the Bishops of Southern Cameroons to have allowed you walk around doing what you are doing and giving the impression like they have no authority over their jurisdictions as full consecrated bishops of Local Sees of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. If the governance of that Church called Cameroon is beyond your governance, the best thing is to inform the Pope to send a Vatican delegate to do that job. I feel your going round Southern Cameroons for such an exercise is the unwisest thing the Bishops of that Church province have allowed to happen in recent times.
Good Shepherds lay Life for Flock
Times like this are dangerous times. Times when our future is decide by a clay footed political clique that has bastardized the fortunes of the British Cameroons to a shambolic muddle. Sacred altars have been desecrated. For if we are to score the Church leadership performance in these times, it will be clear to all that the tail has been wagging the dog.
In moral and spiritual terms, much has been given to religious leadership, and much is expect of her. That is why the tenacity and integrity that Christian giants like Cardinal Christian Tumi and Cardinal Albert Malula, Mgr. Oscar Romero and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have mustered in the world, take us back to the visionary words of President John F. Kennedy:
Of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment of each of us…recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state…our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answer to four questions:
Were we truly men of courage…
Were we truly men of judgment…
Were we truly men of integrity…
Were we truly men of dedication…
With the towering paradigm of Pope Francis in recent times, the world correctly recognizes that Christianity has the potential to lead the way as champion of mores and faith. Perhaps it would be much truer in the Cameroon context. However, the current Catholic national leadership certainly has not lived up to its possibilities, for the most part because the majority of its bishops have been intimidated into silence and inactivity. A Bayangi proverb goes that, “a man who cannot challenge what is wrong is not better than a corpse”. We are living in times where our political and spiritual shepherds have been found wanting in challenging falsehood, and therefore Cameroon has turned in to a graveyard, a cemetery of silence in the face of blatant half-truths, divide-and-rule tactics, flagrant disrespect of human rights, mass abductions and killings.The National Episcopal Council (NEC) has been silent because it concerns the British Cameroons. Though it is disgraceful, we thank them. We thank them for the powerful memento sent to the world that there are two countries in this country. It reminds us of the evil of silence before evil.
We know very well that when theNational Episcopal Council (NECC) speaks out, it is listened to by the political powers in Cameroon. When tinged by the inspiration and endorsement of Cardinal Christian Tumi in 2000, the NECC spoke against the canker warm of bribery and corruption. The whole world listened and the government of Cameroon adjusted. Those were prophetic times for the clergy. Spiritual leaders the world over are always pace-setters; their intervention on socio-political disasters has always been prototypical, precisely because it sets the tyrants quaking. With the retirement and deaths among your circles, of names like Ndongmo, Tumi, Etoga, Wouking, Verdzekov, Awah, the national Episcopal Council all this while has been a sleeping bag. Today, NEC has been a fiasco, if we must speak the truth.
Cameroon should be courageous to accept they are flawed and stop blaming France or Britain. The Bribery and corruption that we have been African champions for more than a decade, is self-inflicted. Bribery and corruption are a moral and spiritual problem. And therefore the moral and spiritual authorities are to blame. If the Church truly cared for its members, the problem will not be happening every now and then. And the oppressed people of British Cameroons are undergoing something of a genocide now because the National Episcopal Council (NEC) is on holidays, and the world knows that too well.
We know what the bishops of the British Cameroons have gone through from the national episcopacy because they kicked up the storm in the daring letter they wrote (despite earlier hesitations) not because they were hoping the leadership of NEC would notice, but precisely because they knew that with the 2016-2017 NEC leadership in charge, every raped, maimed and unjustly imprisoned British Cameroonian might as well add NEC to their laundry list of Do-It-Yourself. The bishops of the British Cameroons came up with another communiqué by the very to the effect that they have not closed down their schools and that they are waiting for the Catholic pupils and students to return to school. But right up till now, the pupils and students have not returned, meaning that the parents have lost faith in the Church’s hierarchy. It is precisely because the Cameroon National Church lacks the courage to support what is right that people are going their own sweet ways. Is it asking too much from Church leaders to say good shepherds must lay life for flock?
The Writing is on the Wall
If situations were still as they used to be (by bishops not being able to be taken to court in the face of a pernicious silence demonstrated by their brother bishops), I would not hold my pen to write you and I would not have the heart to write this letter to so high an authority as you. Your public silence on the matter of the Bishops of our Church Province being taken to court has provoked this letter from a priest of the Church you belong. We are not unmindful of the history of La Republique du Cameroun when it concerns bishops betraying bishops.In fact, if those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, the Christian who is ignorant of what role the Cameroon Church has played in the governing of Cameroon is even less fortunate. And the metaphor of Bishop Albert Ndongmo’s life is the one great example. Albert Ndongmo was Bishop of Nkongsamba, born to a Christian family of La Republique du Cameroun. His statements on political subjects earned him the hostility of others in the Church as well as of the government. But the best statement about the life of this Oscar Romero of Africa came from the pen of none other than the revered Albert Womah Mukong:
Bishop Ndongmo understood those fellows and treated them as they deserved…A lot of rubbish was spread round about him then girls whom he had helped were brought there as his collaborators in crime. They were declared his girl-friends and even dirty pictures of him and one Marie Bella were produced which a criminally minded and gullible audience accepted without asking this simple question: how many respectable people in the community would ever degenerate to taking photographs of this act, how much more a highly respectable member of the clergy? Perhaps his brother, Bishop Jean Zoa, believed in those things, for neither in the BMM nor in the Tchollire days did he ever visit his brother nor did he send him any material or financial help.
The comment above about Bishop Jean Zoa puts me in pain, so much pain because it is Albert Mukong recounting this story in a book and not just an essay. Albert Mukong is a respectable man in our parts of the world, and if you count three most highly regarded human right activists in our country he must fall among them. Consequently, there is truth in Mukong’s Zoa-Ndongmostory above. The story above tells us how the bishops allowed their brother into the hands of the ruthless political psychopath that was Amadou Ahidjo. It is a story of backstabbing and betrayal among religious leaders.
That is why I say perhaps the Bishop Jean Zoa cooperation with the Ammadu Ahidjo tyranny against his fellow brother Bishop Albert Ndongmo (recorded in the book above-mentioned) is a powerful metaphor of what is happening in the Cameroon episcopate today.
“Shweri yii shaa baa yen kinyi ke ngwev” as the Nso would advise you in our rich language. The wind has blown away the feathers to expose the anus of the fowl. The Ndongmo-Zoa story is a mesmerizing eye-opener, a revelation and the wind that did blow to remind me and any other clergyman under affliction in our country that you will suffer alone when trouble comes. When the Bishops of La Republique rejected and abandoned their brother Bishop Ndongmo into the hands of tyrant Amadou Ahidjo, was it not our Bishops of Southern Cameroons through the instrumentality of Mgr. Peeters that consoled Ndongmo and stood by him and even got a lawyer for him from the Southern Cameroons? So I expected from you the Bishop of East Cameroon this time to do to the Bishops of West Cameroon what Mgr. Peeters in a Christlike fashion did to Albert Ndongmo of East Cameroon . But recently you have failed us woefully.
There is a Country
“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.”, Desmond Tutu
Your Grace, I have thought long and hard about my place in the plight of my native land and I find myself writing about what I have never written before. The right time for it has come. The story I am to tell. The story is: I am of the British Cameroons. Proud and unashamed. I am composed, a composed British Cameroon priest and glad I am. I say that the British Cameroons is part of my story, part of who I am. Its colonial character is what my countrymen and I have assumed for over a century. We are tired. It was time I come out from the security of the sacred sacristy to the market place of concrete truth and public debate. It was time I come out from quiet to tell those who still doubt, the justice of a State meriting restoration, of course, Independence. The British Cameroons. But it is just one part of my life: I am a human being. My village is the world.
By all means, Christianity loathes violence, attends to the poor, defends the oppressed, embraces peace, esteems the dignity of each human person. These are ideals espoused by the cause for the restoration of the sovereignty of the British Cameroons. Most likely there will be people with personal cruel agendas. The British Cameroonians have been Mahatma Ghandis. Contrariwise, the ruthlessness of their oppressors, has been registered by the high court of history as they callously emit cruelty on peace loving peoples:
Buea/Bamenda, tell me, is this you, this back that is bent,
This back that breaks under the weight of humiliation,
This back trembling with red scars
And saying yes to the whip under the midday sun?
But a grave voice answers me:
Impetuous son, that tree young and strong,
That tree over there
In splendid loneliness amidst white and faded flowers,
That is Buea/Bamenda,
That grows again patiently, obstinately…
The words of the Cameroonian poet comes down to us, warm with weight and wisdom. This adapted version of David Diop’s poem ‘Africa’, addresses Bamenda and Buea. Darkness has descended on the British Cameroons in the killings, imprisonments, abductions, rapes, graves of mass burials and maim. Bamenda/Buea is facing viral alteration of psychic conditioning. In this state of affairs, silence is criminal. The sense of urgency has lagged so much that a month ago I lost my anger on a letter to a compatriot invading media space with the banner, screaming: Homecoming or Homegoing – the Southern Cameroons! It is a wakeup call no more on failed internal religious and political bodies, but on Britain and International Human rights institutions and activists, not to delay, because what happened in Rwanda is at our doors. AU and UNO look up and act! UK look up and speak!
The urgency of speaking for despoiled peoples is so felt that I don’t really care if this anger breaks the bounds of office. How could it be when a priest is first and foremost a citizen. He owes his community a contribution to its wellbeing for his upbringing. He serves God and recognizes that the cry of the powerless and the voice of the voiceless is the cry and the voice of God. Vox populi vox Dei. Anna Quindlen, said: “Look back, to slavery, to suffrage, to integration and one thing is clear. Fashions in bigotry come and go. The right thing lasts.” God lasts. Independence lasts.
The Church teaches its leaders a preferential option for the dispossessed, for the hoi polloi. Before someone points the finger at me that I am taking the role of Pope to lay down ways a priest should live today, let me say that I do feel Christian ethics and the Holy Bible would be unambiguous that the priest takes sides with the subjugated. Evidently there is no moral compulsion as pastor to pasture the flock in a particular way. But there is, I believe, a moral obligation as a priest, not to allow oneself be used by tyrants to perpetrate spurious propagandas against the defenseless. A clergyman, in my definition of that office, would not be someone who takes sides with colonial governors against the oppressed. I strongly believe that a priest worthy of the name, should go ahead and dare those forces –morally, nonviolently and with determination – that keep millions of constituted people caged in a cruelty so dehumanizing as the yoke over the British Cameroons, our native land. This because, someday history will disclose to him that those who took courage to work for their mother country, those who spoke for the speechless, those who stood for justice, those who listened attentively to the cry of the oppressed, and those who championed the cause for the non-violently restoration of the sovereignty of a nation, have been champions of whom all upcoming epochs will be proud.
Your Grace, The cause for the restoration of the sovereignty of the British Cameroons is a one built on a big idea supported by legality. You don’t kill an idea with the bullet or prison cells. It is established on a winning banner that debate is stronger than the gun. The power of debate and not the debate of power. This power of debate and legality convinces us beyond all doubt that there is a country.
I look out of myself into the struggle of our cause and I see a sight which fills me with appalling sorrow. The ignorance of those who don’t see it coming, who don’t see the plain truth of which my whole being is full. There are two alternatives – the way to Southern Cameroons, and the way to la Republique. Federation is the halfway house on the one side, and New Deal decentralization is the halfway house on the other. I have been gravely disappointed with the federalists (the moderates). ‘Shallow understanding’, says Martin Luther King, ‘from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of bad will’; that is why the British Cameroon’s greatest obstacle in the walk towards independence is not even La Republique’s CPDM or Mgr. Kledda’s Decentralization, but the federalists. Federalists are cowards standing on the fence – neither cold nor hot. They have left substance to pursue shadows. The federalists do not know that it is their presence which is the triumph of the oppressor; it is the sight of them which is the Southern Cameroon’s confusion and helplessness. Our oracle of truth is independence, and it looms high and has a reality, and its “Truth can fight its battle. It has a reality in it, which shivers to pieces swords of earth.” When we are skilled enough to dance truth’s music, that truth will set us free. Truth be told: our miseries as a people would accumulate from leaders being afraid to look difficulties in the face, palliate falsehoods which they should denounce and expect truths to spring from fabrications. I speak most earnestly when I say that our great reawakening like great Achilles, has the soft spot of ignorance – ignorance of who our opponent truly is. When we begin to see, all and sundry, that the issue at stake is Independence, we would notice that the enemy is not Paul Biya, but the structures put in place for a Paul Biya (or any otherla Republique party chairman like Ni John Fru Ndi ) to cage us inside this prison of despicability forever.
The cause we are undertaking is (to use the words of St. Augustine), “an abyss so deep as to be hidden from him in whom it is”. Many have only hints and glimpse of what it truly is. It is a herculean task. But it is hallowed by God and no one has to be afraid. Is it too difficult to realize that a constituted people are deprived of sovereign air and autonomous space in the 21stcentury? Is it too difficult to realize that they are bent and determined on anything to see their goal attained? The good news is that we speak with one voice, thrash out disharmony. It is good news. The British Cameroons’ struggle, its most significant quality is the re-opening of topics politicians of doom have tried to close down since the rain started beating us. It is a breath of fresh air we should be proud of, to stand tall and speak out, and speak out for future generations. I am comfortable to cross the red sea with a Moses. It may come out tough, yet there is no complexity that can’t be worked out with a good crack of Kolanuts, in the mouth. Kolanut in our traditions is symbol of integrity, symbol of unity, symbol of life, symbol of love, symbol of strength, symbol of sovereignty.
The Magna Carta of Liberation
Your Grace, Mahatma Gandhi once spoke disapprovingly of the followers of Christ when he read the Beatitudes. He said he was charmed by the magic Christ’s words held, and therefore he loved Jesus. He could, but he would not be Christian. Christians in India discouraged him. They did not practice Christ’s beatitudes, and so, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ, ” Gandhi exclaimed. The beatitudes are the secret keys to the Promised Land. They are the magna carta of liberation. The beatitudes are self-determination. Self-determination championed by the poor, the meek, the weak, the humble, the voiceless, the persecuted, the upright, beside us: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill’ (Matthew 5:6). Blessed is the British Cameroons under colonial yoke, they shall have their independence restored to them.
Choose what you like, but you can’t open eyes and not see the valley of tears of our people and their quandary in a despicable CameroonNew Deal apartheid cage. It takes faith to keep their spirits afloat. And what is faith? Faith is a simple ‘yes’ to my heart and my conscience. Faith is Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.” Faith is Patrice Lumumba guillotined for an embattled continent. It is Nelson Mandela’s “if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. It is the British Cameroons’ “enough is enough”. It is a sweet kiss whistled on the lips of a fatherland in the restoration of its Independence.
There is a mustard seed that is deep in the heart of every human being. It is faith. “Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-10). Let us believe without seeing, and sing when our voices are cracked, and move to victory. And were your faith the size of Mount Fako, you will tell the mountain to move and plant itself in Ndop Plains, and it will do!
Criminals Without Crime
Our people say that when the mouse laughs at the cat, there is a hole nearby. That hole for us is God. We are fighting a battle of the oppressed and God has never failed underprivileged peoples. Sometime ago, I arrived at a motto of life which I like to remodel once more and bring to use: “You only Live Once”. Then some weeks ago I shared with a priest-friend, this good news of a rule in my life. The gentleman laughed. He asked me and I gave him the reason for such a pledge. I said I find it atrocious that poverty has been death penalty passed on the crimeless people of the British Cameroons. Criminals without crime!
Your Grace, there is a recent story of two girl friends, one Bafia(French Cameroon) another Babungo(the British Cameroons) who congregated along buyamsellam lines in Bamenda food market and after petty gossips of what caused the wild fire that consumed the market, they landed on the following informative discussion:
“A young man is suffering terribly in jail in Kondengui, my boy-friend” Babungo said. “It is the right thing for him. Are you for the restoration of Southern Cameroons independence?” Bafia intervened.
Babungo seems startled “of course”.
“You Francophones” she continued. “You’re so lucky to be free: free internet, free boyfriends, free husbands, free children, free people. But living in the British Cameroons, it’s impossible to escape brutality, it hangs in the air.”
“You can’t really blame the air for brutality” Bafia cuts in. “The brutality is generated by you Anglos. 55 years under domination, for nothing, for not taking your destiny into your hands. That’s quite a prison sentence!” And that is the word: prison sentence. crimeless criminals serving prison sentences. But the rumbling of the people’s anger is on.
I tell this story to say that it has reached a level where we have to dream our own dreams, live our own views, believe our own beliefs, and do so with dignity. On the recent imprisonments without crime of the cream of our native land, it is difficult to comprehend. But let us be consoled by the brave Martin Luther King Jr. : “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” Let this be known: arrests of freedom fighters is an advantage. It hastens freedom. Christ was arrested. The apostles were arrested, but sang alleluias in prison cells and bamboozled their oppressors to shock. They knew, as I know today, they only live once. The imprisonment of our leaders is a warning: freedom is important but fragile. Sovereignty and liberation are won at great price. We must guard our liberty stance like egg and not allow the British Cameroons’ non-violent revolution be hijacked by exploiters of popular anger. The problem is not Paul Biya, neither is it the military all over our land. It is disunity planted by those who enjoy the flesh pots of Yaoundé and won’t move an eye for a united moral force against a communal threat. But the poor masses are wiser than power seekers know. When the anger of Mount Fako’s Chariot of God and the Holy Ghost of the Kilum hills will rise! (The time is near):
You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
Your Grace, it was devastating as it was aching for me to find la Republique du Cameroun declared in the Vatican among peace loving nations in the mouth of Paul Biya – even though Pope Francis knows. His visit to the Vatican may be difficult to describe only to jaded viewers. It was a masquerade that deceived only the stupid people who give themselves to be mislead by such aimless travesty. This president is not unfamiliar with these apparatus of mass deception he has applied on subjugated peoples for over three decades. His blood-colored track record of brutal killings and unjust incarcerations is well-known to the high court of history except to the leaders of the National Episcopal Council of Cameroon. Talk less of the recent genocide he is perpetuated in the British Cameroons. The whole national edifice has been sanguinary taking into consideration that he inherited the same heritage from a brutal warlord of a president, Ahmadou Ahidjo. The British Cameroonians have turned refugees in their own nation. It is this decadent model of authority that has characterized us since 1961 that we must interrogate.
In a nation where silliness is given a standing ovation and fools ride on royal horses, a sell out like PM Philemon Yang who shamelessly takes himself a dishonorable recent trip around the North West, should be taken critically. Cameroon’s false impression of greatness and self-styled portrayal as the island of peace in a sea of troubled Africa has been exposed for what it truly is. The Internet blockage and the mass abduction of the British Cameroonians to Yaoundé by the republican forces of lawlessness and disorder, expose them as a flimsy country pretending to be tough. Our people say that there is no greater injustice than when anus farts, head receives a knock. The tyrant who is oppressor has engaged in placating international eyes that he is the oppressed. What a shame!
The heart of our people is bleeding. They are carted like cattle in groves into prison yards away from homeland to Yaoundé. In a country where you are arrested because you are poor, in a country where you go to prison because you have no godfather to back you up, in country where you are put behind bars because you stand for justice and freedom – in such a country, good men must rise up to say Enough is Enough.
Now that the shambolic regime is abducting our strong men, how do we gain patience when we are challenged by hurtful things? How do we pick up patience when a villain has cut the throat of a beloved, when a loved one has been raped from life by impious brutes? The undisclosed trick is to busy yourself with some other thing in the period in-between. Gandhi said “If patience is worth anything it must endure to the end of time.” Patience is protest in non-violence. Patience is Mahatma Gandhi’s “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Many people gamble with their lives. They take disasters for wives or husbands because of lack of some little patience. And they pay for it when the mask falls off. Patience is faith in a journey fraught with dejection but rewarding still. Once patience goes, everything goes. It might take a day, it might take a year, it might take a decade, what will be will be. So be patient. ”Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon.“ (James: 5:7-10). One patient pause in ill-tempered times can save us painful apologies after. Organization is patience. Patience in other words is stock-taking. Patience is telling the tyrant NO, and giving time waiting to gain breathe, to build other strategies in the darkness of the cause. It is victory when it looks like defeat. Courage is patience. Leadership is patience. Truth is patience. Integrity is patience. Freedom is patience. Ma pipol, mumu don do. A mumurised people are doomed forever. We tried. Your Grace, we tried. We tried. We are tired. Patience is enough-is-enough. The danger signals are enough. UNO, AU, UK, act now or never! A stitch in time saves nine.
Your Grace, I wish to conclude here by saying that the capacity for self-determination is Christian. No one can conquer the British Cameroons. You can’t extinguish the fire that led our forbears out of Nigeria. That fire burns. If our effort is not enough to win the battle, our children will win it with better effort. But it shall not be postponed this time around. And yet, the cry of the agonizing British Cameroonian has fallen on deaf ears around the globe. For them, the pogrom in the British Cameroons is only some localized problem. The abductions and butchery of humans are hidden, ill-reported. Along with the nonstop infiltration of our land with armed killer squads and military bastards criminally excused from any probe, query or answerability, we are witnessing an experiment with “ethnic cleansing” authorized and sustained by the French Cameroon psychopath, Paul Biya. Strange that those that obtain the just publicity of terror in our land, are only the French Cameroons controlled media. A military selected for the assignment of absolute “pacification” of the British Cameroons is doing its work unopposed. Where is Britain’s assuagement in this matter? It is impossible to believe these things are happening under the nose of international human right bodies and the silence of Great Britain in this carnage in its trusteeship territory it sacrificed its independence in the altar of De Gaullism.
The fortunate have been able to break through this militarized and ignominious iron curtain with freedom songs in foreign lands. The rest back home have been blocked from internet use and therefore have had for about 93 days no media through which to inform the world’s people of goodwill of the shocking evils each day exacted on their British Cameroon compatriots. Alas, we have eaten the bitter fruit of blind compromises made with boorish neighbors. We have learnt from this concubinage with Cain, that he who keeps a scorpion in his pocket must constantly watch his groin and he who inherits a cobra should know a cobra is not a pet. The lesson is learnt once and for all.
Your Grace, because we are commissioned to preach “the good news to the poor… announce release to the prisoners and … to set oppressed people free”(Luke 4:18), I will do all it takes. I will comfort the powerless people. I will pull them out of the affliction of so painful a colonial yoke. The world must hear their story through me. There has never been a time like this fitting for this challenge. My defense for a fatherland is put on this context. In fact, preaching to empty stomachs without showing them how to come out of misery is as worthless as saying Mass to dogs. Go grant them the secrets to improve on their standards of living and conscientization to bring down the tyrant who has held their progress hostage. Go tell it on the mountain that injustice has been practiced on depraved peoples for the whole length of fifty-six years.
Of course, Amos’ denunciation of social injustices quickly puts the poor in perspective: “Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country” (Amos 8:4-7). Archbishop Desmond Tutu is told to have said that when the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “let us close our eyes and pray.” When we opened them, we had the Bible, and they had the land. This may not have exactly been true but there is some grain of truth in it when we consider the type of doctrinal material we got from missionary pulpits in those days and how all wealth was bad. That Christians should have nothing to do with the things of the earth. Abandoning their lands and properties to gain passport to Heaven. That is bad and dangerous theology. Here is the type of theology that impoverished our people. They gave up their lands and forests and mines and best places in cities to imperialists and ended up empty. Churches, mosques and synagogues should be careful. Religion has sometimes been used to impoverish the already despicable situation of poor people. What I mean here is the social doctrine of the Church. And where Christianity stands there is Self-Determination.
Your Grace, you may wonder why such an important letter like this to such a respected personality like you was not written in French for your personal benefit and the rest of the Cameroon Francophone episcopate. The simple reason is that English is the language that the British taught their colonial subjects in the British Cameroons. And so I want to ask Your Grace, what France and her subjects are doing in a British colony at this time in history? Would it not sound strange if for instance the people of the British Cameroons moved to neighboring Equatorial Guinea and were asking in English the people of Equatorial Guinea to accept the British Cameroons control of their territory when everybody in Equatorial Guinea knows that Britain was not their colonial master?
Accept then, Your Grace, the expression of my gratitude for taking time to go through this message from the pen of a priest of the Church which you are Bishop.
Fr. Gerald Jumbam