Cameroon – Alternation: Cardinal Christian Tumi asks Paul Biya to resign

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The Archbishop Emeritus of Douala said: “Paul Biya did all he could … if I was in his place, I would resign.”

The 90-year-old prelate recently gave a lively interview to Sputnik, Russia’s international news agency. Bishop Christian Tumi looks back on the armed conflict in the English-speaking area, where he comes from. In particular, it proposes the return of soldiers to barracks and the disarmament of armed groups. The Archbishop Emeritus of Douala also speaks out on the political transition in our country. And for him, the current Head of State should hand over.

Some extracts from this interview published on December 19, 2020:

Question: Cameroon has been facing a deadly crisis in the North West and South West for more than four years now. What is preventing things from returning to normal despite all the measures taken, including the holding of the Great National Dialogue in which you took part?

The 90-year-old prelate recently gave a lively interview to Sputnik, Russia’s international news agency. Bishop Christian Tumi looks back on the armed conflict in the English-speaking area, where he comes from. In particular, it proposes the return of soldiers to barracks and the disarmament of armed groups. The Archbishop Emeritus of Douala also speaks out on the political transition in our country. And for him, the current Head of State should hand over.

Question: Cameroon has been facing a deadly crisis in the North West and South West for more than four years now. What is preventing things from returning to normal despite all the measures taken, including the holding of the Great National Dialogue in which you took part?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: I have already met some of these men [the armed separatists, note] who are in the bush with weapons. Today, some of them don’t even know why they are fighting. It seems that those who are in the United States and who are campaigning for the creation of an independent state [the leaders of the secession] have told them that the United Nations will intervene and that the conflict will be resolved in a year. But these leaders are no longer in control.

However, many fighters are starting to leave their hiding places. I have already received a few here in Douala, with the support of the government represented by the Prime Minister, I have helped them reintegrate into society and hundreds more are gradually emerging from the bush. The newly installed Archbishop of Bamenda has already brought back almost 400 separatists to the Northwest. I met them in January when I was in Kumbo (North West), in my village, and their chief told me that he was planning to take refuge in Nigeria. One of the revelations he made to me was that the majority of those he is with are Nigerians and that there is only one Cameroonian in his ranks. Since this crisis started, I have been going to Kumbo home every year to really get to know what’s going on. ”

Question: You yourself were kidnapped a few weeks ago in the English-speaking northwest of the country. After speaking with these defenders of the separatist cause, do you think that the solutions advocated so far will help silence the guns?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: The army must return to the barracks and the young separatists who are in the bush must also lay down the weapons they are carrying illegally so that there is peace. At least, that was the answer I got from an old woman who has stayed in her village since the start of the war when I asked her point of view. However, the only person capable of ordering the ceasefire is Paul Biya. If he decides to bring the army back to the barracks, that will be the end of it.

Question: Cameroon has just attended the very first regional elections which complete the decentralization process in the territory. This decentralization is presented by the authorities as one of the solutions to the current crisis. Isn’t it time to move instead to the federalism demanded by several moderate English-speaking leaders?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: We have already had the experience of federalism for eleven years, between 1961 and 1972. And it worked. It is the most peaceful time our country has ever known since reunification. In light of this experience, what President Paul Biya has just done [accelerating the decentralization process, editor’s note] is the beginning of a solution.

This decentralization can be a solution if the regions have all the power necessary to manage the affairs at the base. However, there is no system that works by itself, it is the man who is at the heart of the system and must make it work. Only if I am for federalism, I am against those who fight at all costs to create another state.

Question: What can President Paul Biya do in the face of these protean crises that Cameroon is going through?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: I believe that the President of the Republic has done all he can but it is difficult to lead Cameroonians. Corruption is there, despite an organization [National Anti-Corruption Commission, editor’s note] created to fight against this gangrene. I believe the head of state has already exhausted all his possibilities. Frankly, if I were in his shoes, I would resign. Every time I have met the President of the Republic, I have told him what I think. Before he was re-elected [in October 2018, Editor’s note], I told him that if I was in his place, I would no longer stand for election to run a country like Cameroon.

He needs physical energy, but not only because at that age [87, editor’s note], we are also intellectually diminished, we are no longer as fine as when we were in our fifties or sixties. years. I hope that this term is really his last and that he is already starting to hand over responsibilities to others who are younger.

Question: The question of the succession to the head of the country is coming back more and more to the center of the news. Many observers and political actors fear a violent transition. Are these fears justified in your opinion?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: Cameroonians no longer like violence, no one likes violence. I myself would hate to see the army running the country. It can come to power to make things right and then return to its original missions, which is to defend us when we are attacked by an outside enemy. But there is a certain disorder in the country, I have the impression that everyone is doing what they want, that the laws are no longer being followed. If a lot of people challenge election laws, why are we afraid to reform them so that everyone is happy?

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