Cameroon’s Archbishop Emeritus of Douala, Christian Wiyghan Cardinal Tumi

By Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

Nov 14 2020

A video of a defiant Cardinal Tumi, when he was in captivity, is making the rounds on social media.

Armed separatists in Cameroon’s restive northwestern region abducted Christian Wiyghan Cardinal Tumi as he made his way from Bamenda to Kumbo on 5 November. He was eventually released the following day.

A short 05.47 minutes video, seen by Vatican News, is currently circulating on social media. The video shows the ninety-year-old Cardinal Tumi, who is the Archbishop Emeritus of Douala, being interrogated by his captors while in captivity. Below are excerpts from the video.

Voice of Ambazonian (VA) speaks to Cardinal:

We have an allegation about you that you are the one that is creating problems in our territory first, the fighters who are on the ground, the Ambozonia Restoration Forces, you have the routine (habit) of telling them to lay down their arms …

Cardinal Tumi: All of us are fighting for peace. Even you!

VA: You are now free to go and let the Republic (Government of Cameroon) know that we will never lay down our arms until our freedom comes … because we are fighting for our rights. We are not Rebels; we are not barbaric as the Republic says, we are fighting for our rights as a people …

Cardinal Tumi: I am a Cameroonian citizen like you. I am not part of the government. I am totally independent of what I say. I am not the mouthpiece of the government because I am not employed by the government. When I speak, I speak like a pastor and that I can never stop. If I stop doing that, I will not be faithful to God the almighty. If you have done wrong, I will tell you that you have done wrong; if the government has done wrong, I will say they have done wrong!

VA: Another allegation against you is about federation. That is the allegation that we have heard that you are fighting for federation … We are not fighting for federation … we believe that we are a country (Ambazonia) from 1961…according to the allegation, you have made our boys lay down their arms and many of them have been killed.

Cardinal Tumi: Point of correction. I will preach what is true and (based on) pastoral conviction, biblical conviction. Nobody has the right to tell me to preach the contrary, because I was called by God.

No ransom paid for the release of Cardinal Tumi

The separatists, who obviously filmed the video, are keen to emphasise that Cardinal Tumi confirm, on record, that they had not mistreated him. The Cardinal affirms that he had not been mistreated but tongue-in-cheek, reminds his captor that he had not eaten anything from the time they seized him, the previous day. His interlocutor forges ahead. He wants the Cardinal to confirm, on video, that no money had been paid for his release nor had they robbed him of any personal belongings. 

Traditional ruler finally released as well

Cardinal Tumi was abducted together with the paramount traditional ruler of  the Nso people, Fon Sehm Mbinglo II, of Bui Division in the North West region of Cameroon. Their convoy of cars was, on the 5 November, intercepted between Bamenda and Kumbo. While Cardinal Tumi was released a day after the abduction, the separatist fighters held on to the traditional ruler. The separatists only released the traditional ruler on Tuesday, 10 November..

Pope Francis’ closeness to Cameroon

Pope Francis has expressed his closeness to Cameroon. At the weekly General Audience on 28 October, he prayed that “the tormented regions of the North West and South West of the country would find peace.”

Human Rights Watch has condemned the violence in Cameroon

According to Human Rights Watch, Cameroon’s military and the armed separatists are both guilty of atrocities and human rights violations in the four-year conflict. Over 3 000 civilians and hundreds of security personnel have been killed. The unrest in the regions has also forced more than 700 000 people from their homes. Many are now living as Internally Displaced Persons while thousands have fled across the border into Nigeria, as refugees. – Vatican News