By Hans Ngala, Wednesday, September 7, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaoundé – Court proceedings against Anglophone church leaders will continue in spite of President Paul Biya’s decision to free fifty-five of the over hundred detained Anglophone activists, The Post newspaper reports.
Quoting the lead counsel of the Consortium of Parents that is prosecuting the church leaders, Barrister Julius Tabe Ngu, the case against the clergymen has nothing to do with government. “The first reason why we went to court was that the church leaders were refusing to re-open their schools after the suspension of the teachers’ strike” Tabe said. “The church leaders a couple of weeks ago accepted to re-open their schools and announcements were made to that effect. That is good, but we are going to see whether the church leaders are going to match words with action” he added. He was speaking in Douala September 2, just 48 hours after the Presidential ‘pardon’, releasing Anglophone activists on August 30.
Schools were expected to resume all over Cameroon on September 4, but schools have remained shut down in the former Southern Cameroons, with the exception of a handful of students who go to meet empty classrooms. This is because most of their mates have gone across the Mungo for their studies.
The closure of schools in English-speaking regions of Cameroon followed a strike action by teachers which was preceded by a lawyers’ strike a month earlier. The lawyers and teachers complained about the imposition of French in English-speaking classrooms and courts, but their demands soon moved from simply professional ones to political ones.
Cameroon’s three mainstream churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) and the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC) were then dragged to court by a so-called “Consortium of Parents” which
hitherto was non-existent. The Bishops of the Catholic Church, the Executive President of the CBC and the Moderator of the PCC were all accused on seven counts by the Consortium of Parents for “refusing to ask parents to send their children to school, refusing to pay teachers, refusing to teach students and spreading false information”.
The accusations followed a February 9 communique in which the church leaders had jointly called on the government to pursue frank dialogue with the agitating Anglophone leaders and in which the churches had pointed out that the problem currently rocking the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon “are as a result of an underlying and unsolved political problem”.
In the same communique, the Reverend men had gone on to regret the fact that “some authorities and people have branded us as protagonists of the strike action in the Northwest and Southwest Regions…” further pointing out that the non-resumption of schools was because of the “oppressive, intimidating and unbearable attitude of some members of the civil administration such as the attitude of the Governor of the Southwest region” which they said “hardened the hearts of the common people”.
The Consortium of Parents is believed by many to be a masquerade in the hands of some pro-government individuals. However, Tabe Ngu refutes the accusation. “The government is not the complainant in the case against the church leaders. Our case is a private matter. We are expecting the case to come up simultaneously in all five courts on September 25.”
On why the case would not be dropped, he said the complainants had made no mention of that although this was possible. Should the case go through and should Tabe Ngu’s clients win, the three mainline churches would be expected to pay the sum of FCFA 150 Billion to the “Consortium” for damages.