Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Yaounde – There were “signs of violence” on the body of a Roman Catholic bishop found in a river in central Cameroon in June, church officials have claimed, insisting he was murdered.
The claims, outlined in a statement by the bishops of Cameroon which was sent to AFP late on Tuesday, contradict the findings of a post mortem report.
“The bishops maintain the stance they took on June 13, 2017, according to which Monsignor Jean Marie Benoit Bala was murdered,” it said of their initial statement in which they claimed he had been “brutally” killed.
“The bishops’ moral certainty rests on the fact, among others, that the body they saw and recognised on the banks of the Sanaga and at the morgue in Yaounde hospital, which was that of Monsignor Jean Marie Benoit Bala, bore signs of violence,” it said.
The body of the 58-year-old bishop of Bafia was fished out of the Sanaga river on June 2, more than 48 hours after he was reported missing.
His car had been found on a bridge over the river on May 31. Inside were his identity papers and a note saying “I am in the water”.
Foreign medical examiners
The statement contradicted a report by Cameroonian investigators who on July 4 said there was “an absence of any signs of violence on his body” following an autopsy carried out by two foreign medical examiners.
“Drowning was the most likely cause of the bishop’s death,” said the public prosecutor of the appeal court in Cameroon’s central region where the town of Bafia is located.
He said two other autopsies had also been carried out by Cameroonian examiners although their results were not made public.
Last month, investigators opened an inquiry into the suspicious circumstances of his death and the results would be published “when the time comes”, the prosecutor said.
“This is yet another murder, and one too many,” the bishops wrote in their initial statement, demanding an investigation into the “circumstances and the motive” for the bishop’s killing.
They also recalled several other murders of Cameroonian clergy which remain unsolved: that of Yves Plumey, archbishop emeritus of Garoua in 1991, Joseph Mbassi in Yaounde in 1988, Antony Fontegh in Kumbo in 1990 and Engelbert Mveng in Yaounde in 1995.