Excerpt of An open letter from Father Gerald Jumbam to the president of the National
Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (necc) – Archbishop Samuel Kleda
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 in the 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 government 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.
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.
With the towering paradigm of Pope Francis in recent times, the world correctly recognizes that Christianity has the potential to lead theway 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 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 government 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.
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 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 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.
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 the CPDM or Mgr. Kledda’s Decentralization,
but the federalists.
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.