Southern Cameroons War: Kenyan priest ‘was shot dead as he preached’
A sombre mood has engulfed Sengera area in Kisii, the home village of Father Cosmas Ondari Thursday who was killed by suspected Cameroon soldiers on Wednesday evening.
Family members and relatives of the slain priest said they received news of his death with utmost shock.
Fr Omboto was holding an evening church mass when a soldier shot him in the head killing him on the spot, according to reports the family received from Cameroon.
The country has been experiencing a surge in conflicts in volatile English-speaking Southwest region where a group is vouching for separation from Yaoundé.
His father Charles Omboto said his son was on a missionary mission when he was killed.
“The news we have is that he was holding a mass but the congregants upon seeing the soldiers scampered leaving him alone and that is the time he was shot dead,” Mr Omboto said.
His body was discovered by a group of worshippers who had returned to the church compound shortly after the soldiers left.
“He had remained alone because he had not known that people there always run away when the see the military and that is how he got killed,” Mr Omboto told the Nation at his Sengera home in Bomachoge Borabu.
Relatives and church members on Thursday flocked to the home to offer condolences.
Family members of the deceased and the church on Friday condemned the incident terming it uncalled for.
Most parishioners described the late cleric as “very spiritual” and a man fired by the missionary spirit.
“He grew amongst us and was concerned with spiritual things and that is how he ended up in serving the church as a missionary,” said Sister Mary Naitumbi.
Family members said they may not be able to travel to bury the body in Cameroon and requested the Mill Hill Society to make arrangements so that the body can be brought to Kenya.
“We are not compelling them but if they can bring him back home, it will be better for us,” Mr Omboto said.
Fr Ondari’s brother Bonface Omboto said they had learnt of the death of his brother with a heavy heart.
He was away in Uganda when he got a phone call breaking the news of his brother’s death on Thursday.
Kisii Parish Bishop John Mairura described the late priest as one who was dedicated to the work of the Catholic Church.
“He was a young priest fired with missionary spirit but death has snubbed him at a time we knew he had much still left to do in reaching out to lost souls,” Fr Mairura told the Nation by phone.
Kisii University Catholic Chaplain Lawrence Nyaanga condemned the attack and the killing of the Kenyan priest by Cameroon soldiers.
“Priests are in a different war frontline, to save souls not to fight. Fr Ondari was not armed, he was preaching the word and healing a society wracked by conflicts and that is why we condemn the incident in the strongest terms possible,” he said.
Similar sentiments were shared by sisters and priests from Sengera Parish where the late cleric was laid on hands before he set off in the missionary work.
Until his death, Fr Omboto was a Mill Hill priest serving in the Diocese of Mamfe.
He was ordained in Kisii alongside two other priests and appointed to the Diocese of Mamfe, according to the St Joseph Missionary Society.
On Thursday, his father said Fr Omboto had recently returned home to renew his passports before he went back to Cameroon only to meet his death months later.
Fr Omboto’s death has shone the light on the rising number of religious leaders killed amid a conflict that has lasted two-years and gripped the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
The priest had been working with people displaced by the conflict.
An American Catholic missionary was killed at the beginning of November in the Northeast region. The government blamed separatists but Washington said he died in cross-fire.
Last October, US Baptist Missionary Charles Truman Wesco was killed in the Northwestern town of Bambui near Bamenda.
A Roman Catholic priest, Fr Alexander Nougi Sob, was killed in the South western town of Muyuka in July.
The Cameroonian conflict began as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers in 2016 and snowballed into an internal armed conflict last year, when separatists joined in and symbolically declared the independence of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
At least 400 “ordinary people” and more than 175 members of the security forces have been killed, according to statistics by local and international groups that have been documenting abuses in the escalating violence. They include Amnesty International.
More than 300,000 people have fled the violence and now live from hand-to-mouth, in forests and across the border into Nigeria, where they are exposed to various dangers.
Source: Daily Nation