Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 20,643 hits
  • November 2018
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    252627282930  
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 900 other followers

  • Advertisements

A Rejoinder to Cameroon’s Foreign Minister’s Address to the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations. By Lambert Mbom

 

On Thursday September 27th2018, La Republique du Cameroun’s Minister of External Relations Lejeune Mbella Mbella addressed the 73rd session of United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA). The minister spent 19 of the 25 minutes he spoke skirting around the real issues and in the remainder of the six minutes addressed the hydra-headed foreign affairs monster namely the Ambazonia quagmire. It was a shameful outing filled with lies, historical aberrations and fallacies.

In his opening words, Mbella Mbella hailed this moment as historic given that the UNGA current President is a woman only the fourth to accede to this position in the institution’s 73-year history. While this is quite symbolic, it pales in comparison to the fact that Paul Biya, Mbella’s boss and the colonial dictator of Cameroon has been President for half of the years of the existence of the United Nations. And could not show up at this year’s meeting due to the fact that he was launching a campaign ahead of presidential elections whose results have already been well packaged and he prepares to declare himself winner for another seven-year mandate.

No wonder then that H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa is only the fourth woman to become president of the General assembly in the over seven decades of the U.N.’s existence. Octogenarian and nonagenarian strongmen like Paul Biya have not only held their people hostage but also cast a spell on the international order by surrounding and shielding themselves with strong old men and soothsayers like Mbella Mbella. It may be of interest to note that Cameroon currently has only one female ambassador and she is only the third in history.

Mbella shamelessly opines that “The corporatist claims of the teachers’ and lawyers’ unions which lie at the heart of the situation have continued to be subject to negotiations with these social and professional groups.” This is so pathetic to note that the Minister and Cameroon’s government are still stuck in 2016 when the current crisis began as concerns of trade unions. It is this ostrich-like mentality and myopia of the barbaric regime of Biya that feels compelled to conveniently circumscribe the problems to being an issue of teachers and lawyers that has led it to be dogged in its heels. This regime is so moronic that it cannot make the distinction and relationship between symptoms and malady. They could not see or have failed to acknowledge that the problems raised by teachers and lawyers were symptomatic of deep seated simmering and systemic issues. Those corporatist claims morphed and exposed the systemic issues that had plagued an ill-fated “union” with the entire people of former United Nations trustee territory of British Southern Cameroons.

And for the Minister to claim that negotiations have continued with these unions is a lie. Has the minister forgotten that they jailed leaders of the consortium forced others into exile and later extradited them with the complicity of Nigeria?

“Unfortunately, Mr. President which is unfortunate to say from this rostrum, some individuals that are ruthless and lawless have tried to transform these socio professional concerns into demands for secession which aim to break up the state without any regard for constitutional and democratic mechanisms.” This is truly unfortunate that a minister would tell such brazen lies from the sacred rostrum on such a global stage. La Republique is bandying around the term secessionists in the hope that with this tag, the people will back down and chicken out. A cursory look at the history of Cameroon will challenge this characterization. We must remind the minister that the union between Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon is a constitutional monstrosity. With hindsight, it is worth stating that there has always been a grand scheme from the get-go for La Republique to annex and recolonize Southern Cameroons. Cameroon is built on a lie. No wonder the custodians of that patrimony continue to peddle more lies to defend it. But soon the deluge! In the context of the constitutional malpractice and the constitutional illegalities that define the Cameroon experiment, it would be instructive for the minister and his cronies to read the Buea Declaration of April 1993. This landmark document paints the contours of the constitutional rape which began in April 1960 even before the union came into force and declares forcefully that “No valid constitutional or other legal basis has ever existed for the reunification of the two Cameroons and for the common governance of the two territories.”

While this annexation project kicked off in April 1960 with the discovery of oil in Southern Cameroons, the recolonization project was fast tracked and in abrogation of the terms of the union, then President Ahidjo unilaterally imposed a referendum with the majority of citizens of La Republique partaking and invariably overwhelming the minority Southern Cameroonians. The supposed “Union” was designed to be two federated states. In flagrant disregard, a bogus referendum in 1972 led to the dissolution of the two states federation. This led to the chimera called United Republic of Cameroon.

And barely 12 years later, Emperor Paul Biya sealed the deal whereby with a stroke of the pen changed the name of the country from the United Republic of Cameroon to The Republic of Cameroon which is the name former United Nations trustee territory French Cameroon adopted when it gained independence on 1st of January 1960. It is worth noting that a name change is a very significant development in the life of any person and in the life of any nation. Mr. Minister lets state the facts clearly: La Republique already seceded from the botched union. This is a clear instance of the pot calling the kettle black. When you look into the mirror if you have the courage to, all you see is your face.

There was a golden opportunity for the government of La Republique to correct the constitutional gaffe and that was in 1996 when the constitution was revised. Ahead of this, the aggrieved people of Southern Cameroons got together and first in 1993 called for a return to the two states federation. When this request fell on deaf ears, a second conclave held in Bamenda in 1994 and came up with a Proclamation. The Bamenda Proclamation warned the government of La Republique that if she failed to take action the people of Southern Cameroons would be forced to “proclaim the revival of the independence and sovereignty of the Anglophone territory of the Southern Cameroons and take all measures necessary to secure, defend and preserve the independence, sovereignty and integrity of the said territory.” The government’s response was characteristic and predictable: wanton arrests and detention, brutal use of naked force to railroad the people of Southern Cameroons to accept the lie of a unitary state.

It is quite ludicrous that the minister talks of constitutionality when strangely the crisis of the North West and South West regions has never ever been addressed by the Parliament and Senate in Cameroon.

Talking of democratic mechanisms, Southern Cameroonians have availed of different avenues such as the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the International Court of Justice and lodged complaints but given the international conspiracy, they have been treated like orphans. But the world must remember that no matter how long the night is, day must dawn. And Lejeune and his cronies must note that the thief has 99 days but one day the owner will repossess his property. We seem to be on the 98th day!

What is more, the minister further intimates that “the government welcomes the fact that the entire people of Cameroon and above all the populations of these two regions have rejected any attempts at secession.”This is quite a laughable tale. Clearly the minister is under the illusion that lackeys, stooges and crumb gatherers like Atanga Nji, Philemon Yang, Ngole Ngole speak for any people but themselves. Mr. Minister when and how did the people of Ambazonia reject their independence? I hope you have watched some of the videos of the celebrations last October 1st when Ambazonians came out to celebrate Independence Day. Are you insinuating that those fighting for the restoration of independence are foreigners? Yes, we are foreigners in La Republique. It is wishful thinking to continue this parody in the pious hope that someday beggars would ride. We understand that you have an aversion for numbers and so any figment of your imagination such as your current claim is what you package and sell. If you are courageous enough why not ask the UN to come and supervise a referendum on this question and let’s see who is living a fool’s paradise? Don’t be fooled: even those you think and believe are with you share the aspirations and spirit of the Ambazonia revolution. They just lack the moral courage and political wherewithal to manifest this. On this I can dare you that over three quarters of Ambazonians want an independent state.

 Shamelessly the minister maintains that “In light of the aforementioned the government is working to restore peace and security in the two regions with respect for human rights and rules and laws of the Republic.” These are mere words that even the person uttering them does not believe in. Your Excellency, there can be no peace without justice. And justice in its most common and basic meaning is giving to each what is their due…For the people of Ambazonia, it is simply the restoration of the independence. Peace is not just the absence of war. And did I hear mention of human rights? The world knows or should know by now that using La Republique and human rights in the same sentence is not just a linguistic aberration but also an anomaly in reality. Everybody has seen the videos of the military junta executing women and children at close range after labeling them Boko Haram terrorists.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. When the world will wake up to the atrocities of la Republique du Cameroun against the people of Ambazonia, even the corpses of the perpetrators would be exhumed for trial and condemnation. The government of Cameroun is after an elusive peace. Coercing the people into a doomed and damned union is just a recipe for disaster. Biya and his ilk should have gotten the message by now: a union is not forced and is not even possible!

Once more being sensitive to the fate of the concerned population, the President of the Republic has decided to implement an emergency humanitarian plan with a provisional budget of 12.7 billion fcfa.” This is the most ludicrous pronouncement. Biya declares war on the people of Ambazonia and turns around with an emergency humanitarian plan? This is a smokescreen. The kleptocratic despot just created a cash cow to satisfy the insatiable corrupt appetites of the governing mafia. After razing villages with your scorched earth policy, then sending armed thugs in name of military to shoot and destroy innocent civilians whose only crime is them activating their inalienable right to self-determination. The most egregious violation of human rights is the annexation and recolonization of the people of Ambazonia. And to add salt to injury, killing these innocent people for standing up for this right.

The Minister then proceeds to disgrace his master by claiming that they “…have shown our openness to dialogue but in strict respect of the institution and laws of the Republic.” When you label people as terrorists, how do you dialogue with them? Recently, the US had talks with the Talibans they had been combatting in Afghanistan over the last two decades. This should be a lesson to the warlords of La Republique. You can never win in a guerilla warfare. The time for dialogues has long passed. Ambazonians begged and pleaded with you but in characteristic Machiavellian fashion displayed a masochistic bravado and swore that Ambazonia will rise only over your corpse.

No doubt Mr. Minister you claim that “Robust measures have already been taken to remedy the situation. For example, the creation of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism as well as a fully-fledged ministry responsible for decentralization.” One would have expected you to show that your commission is working and for once address this noble assembly in English and French. What is more, you proved the point: with the wrong diagnosis, you could only get such out of target and lack of focus solution, as decentralization. It is worth stating for the umpteenth time: the independence of Ambazonia is non-negotiable. It is not a matter of if but rather when.

The minister tops off his lies “To conclude, Cameroon whose independence was conducted and guided by the UN will like to restate its faith in our organization but also its attachment to peace and stability basic resources without which no development is possible.” Mr. Minister, the country you represent had its independence on January 1st 1960 while Ambazonia gained its independence on October 1st 1961. Yes the UN supervised both but did not complete the latter. This is why it is the UN’s responsibility to listen and address the recriminations of its former Trustee territory. It is unconscionable for the UN to claim that the destiny of the people of Ambazonia was foreclosed with the union with La Republique.

The UN General Assembly adopted as its theme for this session: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.” The people of Ambazonia need the UN to become relevant to them. In the Political document signed at the Nelson Mandela Peace summit, the UN pledged to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies…for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” The current crisis presents a unique opportunity for the UN to deliver on that promise. The UN must stand up to bullies like La Repubqlique du Cameroun. The crisis is not a domestic conflict or an internal matter. Even if it were it is not by merely wishing it that peace will reign. One wonders if the UN has learnt any lessons from the past? The time to act is now! The UN cannot trust the words of an abusive partner hoping that he will do the right thing. This problem was created by the UN and it is the UN’s to fix!

Advertisements

World Mental Health Day 2018

MHD_african_boy_EN_web

This year’s theme focused on “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.” Teen suicide rates in the United States of America are on the rise. This is a strange phenomenon among Africans . Last June the Cameroon Community of the D.C. area was in shock when a young man committed suicide. It turned out he had been diagnosed with a mental disorder.

While the world reflects on the mental health of our young people, I would like on this day to reflect on the mental health of African immigrant men in the United States of America. When a woman divorces a man, hardly does anyone of them go into counseling to deal with the delirious effects of the previous marriage. Many simply move on as if the past is a non-event. A lot of wounds, hurts, regrets and bitterness that need sorting through and sorting out for a healthy kick off. A lot of domestic violence happens as a result of too much pent up anger, rancor and unresolved tensions that boil over. Isn’t there some truth to the song recently distributed on whatsapp about Cameroonian men in Maryland who spend hours dousing alcohol and liquor in the hope of avoiding and filtering out the noise from home?

It would be interesting to find out how many of us have ever seen a counselor for anything? Ask the next friend you meet when they last had a mental health check up and if that conversation lasts beyond a second then you are lucky. Why is there a recommendation for an annual physical and no recommendation for an annual mental health examination. Just as we need physicians so do we need mental health specialists call them therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists. Did I mention psychiatrists? What a taboo!

Dear friends, it is not a taboo to have mental health issues. Too many of us are depressed and are seeking for answers in the wrong place. It is not witchcraft! Do not be fooled that you have been bewitched by an uncle or an aunt envious of your family success! It is real and there is help out there.

My dear brothers, mental health is a big business venture in D.C. We who take care of persons with mental challenges need to take care of ourselves too. Very often, we are just a step away from the persons we take care of. Mental illness is becoming an alarming trend in our African immigrant community and let us start sounding the alarm bells. For men only? Nego! The Good News: There is so much help!

African Immigrants and African Americans in DC Celebrate Our Lady Mother of Africa. By Lambert Mbom.

 

20180924_234816-booklet-for-mass-e1537867657878.jpgThe Arabic expression “Assalaam Alaikum” which literally means “Peace be unto you,” a standard Muslim greeting echoed from the altar of the Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception during the sign of peace. Over 350 African immigrants and African Americans of the archdiocese of Washington DC metro congregated in Mary’s shrine on Sunday September 16 to celebrate the annual mother of Africa pilgrimage.

“We are on pilgrimage to the house of the mother of Jesus,” said Msgr. Eddie Tollentino main celebrant and homilist. “We ask for her intercession under the title of Mother of Africa. We have come to gain deeper insight and intimacy with Mary’s only begotten son.”

This mass marked the 21st anniversary of the dedication of the chapel of Our Mother of Africa, one of over 70 chapels that make up and adorn the towering edifice of Catholicism in the nation’s capital. This chapel is tucked between the Crypt Church and the Our Lady of Lourdes chapel (which mirrors the Lourdes Grotto). It is the one spot where Africa features into the “tapestry of the Catholic faith” and the “mosaic of this great nation.” Small in size with a holding capacity of less than 20 persons, it harbors the distinctive artistic acuity of a Black Jesus and the image of a Black Madonna beckoning on the slavery ridden history of this great nation depicted in the bas relief on the wall of the chapel.

With Hurricane Florence raging in the Carolinas and many people having left home out of necessity, many have become part of the Diaspora, noted Msgr. Tollentino. This is the same experience of the prophet Isaiah in the First Reading who lived in exile not because of any hurricane but because his country people had become a rebellious people. It is also the experience of the African diaspora that had gathered in the nation’s capital. No matter what Diaspora you might be from, there is only one place we can come for healing: Jesus Christ.

He exhorted the community to seek the truth explaining that truth comes from hearing and the word of God. And with faith comes action.

“Our faith should be pulsating through our veins in the same way as the music,” said Tollentino.

The richness of African liturgical music came to life as the angelic voices of the Marie Reine du Monde Choir of the Francophone community of St Camillus’s parish animated. Not only did the prayers of the faithful receive the African flavor with renditions in dialects from Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia but also most of the songs originated from the heart of Mother Africa with songs in Ibo(Nigeria), Swahili, Bawule (Cote D’Ivoire), Serere (Senegal) among others.

While applauding the Africans who showed up for this celebration, Dr. Seikor Bundu, President of the African Catholic Association of the DC metro area regretted the fact that in spite of the groundwork his team put in place many Africans did not show up to fill the Upper Church of the Basilica.

Conspicuously absent at this year’s celebration was the traditional visit to the chapel itself during which people took turns to pray, like at last year’s. Many persons however spent some private moments there after the mass.

Visibly present at the celebration were Marian groups especially from Cameroon with the distinctive Catholic Women’s Association (CWA) – and the Catholic Women’s Organization (CWO) outfit.

Worth noting is the fact that the Mother of Africa chapel and its architectural accoutrements are gifts of the African American Bishops and National Black Catholic Congress (NABC). The scared dialogue that the chapel conjures is one that needs to be happening more between African immigrants and African Americans.

NABC describes the work of arts in the chapel thus: “The statue of Our Mother of Africa holding the Christ Child faces a bas-relief in the nave, which chronicles the African-American odyssey, and draws us to the Crucified Christ in the sanctuary.”

“It is good to see the African Diaspora in the Basilica of the National Shrine,” said Sandra Coles-Bell, program director of the Office of Cultural Diversity and outreach of the archdiocese of Washington DC who organized this mass.

Book Review: The Mysterious Ways of God. By Lambert Mbom

20180711_163710After ten years as a priest of the diocese of Buea, Cameroon, part of which he served as Editor-in-chief of Catholic Panorama, (a monthly publication of the diocese of Buea) Fr Wilfred Emeh explored missionary endeavors in the United States landing first in Maryland, the indisputable Cameroonian hub in the US. The rude awakening that the universality of the Catholic Church had some geographical colorings stunned him as he found it near impossible to find room and board in local presbyteries. With this hurdle, came the detour that brought this young priest to Birmingham, Alabama of all places. Buoyed by the urgency of the mission and burdened with the prejudice of the dark history of Alabama and race relations, this African with a heavy accent took the risk. He “put out into the deep” and after four years he was bursting at the seams with gratitude. After a four years’ stint at Our lady of Sorrows parish, Alabama where Fr Wilfred Emeh had spent time joggling academic chores and pastoral responsibilities, he imagined what gift he could offer this unsuspectingly gregarious community. His answer is in a book, “The Mysterious Ways of God: A Memoir of Love, Trials and Friendships.”

There is a certain myth that African priests who travel to the United States of America do not face the same challenges of immigration that many of their lay confreres go through. It is that gilded notion of the priesthood that many especially in Africa hail. But nego! While the legal Rubicon of getting asylum is hardly their problem, they are not vaccinated against the numerous cultural shocks. In eight short chapters, the author recounts the story of how a Cameroonian priest navigated the complex vicissitudes wont of emigrating to the United States and settling in the deep South of all places and against all odds and becoming the enfant Cherie of his home away from home. It is a book for priests and religious seeking an understanding of the complexities that undergird ministry in the United States of America and how to navigate these.

In appraising this piece of literary gem, I could not help but borrow from St Paul’s admonition to the Philippians 4:8: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…then the God of peace will be with you.” These qualities are reflected in the 104 pages, Fr Emeh pens adding to an already rich pedigree. In four years, Fr Wilfred Emeh had successfully bagged a master’s degree in Communications and has written two books. Paul lays out eight qualities namely true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellence, praiseworthy which could be applicable to this new publication. Of the foregoing qualities, four are worth considering namely true, gracious, just and excellence.

Some of us had the privilege of consuming an overdose of literature as we grew up. I remember the fictional acuity of Hadley Chase and the romantic escapades momentarily albeit of the celebrated Mills and Boons. With the “Mysterious Ways of God,” Fr Emeh lays bare the truth of his experience. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with writing a memoir yet the priest challenges himself to unravel the mysteries of the divine in his daily encounters in Alabama. One thing that shines through this work is how Fr Wilfred wraps in the best of the three Popes he has been privileged to live through their papacy. In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI invites us to the abiding truth that: Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with a person which gives life a new horizon.” Pope Francis develops this further and invites us to a “culture of encounter.” He reminds us that “Faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.” And like Pope St John Paul II, Fr Emeh draws from the inspiring “Memory and Identity” to share his experiences. It is Jesus Christ who brings Fr Epie to Our Lady of Sorrows where he encounters the same Christ making him present to the people. One way of reading this text is invariably then that of the encounter of two cultures made possible by the person of Jesus Christ through the priest (an African black man) and a predominantly white community (Our Lady of Sorrows) with a sordid history of racial tensions (Birmingham, Alabama).

The unmistakable point one comes away with is the fact that this priest listened attentively to the following words Bishop Pius Awa of Blessed memory addressed to him on the day of his ordination fourteen years ago: When you baptize you will bring men and women into the people of God. In the sacrament of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. With Holy oils, you will relive and console the sick. You will celebrate the liturgy, offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world.” This book reads like an account of Fr Emeh’s stewardship over the last four years while in the United States of America. It is a memoir, a memory of the first African priest to serve in Alabama. It is neither a work of fiction nor is it draped in the dreary theological platitudes.

The gracious seems to be the single leitmotif underpinning this work. It is a story of the inscrutable work of grace. There is no doubt that becoming a priest is the work of grace. It was breathtaking reading how the author almost called off his ordination during a retreat until the reassuring words of Our Lady to him: “I will help you, do not be afraid.” Thirteen years later Fr chose Fatima, a famous Marian apparition site, to do a pilgrimage in honor of the Blessed Mother, Mary. The mystery of being a priest, of being alive and ministering in Alabama, could only be the mysterious intervention of grace.

It would have been an epic failure of sorts if the author failed to address the current malaise affecting his country of origin, Cameroon. Since 2016, Cameroon has been mired in a crisis that has spiraled out of control and trudging to the precipice. As a priest, he answered the call of his prophetic ministry and used the barrel of the pen to communicate his thoughts on the struggle. Even in the midst of the crisis, Fr Emeh displayed his ecclesiological magistracy at the demise of Bishop Balla of the diocese of Bafia, Cameroon who had been brutally assassinated and dumped in a river with a fake suicide note left in his car. Without the ethnicity bias, this priest wrote: “Additionally, the current crisis plaguing our homeland is a wakeup call to the clergy and God’s people in Cameroon, and to the church as a whole, because an attack on one of us is an attack on the entire Body of Christ.” (p.71). In a series of social media postings, Fr Epie addressed the inherent question of justice underlying the current political quagmire that has gripped Cameroon. He extends to the assassinated Bishop a courtesy that Francophone Bishops have not been able to extend to Ambazonian Bishops. Beyond his prophetic voice, Fr Emeh has now dedicated his work to humanitarian and relief services for the aggrieved people of Ambazonia. He has accepted and become a board member of the Cameroon Humanitarian and relief Initiative, an apolitical organization. They have been actively engaged with the refugees in Nigeria and feeding political prisoners in Cameroon. There is no peace without justice!

Fr Emeh’s piece is an excellent piece of literary wizardry. It makes for easy reading and quite entertaining. One of the best stories Fr tells is of his classmate, an African American girl who is 23 and tries to woo him and when this fails she tries to hook him up with her sister. To find out how that story ends and many more get a copy from EWTN’s Religious catalogue.

 

 

Rev Fr Jaap Nielen: Rest in Perfect Peace! By Lambert Mbom

I spent the school year 1996/1997 gaining pastoral experience at St Gabriel’s parish Bafmeng. During that year, late Archbishop Verdzekov came on pastoral visit. One of the surprising guests who showed up to welcome the archbishop was the Ardo (the community leader of the Fulanis). After exchanging usual pleasantries, the Ardo stated the real intention of his visit: He had come on behalf of his community to plead with the archbishop to bring back Fr Nielen whom he had transferred to St Anthony’s parish, Njinikom in 1995 so he could be closer to the hospital. The Ardo left really disappointed because the Archbishop painstakingly explained that Fr Nielen would not be returning to Bafmeng where he had served for 13 years.

Fr Nielen had left an indelible mark on the lives of the entire Bafmeng community without prejudice to religion. Bafmeng is a typical African traditional society with a weekly market day that rotates on a calendar determined by traditional norms. This weekly event saw the parish transformed into a beehive as people from across the hills and valleys thronged in to receive medication, clothing and/or cash. His unparalleled largesse enthralled the community.  Fr Nielen was an extremely generous and charitable man. While the world spoke of a Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the people of the archdiocese of Bamenda had a Fr Nielen.

In seeking to discern the secret to Fr Nielen’s charity, I found the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta quite apt and resonant with the spirit he engendered. Cardinal Sarah Prefect for the Congregation on Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments describes this in his seminal work, The Power of Silence. Mother Teresa shared her secret thus:

“Do you think that I could practice charity if I did not ask Jesus every day to fill my heart with his love? Do you think that I could go through the streets looking for the poor if Jesus did not communicate the fire of his charity to my heart? Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor!”

Fr Nielen was not a social worker but a missionary and never lost side of He who sent him. He brought the poor to God and brought God to the power. True charity is an expression of genuine prayer. Fr Nielen’s first act of charity lies in his acceptance of God’s call to bring the Gospel to Cameroon. Being a missionary is undoubtedly a great act of charity. Most Mill Hill Missionaries went above and beyond to also cater for the material needs of their missions. Fr Nielen took this to a whole different level.

Pope Francis’ portrait of the priest beautifully expressed in his 2013 homily for Chrism mass revealed something true of this missionary disciple.

The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, the people take the oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad – sad priests – in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with “the odour of the sheep”. This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odour of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men.

Fr Nielen bore the marks of a true  shepherd even for professional shepherds “ganakos” such as the fulanis in Bafmeng who took offence at the fact that he had to be transferred to a different parish.

Fr Jaap Nielen was born on January 28th 1928, the feast of St Thomas Aquinas. He became a Mill Hill Missionary on July 13th 1952 and bagged a doctorate degree in Philosophy in 1955. He took appointment in Cameroon in 1960 and left in 2003. He transitioned to meet the Lord on February 23 and was laid to rest on February 28, 2018.

In September 1995, Fr Nielen had the unenvious task to preach the annual retreat to seminarians of the St Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, Bambui, Cameroon. One could hardly tell that this soft spoken priest had a doctorate in Philosophy. His demeanor did not betray his intellectual prowess. He did not speak of the Metaphysics of Being or the epistemological provenance of the Truth or any of the esoteric accoutrements of the philosophical disciplines. In fact if one could hazard a guess, one would have thought he had bagged a terminal degree in Spirituality. Nego! This philosopher drew from the rich treasury of 40 years of the priesthood as a missionary to Africa. He spoke from the heart and reeked of the odor of his sheep: “The Anawims of Yahweh – the poorest of the poor.” He exhorted us to make our ministry that of and for the poor. Dr Nielen’s doctorate in philosophy rather became a doctorate of poverty.

The endearing lesson of this retreat animated the students that years after one of the retreatants James Nkuo signs off all his emails with the inspirational words of Fr Nielen: “It is not what you do that is important but the love with which you do it.”

There could not have been a better choice to inspire seminarians aspiring to the priesthood especially given that he had served as Vocations Director of the archdiocese of Bamenda and what is more had three of his spiritual sons studying in the seminary at the time.

Fr Nielen was a great storyteller. This art had been perfected I guess through his interaction with the poor. Christ used parables to teach and thus one could see he was in touch with his environment and his community.  Following his master’s experience, Fr Nielen so much a man of his community that he preached the Good News with uncanny simplicity and yet

One of the tragedies that shot him to “prominence” is the Lake Nyos gas disaster of 1986. Fr Nielen was one of the first responders to the victims of nature’s redness in tooth and claw. I just read the letter he is said to have written to Archbishop Paul Verdzekov shortly after he returned from visiting the disaster area. He wrote inter alia:

“On Friday rumors reached us that the lake had killed some Fulani man and his cows. Then again that the quarter head of Cha was lying dead in his compound with his two women. On Saturday morning, I was so worried that I went there with my two catechists…”

I spent a month in Buabua, one of the resettlement camps of the victims of the Nyos disaster. The journey to that part of that parish took weeks to prepare. The journey to Ise, the closest motorable outstation of the parish to the disaster area is at the least two hours 30 minutes. The Nyos disaster occurred in August, in the heart of the rainy season when the roads are near impassable. It is striking to note that when Fr Nielen heard of the news he did not send others to go and explore the area and come back to report to him. He definitely had mass in the parish the next day given it was a Sunday. That would have been a valid excuse. Yet, he was so worried that he set off on that treacherous journey to be with the people during that moment of infinite pathos and vulnerability.  Life had been snuffed out of approximately 1700 persons and “Jaap” moved through those villages without fear assessing the needs and burying the dead.

The pain of this veritable pastor was palpable as he recounted: “No Christian of Nyos came to greet me and cry with me. The Church of Nyos had died, with Mattias, the head Christian and Nazarius, the catechist and Mary, the choir mistress.”

What an exceptional feat of courage. The courage of a pastor whose sole task is the wellbeing of the people he has been called to serve and minister to. It is this same courage that inspired him to become a missionary leaving the comfort of Holland to the hinterlands of Bafmeng. No doubt he had as one of his mantras, “life no be na joke!” – Life is not a joke!

By sheer dint of luck, Fr Nielen died a few days after American Evangelist Billy Graham. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday anniversary and 65th anniversary of the priesthood. This year is also the 90th anniversary of the Oscars. And so the Oscar for missionary activity goes to Fr Nielen who was laid to rest on Wednesday February 28, 2018.

Two of his spiritual persons Fr Emmanuel Nuh and Fr Anthony Bangsi spent some time with Fr Nielen prior to his demise and left us with an endearing souvenir of Fr Nielen. The magic of his melodious voice rings out in this audio

 

MLK Challenge: Ambazonians – “Remain Awake, Alert and Creative” By Lambert Mbom

Last Monday, Americans honored the legacy of civil rights icon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s celebration took on an added meaning against the backdrop of President Trump’s recent racially tinged comments. While in the land of my birth, for over a year now, the people of Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia activated and ratcheted the revolution for the restoration of the “won and lost” independence.

While Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech remains very popular especially among Africans, today in the face of the daunting challenges and setbacks that have beset the Ambazonian revolution, one of Dr. King’s priceless themes worth revisiting is “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution.” The version I laid hands on is Dr. King’s address at Morehouse College Commencement, 2 June 1959. It is worth remarking here that MLK delivered variations of this theme throughout the 1960s.

As I watched the march past, I could relate to the many issues that defined the long march: “Black Lives Matter,” “Jobs not Jails,” “Statehood for DC” to name but these. Conspicuously absent today were the many Africans from the infamous “s…h…” countries that would have seized the moment to register their discontent. One could not help but ask for example where all the many champions for Ambazonia/Southern Cameroons were?

Reflecting on the current state of the Ambazonia revolution, the words of Dr King to the 1959 graduating class of Morehouse College remain relevant: “The great challenge facing every member of this graduating class is to remain awake, alert and creative through this great revolution.” This is and should be the abiding message to every Ambazonian. This is the MLK challenge to every Ambazonian.

The grave danger at this time is to be complacent or disappointed especially with some of our leaders in jails in the colonialist’s dungeon and their accomplices in neighboring Nigeria abducting Sisiku AyukTabe of the Interim government and some members of his cabinet, increasing number of refugees streaming in from Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia and the bloodbath cum impending genocide as a result of the provocation of the occupying forces of La Republique. We have come too far and must hold the fort. Let us remain awake, alert and creative.

Each of us must avoid becoming the Ambazonian “Rip Van Winkle.” The coward is said to have gone up to the mountain for a long sleep during the American Revolution. In Dr. King’s words: “When he went up, the wall had a picture of King George III of England. When he came down it had the picture of another George, George Washington…When he started his quiet sleep America was still under the domination of the British Empire. When he came down she was a free and independent nation. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.” Ambazonians wake up, be alert and creative.

Dr. King defined this in another of his famous quotes: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

The harsh conditions of the elements of nature with the frigid cold did not deter some of us from joining the Peace Parade along the hallowed streets of South East D.C dedicated to the iconic Martin Luther King Jr. In the context of the Ambazonian struggle and against the backdrop of President’s Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign which seems to be a euphemism for “America Alone,” it seems foolhardy to engage in politically charged activism like the Ambazonia Revolution. Yet, Rev Dr King’s rousing speech makes the strong case for why Americans need to be engaged in struggles like Ambazonia’s. Even though referring to the abject poverty he witnessed in India, one could paraphrase King’s words to refer to Ambazonia thus:

“Can we in America stand idly by and not be concerned? The answer is an emphatic No because the destiny of America is tied up with the destiny of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons). As long as Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) or any other nation is insecure, we can never be totally secure. We must use our vast resources of wealth to aid the developed nations of the world. Too often have we used our wealth to establish military bases, while neglecting the need of establishing bases of genuine concern and understanding.”

We the Ambazonian Diaspora in the United States of America must move the struggle beyond the noisy chat rooms of our “Whatsapp” groups and enlist our friends at work, church and clubs. While charity truly begins at home, it becomes selfish if it remains at home. We must remind Americans that the destiny of Ambazonia is inextricably bound with the destiny of America where some of us have found refuge. Rev King has provided us the words to avail of in this campaign of enlisting America’s support: “No nation or individual is independent; we are interdependent. We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality.” Each of us must become an Ambassador for the Ambazonian revolution.

It is thus pathetic to see that our activism has not risen beyond the confines of our quarrels on social media and hence we have not been able to convict the consciences of our American friends. We need a groundswell of actions like those of the proud and courageous Ambazonians in Boston who convinced their local council to take up the Ambazonian issue. If all the Ambazonians in the US could follow this model and engage their local politicians in a more deliberate fashion, then maybe, just maybe we will get the US to do what they did to bring down Apartheid in South Africa. It is unfathomable to imagine that Ambazonians in the US were unable to get 100.000 signatures last year to bring the Ambazonia issue to the White House. It is unconscionable to imagine that we have not been able to get the crowds at our demonstration that will shut down traffic and bring on the attention to our revolution.

Yes, all politics is local and it is a numbers game. Let us activate Ambazonian Revolution 2.0. In celebrating the legacy of this luminary of the civil rights movement, let us celebrate the legacy of Mancho Bibixy, Sisiku Julius AyukTabe and our leaders incarcerated and abducted in foreign dungeons of La Republique du Cameroun and Nigeria.

Even though a Catholic hymn, I can bet my last dime that Rev. Dr. King must have reflected on the following words of Faber which in the current context of our incarcerated leaders and compatriots ring out loud:

Faith of our Fathers! living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword:
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word.

Faith of our Fathers! Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Our Fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them, could die for thee!

Faith of our Fathers! Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Buoyed by these words, we Ambazonians must “remain awake, alert and creative.” Happy Martin Luther King Day.

 

 

The Inconvenient Truth – Southern Cameroons’ Activism on WhatsApp By Lambert Mbom

“I once said, ‘If you want to liberate a society, all you need is the Internet.’ I was wrong. I said those words back in 2011, when a Facebook page I anonymously created helped spark the Egyptian revolution. The Arab Spring revealed social media’s greatest potential, but it also exposed its greatest shortcomings. The same tool that united us to topple dictators eventually tore us apart.” Wael Ghonim TedTalk March 2011

One of the most active battlegrounds for the liberation of Ambazonia is on social media: Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter in descending order of usage. Like with most revolutions, free speech is often the first casualty. I write today to bemoan the dictatorial tendencies that have characterized many Ambazonian WhatsApp fora. One cannot but denounce the actions on the SCNC forum where group administrators have let emotions not reason get the better side of them as they yank members off the group’s WhatsApp forum. Unfortunately, this is becoming a norm rather than the exception.

The SCNC WhatsApp group emerged in November 2016 as a fundraising tool where people made pledges to support the budding revolution at the time and served well when that lone objective reigned. It soon became a place where people settled personal vendetta. With the emergence of the SCACUF’s Governing Council, the attack dogs went wild. Today, this has gone viral.

This unfortunate reaction appears to have been fueled initially by the posting of a video message recorded and widely disseminated by Edwin Suh on social media lambasting the flawed process that birthed Sisiku AyukTabe’s leadership of the Governing Council of SCACUF. Clearly, criticism of any form against the Governing Council of SCACUF became anathema on the SCNC forum.

Let me state clearly that I do not subscribe to the “anything goes” social media school of thought. Free speech or better still freedom of expression is not license to “any” and “everything.” There is such a thing as abuse and hence the need for etiquette on social media.

The fun of it is that “WhatsApp” is a free service provided for information sharing and community building. Is it not greed that one is provided a service gratis and he turns around to purge others from enjoying the same? Each group that avails of this service is supposed to have its defining ethos; these have to be carefully and clearly delineated for all members to understand. This too cannot be done willy-nilly but must be agreed to. There is no evidence of such discussions, guidelines and rules set forth on the SCNC WhatsApp forum. While the argument could be made for unwritten guidelines, such do not resolve the problem of borderline cases. We cannot let this be dictated merely by common sense or willy-nilly at the whims and caprices of a select puritan few.

On the SCNC WhatsApp forum, there has been a vocal coterie shouting out: fie, fie, fie to members who dare challenge otherwise comfortable positions. When a house is on fire, it is not by occupants shouting that there is no fire that the flames are put out. The fire invariably consumes the house and the naysayers or deniers. Let us never forget that just as “ignorance is bliss,” so too is “knowledge power.”

When one looks for the reasons for such intolerance on social media, one cannot lose sight of the fact that dictatorship breeds dictatorship. One understands that having lived under the brunt of a brutal dictatorship, sufferers too invariably become dictators of some sorts when the opportunity presents itself. What is the difference between the action of the government of la Republique shutting down the internet for over 90 days in the North West and South West regions and administrators of WhatsApp groups throwing people off the forum who even though they agree on the restoration agenda differ on how to accomplish it.

The last time I checked the motto of the SCNC is “Force of Argument and not the argument of force!” These WhatsApp Generals have invariably turned this on its head and using the argument of the force of Group Admin to chase away those whose only force is that of argument. This is undoubtedly an instantiation of cyber bullying which we must eschew. This crass demonstration of two fallacies “Argumentum ad baculum – argument of force” and argumentum ad hominem” is pitiful. Once people cannot comprehend the issues they resort to force and personal attacks.

One finds it intriguing that the purveyors of this banality are enjoying unfettered freedom of speech in the US and yet seek to stifle that of fellow activists on a small chat group on WhatsApp. What is so funny is the fact that these WhatsApp groups are populated just by 260 people and we often mistake the loud noises we make among ourselves as activism. There is a difference between WhatsApp and the other social media like Facebook and Twitter with a better possibility of setting the flame and stoking it to levels of paroxysm. It is foolhardy to continue to deceive ourselves that we can control information flow on WhatsApp and use that to effectively sanitize the struggle.

In civilized society, free speech is a cardinal cornerstone. Freedom of expression cannot be denied those who speak truth to power or who have a different opinion. It is therefore primitive to be shutting people out of Whatsapp forum because they are not ready to sing: Hail, Hail to Sisiku AyukTabe.

Let us take a leaf from the popular American soap opera “Saturday Night Live” and its parody of even the most powerful man on earth, the President of the United States of America, Donald J Trump. Don’t the English say: “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” We must be careful about the monster we are erecting because it will come back to bite us. We can continue pretending that the king is not naked when he is dressed in Adam’s suit and instead of manning up and dressing up the king, we hurl stones at the court jester who like Shakespeare’s fool in King Lear is speaking truth to power.

We must make ours the words of Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson put it correctly: He who fears criticism is hopeless. Only those who do things are criticized. To hesitate for fear of criticism is cowardly. If our cause is right be not afraid of criticism, advocate it, expound it and if need be, fight for it. Critics always have been and always will be, but to the strong minded they are a help rather than a hindrance. Take your part in life’s stage and play your part to the end.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: