The news about the burning of a church in Nchang, a town some five kilometers from Mamfe, has depressed many people across the globe. The Southern Cameroons crisis which started some six years ago has nothing to do with religion. Burning churches and kidnapping clergymen speaks of the barbarism which belongs to a different epoch.
The church, especially the Catholic Church, has been pushing for dialogue and negotiations and this act by some irresponsible elements could alienate the Catholic Church which should be a key player in any and every negotiation on the this crisis which has been hijacked by some senseless and irresponsible elements.
From the time the crisis started, many people knew that the real fighters were protective of the population and were better organized to face the government which has been refusing to go to the negotiating table where a genuine and sustainable solution could be found.
In recent times, it has been noticed that some criminals have infiltrated the ranks of the fighters and these irresponsible elements are giving the rebellion a real bad name.
Today, there is more of banditry than fighting in the two English-speaking regions of the country. This has been made more possible by the availability of assault weapons in the country.
Why would any reasonable human being burn a church and kidnap men of God whose role is to sow peace and unity in the country? What has the Catholic Church done for it to become a soft target in a war it knows nothing about?
Today, there are calls from the kidnappers to leaders of the Catholic Church, asking for money. They had initially requested CFAF 50 million, but they seem to be facing huge problems as the Catholic Church is an institution which does not negotiate with criminals and does not pay ransom.
Since the kidnappers are facing challenges, they are now asking for CFAF 25 million, but they will not be having any money from the Catholic Church which is currently looking for money to rehabilitate its schools which have been overwhelmed by wild weeds due to the crisis which has already consumed more than 7,000 lives and destroyed much needed and critical infrastructure.
Those who have kidnapped priests and burned the Nchang Catholic Church has crossed the reddest of all the red lines. The revolution has lost a key ally. Though the Catholic Church is not for any bloodshed, it has however been pushing for a peaceful resolution and this message was reiterated by Archbishop Andrew Nkea in his interview with the BBC.
Though the Archbishop reiterated the church’s willingness to call for peace and to urge both sides to come to the negotiating table, there are fears that the church might no longer be vocal in its condemnation of violence against the civilian population because of this heinous crime committed in Nchang.
Cameroon Concord News Group has dispatched a team to Mamfe to cover this incident and the Group is seeking to get in touch with those who have made this grievous mistake of burning a church and kidnapping the priests. Cameroon Concord News Group holds that those who control the kidnappers should immediately release the Men of God for their place is in the church and not in the bushes.
The church’s role is to preach peace and call for calm and not to negotiate ransoms. Those who have committed this crime have clearly demonstrated that they do not really have any meaningful objective. They are giving the revolution a very bad name, the Cameroon Concord News Group’s Editor-in-chief, Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai, said.
He stressed that it was not yet late for those who are keeping the priests to do the right thing. “We cannot be complaining about violence by the military while other Southern Cameroonians are being kidnapped, tortured, and even killed by fellow Southern Cameroonians just because they have weapons. If this revolution will make sense to anybody, then the kidnappings and requests for ransom must stop. The population has suffered for too long and it is preposterous for any group to continue inflicting more pain on the people. Long periods of ghost town operations have robbed the regions of many economic opportunities and kidnapping for money is sending away any potential businesspeople who may want to give the anemic economy a shot in the arm. This barbarism must stop,” he underscored.
By Dylan Tambe Ashu and Alain Agbor Ebot