It was a kidnapped which rattled the Roman Catholic Church, shocked many Christians and probably sounds like music in the ears of government who have blamed the church for its soft stance in the past for people it considers terrorists
News of the kidnapping of the one of the priest of the Bamenda Arch diocese, the bed rock of the Anglophone crisis who was taken in the early hours of 30th April in Ashing Kom quickly made rounds on social and mainstream media
The priests, Rev Fr Niba Williams was the principal of the Saint Bedes college Ashing Kom,North West region of Cameroon, a school owned by the church and has reportedly been operating despite threats from secessionist’s to close down.
Taking place just days after the principal was congratulated by the chief administrative officer of that region, Governor Lele Afrique for not bowing to pressure from armed groups; the kidnaped was the first time a religious authority is taken hostage by the armed groups.
There was tsunami of condemnations across the board as the church came face to face with reality of the armed groups and worked tirelessly to get the freedom of one of its own.
The main separatist group pushing for the so-called Ambazonia Republic command the Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF) which says it targets members of the security forces but was not engaged in kidnap bringing to light questions of multiple armed groups in the region that are engaged in the kidnappings.
But in a press release issued on May 2nd 2018, Fr Tatah Humphery, Director of communications for the arch diocese, he says the kidnapped priests has been released
— Daniel Finnan (@Daniel_Finnan) May 2, 2018
The release says the bishop and his auxiliary thank “God for bringing these trying moments to an end”. The chief shepherded of the church also thank all those who worked hard to secure the release of the priest before calling for the Christians to continuously pray for the peaceful ending to the socio-political situation in the country. The release reads
Recently, the International Crisis group had called on the church to engage the wearying parties in urgent and peaceful dialogue as they had earlier warned of troubling days ahead should real and urgent dialogue fail to start
But the church at this point is really a no man’s friend. Religious leaders blundered in the past when they quickly took side with what they said was “the people” detailing the plights of the Anglophones in numerous documents and sending of letters to the head of state during the early days of the crisis
The government ignored the role of the church and the secessionists said they were not doing enough to bring the government to its knees. But the church did it parts and just as quickly as they entered the conflict, so too did they quickly pull back.
Schools were seriously affected and other church business as the Anglophone crisis begins to bite, government subvention was withheld despite the pledge of 2 billion francs CFA and the church change its stance, call off school boycott and retreated its position, angering the people they once tried to protect and leaving an empty space for the protagonists to battle it out the way they want
What has followed after that is a series of gun battles, burning and looting of houses and entire villages, thousands of people killed, many more displaced at home and in neighboring countries as refugees while the government maintains it will not dialogue with terrorists or those who wants to divide the country.
Separatists say the only way out is outright independent while moderates are calling for a return to post-colonial system of federation.
There has been a cabinet shakeup with some Anglophone promoted to higher position of government, bilingualism commission co created and handed to Anglophones to manage alongside other measure like recruitment of 1000 bilingual teachers but many say the measures are not enough as the crisis gradually moves to a more dangerous phase by the day.
Christians constitute to die, suffer and the church seemingly looks confuse in a crisis very few can now predicts its end.