The Roman Catholic Church in Kumbo says hundreds of supporters assembled at the cathedral Friday calling for the immediate release of Cardinal Christian Tumi and the chief of the Nso people, Sehm Mbinglo.
The church says the 90-year-old cardinal and the chief, known as the Fon, were abducted Thursday night with their delegation just south of the town.
“These are authorities that have been ordained by God and placed there to look over his people and so it is high time all the population, not only the Nso man but everybody should go out today and let the Fon and the Cardinal be released. This is something outrageous,” Genesis Lukong, the secretary general of the Catholic Men’s Association, told VOA via telephone from Kumbo, in Cameroon’s Northwest.
Administrative officials in Kumbo’s Bui administrative unit confirmed the attack and blamed anglophone rebels.
The cardinal was released Friday morning, but Mbinglo remains captive.
Sub-Chief of the Nso people Fidelis Chin says Mbinglo’s health has been waning and he needs regular medical care.
“Any struggle that touches the Fon of Nso, that touches our tradition, that touches religion, is against the Nso people,” Chin said. “I call on all Nso elite, wherever they are, to come out. Let’s tell these Amba boys that enough is enough.”
It’s not the first time that separatists have abducted Mbinglo.
Mbinglo fled the area three years ago after rebels abducted him three times and killed two of his sons. The rebels accused him of collaborating with the central government.
Tumi led talks with the rebels each time to secure the chief’s safe return.
Catholic Lawrence Nsahbinla was part of the negotiations.
“It is not normal to abduct a man of God at his age,” Nsahbinla said. “And then they abducted him with his royal highness the Fon of Nso who was coming back to be reinstated in his dynasty. Two important personalities for the Christians and for the Nso man. This is something that the Christians and the Nso man have to take seriously and put an end to all these devilish actions.”
The abduction of the chief and the cardinal is the second such incident in Kumbo this week.
On Tuesday, gunmen attacked a Presbyterian school and abducted 11 teachers.
The teachers were released Thursday unharmed.
The rebels have been fighting in western Cameroon since 2017 to carve out an English-speaking state from the majority French-speaking nation.
The United Nations says the ongoing violence has claimed more than 3,000 lives and displaced more than 530,000 people.