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Is October 7 Presidential election verdict, Anglophone Crisis splitting Cameroon’s Bishops?

Cameroon (National Times) Developments in Cameroon within the context of the Anglophone Crisis, the mysterious death of catholic bishops and the recent presidential elections have put the unity and strength of the catholic prelate to test. The religious configuration known to will enormous influence within the political life of the nation has seen make moves, utterances and pronouncements begging for further explanations.

First, pronouncements from the Archbishops of Yaounde and Douala , Jean Mbarga and Samuel Kleda respectively after the Constitutional Council of Cameroon pronounced incumbent Paul Biya winner of the October 7 Presidential elections remain mind bugling.

After the Constitutional Council proclaimed Biya winner on October 22, the Archbishop of Douala, Samuel Kleda organised a press conference the next day making a different reading of the victory. Mgr Kleda, who is the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, cast doubts on Biya’s victory.

The servant of God was categorical about his reservations on the score of the CPDM candidate in the Forth North, South West and North West Regions, wherein Biya got one of the best scores.

Kleda said he is not convinced that the people of the Far North Region suffering from terrorist attacks from the Boko             Haram sect and years of underdevelopment will massively vote in favour of a regime that has been unable to improve their lot in 36 years.

In the North West and South West Regions, Kleda projected the Anglophone Crisis as a justification to doubts the scores of over 80 percent and 77 percent of votes cast in favour of the CPDM. He argued that the same people who have been protesting against the regime cannot vote for the CPDM that much. Besides, Kleda cited the security situation as one that didn’t permit many to vote.

Yet,  a day after, his colleague of  Yoaunde,  Archbishop Jean Mbarga,  surfaced on State television calling for peace and saluting the conduct of the elections. Mbarga extorted the need for social peace while at the same time asking all actors to respect the outcome of the Presidential polls.

These contrasting stances on the Presidential elections left many wondering how servants of God within the same mission could hold such divergent views. Besides, many saw some political undertone in Mbarga’s outing. Those who saw reason in Kleda’s outing believe that Mbarga’s outing was to challenge what the Douala Prelate made of the elections.

Tribal and ethnic sentiments have been pictured in the utterance of the men of God. While Kleda is a native of the Far North Region, many believe that, he is using his position to raise the plight of his people,  Mbarga on the other hand is a native of the Centre Region. He is viewed as acting to help his ‘brothers’ conserve power in the phase of suspicious political pressures from the unknown.

On another front, when it comes to the Anglophone Crisis, there is a mark disparity in attention, tone and posture of the Catholic Bishops of Francophone extraction and their colleagues of Anglophone origin. When the Crisis erupted, Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda comprising the dioceses of Buea, Kumba, Mamfe, Kumbo and Bamenda issued an exhaustive document.

The document traced the historical problems of the Crisis and made proposals on what must be done to solve the issue. Their suggestions went as far as talking on the form of State which should be revisited. The Anglophone Bishops have been more vocal on the issue compared to their Francophone colleagues.

In the face of the stance of the Anglophone Bishops, they were dragged to court for months. Their Francophone colleagues seemed less assertive on the plight until the charges were dropped. Political pundits view that when it comes to the Anglophone issue, the Bishops are in two camps in line with their linguistic and geographical origin.

Beyond this, similar feelings of divergent opinions were pictured on the handling of the mysterious death of Bishop Jean-Marie Benoit Balla of the Diocese of Bafia. In June 2017, the Bishop’s body was retrieved from the River Sanaga near Monatele in the Centre Region.

The Kleda-led conference of Bishops issued a statement stating that their colleague”did not commit suicide, he was brutally murdered”. In the statement which Kleda singed on behalf of Bishops of Cameroon, the Catholic Church urged the Government of Cameroon to “shed light on the circumstances and motives of the assassination of Bishop Jean-Marie Benoit Balla”.

Around the time the deceased’s  remains were being prepared for burial, information surfaced that, some Bishops were against the idea of collecting the remains  when investigations had not cleared the confusion of what killed the Prelate.

Superficially, many a common man thinks from such recent developments, the Bishops could be serving the same God, but as humans, they belong to certain interest groups which sometimes put their actions and ideas at odds with those of their peers.


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