At 10am this morning, I showed up at Mamfe Pastoral Centre, not only bc the invitation was addressed to Stakeholders of Catholic education and People of good will, but also bc the partial and 1 sentence reports that filtered out 4m d previous meetings in Buea and Kumba, made the rendezvous in Mamfe, a “Must-attend”.
A message is being circulated around saying, “Bishop Kleda was disgraced” in Mamfe. Without necessarily sharing or denying the necessity of this meeting, I earnestly wish to disagree not only with the caption, but with some of the contents of many msgs circulated on media. This (not too brief) write-up, intends to give just a fair picture of the meeting. This will be done by focusing on little details which u won’t hear on d “forwarded as received” msgs.
1. THE DELEGATION. Two bishops & 1 priest make up d convoy. Mgr Kleda, who is president of National Episcopal Conference, Mgr Abraham Kome, Bishop of Bafang & d head of the subcomision for Justice & Peace, & Fr Jervis Kebbei, vice sec gen of d National Episcopal Conference, acting as notary & translator. From the issue at hand, this delegation is very apt, as envoys of the bigger conference of bishops who just finished their meeting last week. The claims that it’s a gov’t team led by Mgr Kleda is simply not true, since at d meeting in Mamfe, the Mayor for Mamfe & SDO for Manyu and entourage only arrived 45mins & 1hr15mins late respectively and had no say in the deliberations, until they were given a chance to air their views at the end, which in both cases were disagreed upon by the audience.
2. THE ATMOSPHERE. The meeting was generally very cordial. After a welcome note by host bishop Nkea, Mgr Kleda made an English introductory remark, b4 continuing in French. He spoke in bits, translated aptly by Fr Jervis. There was full comprehension by d very mixed audience.
(a)He called for continuous prayer 2 enlighten all (b)admitted to have met strike leaders in Jan NEC meeting in Mamfe (c)said dialogue is always possible (d)asked an end to hatred, suspicion civil disobedience, as well as intimidation & arbitrary arrests (e) said true peace, wc is fulness of life, is built on solidarity, & fraternity (f)affirmed that NEC has asked d state 2 respect d rights of all Cameroonians, & apply their very 1996 constitution on decentralization (g)use of media use 4 truth & respect of persons (h)preaching shouldd not incite violence or hate (i) summons of Anglophone bishops is a creation of new problems not solution to older ones (j)parents shd help Church foster its mission of education by taking children 2 school. Whereas all problems r important, schooling is urgent, bc time waits for no one.
At this point, Mgr Kome took d floor. Key points:
(a) NEC has come in 4 solidarity, but also as a risk, 2 share d cross & martyrdom, like Christ (b)b4 coming they were told it’s only Catholic schools dat are empty. But going round, they’ve seen it’s a general thing (c) the true enemy is evil, never ds/dt person. Let’s fight evil not person, and do so bc of Christ, who is our reference for Love, Reconciliation & Justice.
3) DEVT OF STRATEGY & CONTENT.
A comparison of the 3 meetings show some dev’ts. a) In Mamfe, Mgr Kleda, after reading 4m NEC letter that the “destiny of the detained should be clarified”, added off d hook that, the let their case be “considered anew” (considere’ a nouveau) (b)while in Buea he didn’t mention d point about d summons to Bapec bishops, he did so in Mamfe, condemning it (c)For some reason, (!!!) Mgr Kleda couldn’t start d meeting in Buea until d governor had come. And the governor came w heads of all services (police, brigade, genderme, procureur general, Mayor, GCE board registrar, & 3 of d people who took d bishops to court. Over 25 man entourage!). Governor finally became MC of d meeting, (appointing who to talk, ordering d drafting & signing of a communique. (d) certainly d insistence on a point-for-point translation in Mamfe was meant to avoid a repeat of the situation in kumba, where, a preliminary objection was raised (to the shock of Mgr Kome) that speaking in French was a prologation of d very marginalisation & insensitivity wc d Anglophone crisis is about. Definitely, the meeting of today was different in tone and approach from the others.
4. THE REACTIONS.
Needless to say that the reactions were uniform and straightforward. Whereas Mgr Kleda gave opening for 3 persons to give proposals to a committee he expected to be formed by the Education Secretary to see to the take off of schools even 2mr, all 3 speakers (teachers and parents themselves) reiterated d stance, that: (i)until all issues raised are solved, (ii) for fear of what ghosts may do 2 school children (iii) for d treasure which is our educational heritage since colonial days (iv) bc life is better dan education, WE (Parents) SHALL NOT SEND OUR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL!
Not even the appeal of the Mayor bore fruit, nor the tricky suggestion of the SDO, that we should look for local solutions for Manyu, not to try 2 tackle National issues. Infact, in conclusion, Mgr Nkea, who had been silent throughout, repeated the position of Bapec bishops, now known verbatim to all Catholic faithful: “Our schools have never been closed. He then asked principals & teachers to keep going to school as they’ve been doing, and expressedly told the Mayor to lead his daughter to QRC Okoyong, who will be taught diligently, even if she were d only student on board!
5. MEETING SUCCESFUL, BUT NOT FRUITFUL?
If it has taken this length to give this picture, it’s to avoid that very reductionist phrase that….”Mgr Kleda was disgraced in Mamfe”. Of course, the comittee he earmarked did not even get constituted, and tomorrow alone will tell if the Mayor & other parents in Mamfe think diferently from d three persons whose interventions received repeated applauds 4m d audience (to the disapointment of SDO’s entourage, who flanked me). But, I honestly think the change of strategy, mitigated the posibility of any disrespect to the person (and maybe suspicion of the intentions) of both visiting bishops. They already learnt their lesson, and it will not be taken from them! Certainly, both bishops and the persons they will report or share their experiences to will never think the same again about Anglophones in general and the Church west of the Mungo. The meeting was successful (at least it went on uninterrupted with all parties making their stance), but certainly it was not fruitful, bc it did not bear the results of the top of the 10 issues it tried to obtain: TO CONVINCE PARENTS TO SEND CHILDREN TO SCHOOL.
While Bamenda waits for its turn, and Kumbo still ponders why it was not included in the itinerary, our doors remain opened to the next team: that of NATIONAL COMMISION FOR BILINGUALISM & MULTICULTURALISM. Who knows if the situation will be diferent? One thing is clear, Anglophone parents are on a totally different wavelength with most of the “envoys” so far. Maybe, the next team should read Bapec bishop’s memo to President of 22Dec2016.
Fr Herbert Niba, Mamfe