Priest and Patriot
I believe in standing up to tormentors. I speak because the assault has crossed my personal line. I am a priest of the Kumbo Diocese in the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda. I was raised up, thanks alone to the sweat and suffering of the English speaking peoples of Cameroon. And as Christ says in the Holy Scriptures, “To whom much has been given, from him much shall be expected”. It is therefore but logical that people of the British Southern Cameroons should expect me to tender an account of the education they gave me. To do thus, I must defend to the last of my energy the Anglo-Saxon school system which brought me up; a school system which is under full threat of destruction by the evil regime in LRC. It is to this call that I am now responding and let every man in the British Cameroons be responsible for the health of his own conscience.
And that brings me back to the question which has haunted Cardinal Tumi throughout his life: Should a priest be concerned with the political life around him?
Cardinal Tumi has said in his work The Political Regime of Amadou Ahidjo and Paul Biya that a priest is first and foremost a citizen of his country and must vote in elections as a sign that he is a politically responsible being. A priest cannot vote responsibly if he doesn’t take enough interest in the political life of his country, the Cardinal argues. As a theologian I would say that this is sound moral theology today.
Now, has a priest the right to fight for the freedom of his country? Can a priest be a political nationalist? Church hierarchy in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon would strongly hesitate to give an answer; but the most dogmatic among them would not hesitate to say: “No, he should not”. One of the greatest mistakes that the early missionaries did was to always identify themselves with the colonial master. For this reason, the first African nationalists tended to believe that the Church was a hidden or spiritual arm of colonialism. Today in independent Africa, this belief ought to be abandoned because the mission of the Church and the State are not the same. Politics and spirituality are not the same fields of study although there are points of intersection.
Gauging the Political Temperature
To continue to support the neocolonial political structure put in place by the colonial masters who were obviously enemies of African freedom cannot be the right posture for the post-colonial Church in Africa.
As for me who is seeing very clearly today the injustice done by Great Britain to the peoples of the British Cameroons, I have a great duty to fight for the freedom of my people. It is obvious that if reunification were an issue in the British Cameroons question, the UN and France would not have gone ahead to grant independence to the French Cameroons on 1st January 1960. By so doing the UN and Britain showed clearly that they had a clear duty to grant independence to the British Cameroons. Hence the prefacing of the Plebiscite question “do you choose to gain independence by joining …”. This means that both the UN and Britain knew very well that the British Cameroons was supposed to be independent.
It is this independence that I am bent on fighting for, and it is this that all British Cameroonians should fight for.
This fight has already started on the right battle ground: the School. And anyone who chooses to send his child to the warfront of the school should expect his child to be knocked down by the hot exchange of mortar and artillery.
For let me tell you that the situation in English speaking Cameroon has become so tense that if the present provocations by LRC are not halted, war will become the only way out of the present dilemma. And in a war theater there will be no place for schools. Are the bishops who are calling for a return to schools actually gauging the political temperature in the British Cameroons? Will any of these bishops have a child to lose in the event of an attack on a school?
My dear parents, why did schools close up prematurely last academic year? It was because the bishops, the pastors and principals could no longer guarantee in the school milieu safety and security for our children. Are we sure that social tension has not increased with the donkey intransigence of the Government of LRC and its refusal to dialogue with the teachers and solve the educational problems created by the regimes in Yaoundé? And do you think, my dear parents, that the resultant social tension is an appropriate environment foe learning? Let us not fool ourselves. Since 1961 LRC and its hoard of gendarmes have shown that dialogue is not a word in their vocabulary and that they would stop at nothing to oppress and torture the peoples of the British Southern Cameroons.
To be continued
Father Gerald Jumbam