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Whose View Do The Bishops Of Cameroon Reflect? 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

Bishops

hopsThe Anglophone Crisis has left many astounded and many more adding their voices to the plight of the minority group in Cameroon. The Bishops are no exception to this crisis which has more or less demobilized normal businesses in the two Anglophone regions.

Recently, Bishops under the banner of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, NECC, released a communiqué on “the situation in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon”.

The letter was signed by the President of NECC, Mgr. Samuel Kléda, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Douala in Yaounde on April 29, and issued on the last day of the Plenary Assembly which the Bishops held in Yaounde from April 23-29.

As regards education, the Bishops reaffirmed that it is the integral part of the mission of the Church, as mother and educator.

“We uphold the inalienable rights of education for all human beings. We invite parents, therefore, to take responsibility for letting the children go to school in order to give them the chance to plan their future.

We call on the State to guarantee the necessary security conditions for school activities and to take special measures to provide subsidies and to alleviate the fiscal charges and their taxes which weigh heavily on the schools since the beginning of the crisis”.

The Catholic Bishops went on to appeal that “lectures be resumed in all primary schools, secondary schools, and university establishments” in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

They also condemned as inappropriate and unproductive the controversial decision by a so-called consortium of parents to drag Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda to court.

As for the Anglophone crisis, the Bishops still stressed the importance of peaceful resolution of conflicts or disputes through dialogue, and strongly condemned violence in all its forms.

They called for an end to strikes, ghost town and harassments, and also that “the destiny of detainees be clarified according to appropriate judicial procedure”.

The Bishops also prayed “that negotiations intensify and accelerate so that urgent answers should be given to the problems posed by lawyers in particular, and on the other hand, respect of the constitution, the acceleration of decentralisation and a guarantee of the security of citizens by the forces of law and order.”

Despite all these proclamations, there remain a number of puzzling points lingering between the lines in the Message of the Bishops of Cameroon.

In an interview which Mgr. Samuel Kléda granted as an individual to the French language daily, La Nouvelle Expression, on April 10, one is left with the feeling that the position of NECC reflects the views of its President.

Mgr. Kléda in the interview evaded talking about education although he reacted to other important issues related to the Anglophone Crisis. For example, he emphasised the importance of dialogue in conflict resolution.

The Archbishop chided the Government for abandoning dialogue which it started with Anglophone leaders, and urged that all the parties should return to the table.

Mgr. Kléda, however, failed to call for the release of Anglophones detained in relation to the Anglophone Crisis, which is what Anglophones have been demanding as a major condition for schools to effectively resume and for lawyers to resume work.

The legitimate Anglophone leaders that the Government started discussing with before abandoning the course of dialogue were members of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium.

When Government abandoned dialogue with the Anglophone leaders in January, the Consortium was banned and its President, Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla, and its Secretary General, Dr. Fontem Neba, were immediately arrested and whisked off to Kondengui Prison in Yaounde.

So it is difficult to understand how both the President of the NECC and the Bishops of Cameroon who all stressed the importance of dialogue in resolving the Anglophone Crisis, and even urged the parties to go back to the table, but would not appeal for the release of the incarcerated Anglophone leaders.

No To Federalism!

Meanwhile, according to the document, the Bishops of Cameroon declared for decentralisation instead of federalism.

In his interview, Kleda had also minced no words that he is for decentralisation and not for federalism. He went on to call on the authorities to speed up the decentralisation process which is being implemented at snail place.

He noted that the Law on Decentralisation was passed in 2004 and regretted that over a decade later, Cameroon is still waiting for real decentralisation.

On the other hand, it is no secret that the Anglophones have been clarmouring for a return to a two-state federation as the only guarantee against their marginalisation. But it is unfortunate that in Cameroon even the President of NECC and the Bishops of Cameroon are against federalism.

There are indications that the ‘Message of the Catholic Bishops of Cameroon’ does not really reflect the position of the Catholic Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda.

With the majority of Bishops in the country being Francophones, one can imagine what happened to the views of Anglophone Bishops related to the ongoing Anglophone Crisis at the 42nd Plenary Assembly of Cameroon Bishops.

It is difficult to see how the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda that include the Archbishop of Bamenda, Mgr. Cornelius Fontem Esua, the Bishop of Mamfe, Mgr, Andrew Nkea, the Bishop of Kumbo, Mgr. George Nkuo, the Bishop of Buea, Mgr. Immanuel Bushu, and the Bishop of Kumba, Mgr. Agapitus Nfon, would not have called for the release of the Anglophones detained in relation to the Anglophone Crisis.

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