Open Letter to President Paul Biya :
On the Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
By Vincent N. Feko
The time could not have been more opportune than that of this eventful visit of the Holy Father, to write this letter on behalf of the silent majority of Southern Cameroonians and other British Cameroonians for whom I have had the pain and honour to play the role of spokesman in various capacities in various Liberation Movements.
It was a wonderful initiative on your part and that of the Episcopal Conferences of the Bishops of Cameroun and the Central African Region, to invite His Holiness to Cameroun, a reminiscence of 1985 and 1995 in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI’s predecessor. By graciously accepting the invitation like his predecessor did, out of the tens of thousands that pour into the Vatican from Africa and the rest of the world, the Holy Father has done great honour to Cameroun and Central Africa, as it is the Pontiff’s maiden visit to the African continent.
As a religious and political leader, his visit to a country would obviously have both a religious and political dimension, with man’s aspirations as the focal point. Among the myriads of his aspirations are: truth, justice, freedom, and peace. He is ever in search of these and more because, man, made in the image of God, has been deprived of these virtues by his neighbour. A sizable portion of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “Ecclesia in Africa,” launched in Yaounde in 1995 by Pope John Paul II of blessed memory, has addressed these issues.
Your Excellency, Pope Benedict XVI, like his venerable brother and predecessor John Paul II, is not coming to find out how best you are running the state of Cameroun. But, as a religious and political leader, he is concerned not only with the spiritual nourishment of the soul, which never dies, he is also concerned with the well-being of the body or flesh which, though ephemeral, symbioses with the soul until death takes it away. For these reasons, questions of: truth, justice, freedom, and peace of his flock, are very dear to the heart of the Holy Father and the Church. That is why the announcement of his peace, justice, and reconciliation mission to Cameroun, has been of great concern especially to those who have suffered injustice, violence, and deprivation of various forms in La Republique du Cameroun(LRC). On these issues, the Pontiff might have received petitions from aggrieved sources including those of Southern Cameroons.
The Pontiff would, true to the reconciliation objective of his visit, be pleased to hear the other side of the story from none other than you, Sir, the custodian and medium of incarnation of the Republican institutions.
For instance, on the plight of Southern Cameroons, which is calling for the Territory’s decolonization on grounds that the entity has never been a part of LRC; the Southern Cameroons Peoples Organisation(SCAPO) and the Southern Cameroons National Council(SCNC) have filed two law suits against the Government of LRC , at the African Commssion on Human and Peoples Rights(ACHPR) in Banjul, The Gambia, registered as Communications 266/2003 and 337/2007. The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation(UNPO) is handling a similar case at the level of the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) and the UN. Your Excellency’s Government is playing its role as defendant on the floor of these institutions and the case is advancing, albeit slowly.
But the Republic of Cameroun is awash with speculation and rumour-mongering that the SCNC and other Southern Cameroons Liberation Movements are secessionist/terrorist Organizations and they have, unbelievably, become objects of witch-hunting by the political Police and other law enforcement agents.
On account of this struggle for the truth, justice, freedom, and peace, not only for the people of Southern Cameroons but also for their brothers of LRC; a few Southern Cameroonians have been shot and killed point blank, many have died in prison out of torture and starvation, many more have died from suffering and deprivation of various forms, and the list continues. Thousands of Southern Cameroonians especially the youth are refugees in foreign lands. For those who have chosen to remain in the country and talk and act by way of civil disobedience, their life hangs in the balance.
While the Camerounian public and those concerned including the international community, await government’s white paper to clear the air on these issues, His Holiness would, most certainly, welcome Your Excellency’s briefing.
By choosing to visit Cameroun in the Lenten Season, a season of Christian mortification and reconciliation, and in that spirit, meet, talk, and pray with people of divergent religious opinions including the Moslems who, not long ago, expressed their indignation over a papal statement they misinterpreted and just fell short of denouncing him; Pope Benedict XVI is sending a powerful message that he means to engage in true and profound reconciliation and not anything cosmetic for public gullibility.
The ardent desire of a host is to leave a lasting impression on the mind of his guest. I can think of no better way of leaving such an impression than by laying your cards on the table as you examine these issues and more with your guest, who is answerable to Our Lord, Jesus.
“Human rights are about the curtailment of the abstract and super state power, ie the limitation of absolute power corrupting absolutely“
Julius che, 1997 Buea