The National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon Bishops after holding a meeting last week in Yaounde, decided to embark on a mission to implement some key decisions arrived at during the gathering. These included mainly ensuring the resumption of schools in Anglophone regions where classrooms and court rooms have been closed for six months due to an on-going protest against inequalities.
We gathered in a bid to ensure the resumption of schools, the Bishops, led by Archbishop Samuel Kleda who chairs the Episcopal Conference, decided to visit the Dioceses of Buea, Kumba, Mamfe and Bamenda archdiocese.
Reports from the South West region say Archbishop Kleda’s mission to Buea on May 2 ended in a fiasco. He convened a meeting with all school administrators in the diocese and attempted to persuade them alongside the Bishop of Buea to call on parents to send their children back to school. We learned some attendees of the meeting insisted schools could resume only if all Anglophones arrested within the framework of the ongoing protest are released. The Buea school administrators rather added their voices to those of influential national and international institutions to propose frank dialogue as the way to go in finding lasting solutions to the crisis in the Anglophone regions.
The Bishop of Buea for his part, we learnt, reiterated that the decision to send children back to school is to be made by parents.
Though the head of the episcopal council and his suit advanced reasonable justifications for the strike to be called off, Mark Bareta, one of the activists spearheading the protests from abroad, insists the Bishops outing is not in the interests of the people.
It should be recalled that Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province (Anglophone Bishops) had issued a memo to President Biya at the beginning of the protests last year. The Memo justified the reasons for regional outcry and proposed a way forward. Today they have been dragged to court alongside other clergy from the Baptists and Presbyterian churches for allegedly supporting protesters.
Chief Charles A. Taku, Political analyst, says of the letter of the Bishops of Cameroon (written after last week’s meeting) is actuated by political rather than Christian motivations. “Their peers in the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province and a significant number of clerics from many denominations have contemporaneously denounced the ongoing egregious violations on armless citizens, the politicisation of military justice, the genocide, the cultural genocide and several international crimes that have shocked the conscience of humanity in the territory of the Southern Cameroons. These late and timid reactions exposes these prelates as shepherds that abandoned the flock in time of need;”he says.
The analysts says of the Bishops (predominantly francophones) who after the letter engaged in a ‘school resumption crusade’: By omission or by practicing the gospel of Pontius Pilate, they may by default be emboldening and strengthening the hand of tyranny. Their unfortunate ploy to balance their cursory concerns of the legally and morally unjustified use of excessive force by state actors who are bound by the Geneva Conventions (1949) to respect the sanctity of civilian lives, avoid actions in their deployments that will harm civilians and civilian targets is regrettable. If the actions of these prelates is intended to secure a place for them in a future comprehensive dialogue to resolve the crisis, I am afraid, they have overplayed their relevance.
The crisis concerns the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda. The Bishops of this Ecclesiastical Province have spoken and we have taken note. Along with the Church, they are presently persecuted by proxy using senior members of the military who by military discipline will not form or be members of activist civil society associations. The bastardisation of the educational system harms Catholic education and the social teachings of the Church.
The question, I must ask, who stands to gain from these crimes? And who stands to gain from the persecution of the prelates and church leaders? …I strongly urge the Bishops of Cameroon to advice the government of Cameroon to critically read the letter of the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda in which they confronted the truth with biblical inspiration and the faith in the Christian values. For this reason, they letters are unnecessary and unwarranted.