Revered cleric, Christian Cardinal Tumi has proposed what he believes could trigger a paradigm shift in seeing the effective reconstruction of the North West and South West regions.
Tumi in this exchange believes that, to mend fences and make the rebuilding process inclusive and strengthen the bond of love, the military and beneficiary population in the different communities of the concerned regions should unite and work together in all projects.
Tumi in this extensive and incisive piece makes an objective assessment of the Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the North West and South West regions, PPRD-NW/SW. It is a must read interview given the outspoken nature of the celebrated catholic priest on issues of national importance. He was interviewed recently by Bama Cham Read on…
What appraisal do you make of the root causes of the problem in the North West and South West regions. How do we navigate out of this turbulent period in this part of the country?
With the problems in the North West and South West if there’s anybody who knows much about what has taken place so far, since 1961, I think I am among those who know the English-Speaking part of the country from 1961 when we reunited with the French-Speaking part of the country. I was in my 30s. We were the youth of the reunification and I voted for it. As far as Cameroon is concerned, my political conviction even though I’m not a politician, is federalism. So, the first question somebody asked me about the problem in the North West and South West regions was what do you think should be done now to solve the problem, I told the journalists at the time that we should go back to what we were in 1961.
So, what is my position today, as I said I am not a politician, I have never been one. When the problem started about separation by these young fellows today who were not born at reunification, I was and will never be for separation.
The whole Africa wants to be one country. The whole world is coming together. I don’t see who will work with us as a small state like in the English-Speaking part of the country. So I told these journalists that federalism in my opinion till today is a form of state I will vote for today as a Cameroonian. I have met some of this boys, whom some are still in the forest, I met them when I went to the North West I celebrated mass over there. After mass I met with them, that day I had no breakfast, I only took lunch at 3pm, in the afternoon. I was talking to them in Kumbo. You know kumbo is one of the hotspots. I told them, I disagree with you on so many points. One, you yourself, you’re intolerant. Anybody who disagrees with you, you condemn the person to death. Which means if we give you power today by an election, you will condemn the opposition. Everybody who disagrees with your government is an enemy. And that you’re like Hitler. Secondly, Your interference in schools. Your organization is fighting against the future of your junior brothers and sisters. And thirdly, you do not know how your people back home are suffering. And this young man, a relative of mine, a very close relative told me that we send money to the people who are in the forest. Then I asked, you imagine that they live well, why not come back home with your wife and children and go to the forest and let them be sending you that money, he kept quiet. So, for the moment nobody knows what do they propose. Why not come back and form your party with your political philosophy and when Cameroonians vote you to power, you can say they agree with your political philosophy and then you can try to put things according to the way you understand and you can claim that the people who voted you to power have expressed their intentions and you can say you’re doing the will of the people. They are there in Europe; you don’t know what is happening here. Where ever the person maybe, in America or Europe, and when we founded a small meeting to try to see how English Cameroonians can come together and speak and talk about this sane thing, it was when we were trying to bring out the questionnaire and we produced, Elie Smith was our coordinator, all the documents came up. We produced a document, a group, small group of religious leaders, that is to say, Muslim leaders, other churches and the Catholic church. We were not many. About a thousand English-Speaking Cameroonians reacted to the questionnaire we sent out. The government of Cameroon has it. So, I don’t know of any other group that has studied systematically, the causes of the problems and proposed solutions. If you’re fighting an evil you attack the causes. What are the causes of the current problems; It is bad governance. There were about 11 causes. We made propositions. I handed it myself to the Prime Minister. It is not a matter of sentiment. I am not looking for political power. I have exercised power in the church for years from the time I was a young man as rector of the major seminary in Bambui, Bishop of Yagoa, Archbishop of Garoua, Cardinal and Archbishop of Douala. So that is my position, it is clear. I will not hesitate to work with anybody, even with the present government, I will tell them what I think is not right, even if I am working with the Prime Minister, I have met him, we have spoken together and I think that everybody loves, all of us love this country. There’s nobody who can claim that he loves this country more than any other Cameroonian. So, they should come, form their party, propose their political philosophy to us and we will vote them to power. They can’t say the people have given us powers they want us to propose to the world than to Cameroonians of course what they think, but so far we don’t know what they think and what they want to do. People have lost so many lives stupidly.
His Eminence, you were part of the Historic Major National Dialogue and one of the major outcomes was the reconstruction and development of the North West and South West Regions. The president of the Republic recently appointed Prime Minister Chief Dr Dion Ngute as chairman of the follow-up commission. Officials of the implementation of this reconstruction plan have been appointed and have swung into action. Some well-known separatists claim it is a wrong step while others are celebrating the reconstruction plan. What is your take on this?
Well, they have taken the possibility though peace has not fully… return. I hope that the commission that has been appointed with Minister Tasong Paul can do something and a small group of us have been appointed by the Head of State to make sure that the decisions that were taken during the Major National Dialogue are put into practice. We will do our best. COVID-19 is a serious enemy. Our attentions are divided. And I think that whatever the problem, good should be done where good should be done. And when it is evil at this moment, should be avoided. And I think stopping reconstruction from going on is an evil and it should be avoided.
What’s the message for the commission charge to follow-up the implementation of these resolutions arrived at the Major National Dialogue?
Reconstruction in general, we had a proposition about rebuilding after this destruction, what was our proposition, we should not only look at material destruction, the good the relationship between us, when I say us, not only between us, and I think the problem is not between French and English-Speaking Cameroonians, not at all. The problem is between the English-Speaking Cameroonians who have a way of government they inherited from the British and the central administration. Otherwise the English-Speaking Cameroonians won’t be running for safety in the French-Speaking part of the country where I have been Archbishop for over 40 years. I have been a priest for over 50 years. About nine years in the English-Speaking part, and the rest of my life as a missionary has been in the French-Speaking part of the country.
I believe in reconstruction. The problem between us is human that is to say, between; there are Cameroonians English-Speaking who have offended their brothers of English-Speaking. How do we heal that. We were to propose to government that the villagers, the army and the people in the villages should rebuild together. Because when they work together to rebuild the villages that were destroyed they will eat together, smile together, rebuild those houses together and it will cost less than it is going to cost us and at the same time, forgiveness will be building up because we will be working together to rebuild.