At 10 am this morning, I showed up at Mamfe Pastoral Centre, not only because the invitation was addressed to Stakeholders of Catholic education and People of good will, but also because the partial and one sentence report that filtered out from the 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 massages 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 you won’t hear on the “forwarded as received” massages.
- The Delegation:
Two Bishops and One priest make up the convoy. Mgr Kleda, who is president of National Episcopal Conference, Mgr Abraham Kome, Bishop of Bafang and the head of the sub commission for Justice and Peace and Fr Jervis Kebbei, vice Secretary General of the 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 government team led by Mgr Kleda is simply not true, since at the meeting in Mamfe, the Mayor for Mamfe & SDO for Manyu and entourage only arrived 45mins and 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.
- The Atmosphere.
The meeting was generally very cordial. After a welcome note by host bishop Nkea, Mgr Kleda made an English introductory remark, before continuing in French. He spoke in bits, translated aptly by Fr Jervis. There was full comprehension by the very mixed audience.
(a)He called for continuous prayer 2 enlighten all
(b)Admitted to have met strike leaders in January National Episcopal Conference,NEC, meeting in Mamfe.
(c)Said dialogue is always possible
(d)Called for an end to hatred, suspicion civil disobedience, as well as intimidation and arbitrary arrests
(e)Said true peace, which is fullness of life, is built on solidarity and fraternity
(f)Affirmed that NEC has asked the state to respect the rights of all Cameroonians and apply their very 1996 constitution on decentralization
(g)Use of media use for truth and respect of persons (h) Preaching should not incite violence or hate
(i) Summons of Anglophone bishops is a creation of new problems not solution to older ones.
(j) Parents should help church foster its mission of education by taking children to school. Whereas all problems are important, schooling is urgent; because time waits for no one.
At this point, Mgr Kome took the floor and said:
(a) NEC has come in for solidarity, but also as a risk, to share the cross and martyrdom, like Christ
(b)Before coming they were told its only Catholic schools that are empty. But going round, they’ve seen it’s a general thing (c) The true enemy is evil, never this or that person. Let’s fight evil not person, and do so because of Christ, who is our reference for Love, Reconciliation and Justice.5555
3) Development Of Strategy & Content.
A comparison of the three meetings shows some developments.
- a) In Mamfe, Mgr Kleda, after reading from NEC letter that the “destiny of the detained should be clarified”, added off the hook that, the let their case be “considered anew” (considere’ a nouveau)
(b)While in Buea he didn’t mention the point about the summons to BAPEC bishops, he did so in Mamfe, condemning it
(c)For some reason, Mgr Kleda couldn’t start the meeting in Buea until the governor had come. And the governor came with heads of all services (police, brigade, gendarme, Attorney General, Mayor, GCE board registrar, and three of the people who took the bishops to court. Over 25 man entourage!). Governor finally became MC of the meeting, (appointing who to talk, ordering the drafting and signing of a communiqué.
(d) Certainly the 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 prolongation of the very marginalization and insensitivity which the Anglophone crisis is about. Definitely, the meeting of today was different in tone and approach from the others.
- The Reactions.
Needless to say that the reactions were uniform and straight forward.Whereas Mgr Kleda gave opening for three 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 tomorrow, all three speakers (teachers and parents themselves) reiterated the stance, that:
(i)until all issues raised are solved, (ii) for fear of what ghosts may do to school children (iii) for the treasure which is our educational heritage since colonial days (iv) because life is better than education, WE (Parents) SHALL NOT SEND OUR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL!
Not even the appeal of the Mayor bore fruit or the tricky suggestion of the SDO, that we should look for local solutions for Manyu, not to try to tackle national issues. In fact, 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 and teachers to keep going to school as they’ve been doing, and told the Mayor to lead his daughter to QRC Okoyong, who will be taught diligently, even if she were the only student on board!
- Meeting Successful, 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 committee he earmarked did not even get constituted, and tomorrow alone will tell if the Mayor & other parents in Mamfe think differently from the three persons whose interventions received repeated applauds from the audience (to the disappointment of SDO’s entourage, who flanked me). But, I honestly think the change of strategy, mitigated the possibility 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, because 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 different? 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 December 22, 2016
By Fr Herbert Niba, Mamfe