The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Cameroon and Archbishop of the Bamenda Metropolitan Archdiocese, Mgr. Andrew Nkea Fuanya has added his voice to the thousands of others calling for the release of Senator Mrs. Regina Mundi.
The Senator-an 80-year-old woman was kidnapped at Foncha Street in Bamenda on Saturday, April 30 by separatists on her way to a wedding.
She was forced to read a prepared statement resigning from the Senate to “join our brothers to fight and push La Republique out of our country.”
“We ask La Republique to maintain their boundaries as from Independence. We should note that it is our right to fight and maintain our territorial integrity,” said the statement.
Separatists have for about six years now been fighting to separate the Former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons from the rest of the country to form what they call “The Federal Republique of Ambazonia.”
The two regions-the North West and South West regions constitute 20% of the country’s population of some 27 million people. Decades of perceived marginalization have led to the current struggle for the independence of the two regions.
Capo Daniel, the Deputy Defense Chief of the Ambazonia Governing Council (one
of the pro-independence factions) said in a statement that the senator was arrested because as a senator, she was an enabler of the government’s atrocities in “Ambazonia.”
“Mrs. Mundi Regina was arrested for charges of high treason due to her acceptance to be a Senator. Representing Ambazonia in the Cameroun legislature- enablers of Cameroun’s re-colonization of Ambazonia. Mrs. Mundi Regina is also charged with accessory to the atrocities being committed against our people by Paul Biya’s genocidal war of subjugation.”
The statement further stated that her freedom will be dependent on the government freeing the chairman of the Southern Cameroons National Council, Nfor Ngala Nfor and 75 others languishing in jail.
“I am sending out this open letter to those who are keeping Mrs. Regina Mundi to kindly show mercy on her and liberate her from captivity,” Nkea said in his May 10 statement.
“I appeal to anyone who has any influence over those holding Mrs. Mundi to return her to her family unhurt,” the cleric said in a release.
The President of the Bishops’ Conference called on the abductors to consider Mrs. Mundi not only as a senator but also as a mother and grandmother.
“Mrs. Regina Mundi is a mother and a grandmother of children and grandchildren who love her, independent of her being a Senator. These grandchildren and children are waiting for their mother and grandmom to come back home to enjoy her love again,” Nkea said in the statement.
He said Mrs. Mundi’s friends were “waiting for her” and praised the Presbyterian Christian for her work in favour of rural women, describing her as “a very peaceful soul, living her widowhood and struggling for survival.”
“I call on the Christians and people of goodwill in Bamenda and beyond to pray unceasingly for Mrs. Mundi and for any other people who are in captivity and in prison that they may return to their families soon,” the cleric said.
The Clergyman’s statement has been criticized by pro-independence movements and some members of the public, describing it as hypocritical because they say the archbishop did not make the same call for the release of some 40 commercial motorbike riders seized by government forces in Ndop, Ngoketunjia division while they were heading to Oku to bury one of theirs.
While exchanging the Senator’s freedom for imprisoned pro-independence leaders seems to be at the heart of Mrs. Mundi’s ordeal, kidnapping for ransom seems to be one of the major problems in the war-ravaged region, with multiple actors involved.
On April 6th, 2022, 33 seminarians at the philosophicum at Bachuo Ntai, Mamfe in the South West region were kidnapped. The abductors were asking for ransom, but the Church opted to intensify prayers, calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
Some 14 road workers were rounded up recently in the country’s South West region. The road workers belonging to Tunisian company SOROUBAT-CM were taken at the locality of Ekombe in Mbonge District while they were working on the 60km Kumba-Mbonge-Ekondo-Titi Road that should cost the state of Cameroon CFA F 38 billion (nearly 61 million USD). The pro-independence fighters who captured them later released about ten of the workers without a ransom and are holding back their bosses and demanding an end to the company’s operations in the area.
In January 2019, Emmanuel Ngafeson, former Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice in charge of Prison Administration, was abducted from his residence in Ntabesi, not far from the city of Bamenda, capital of the North-West region.
A few days later, at least fifteen students from the University of Buea in the South-West region, also in the restive Southern Cameroons, were kidnapped on the university campus.
Mark Barah, a pro-independence activist based in the United Kingdom has lashed out against the phenomenon, noting that “while others thought the revolution was for freedom, some were busy making huge financial gains on the backs of our suffering people.”
“Satom (The construction company) paid General Cross CFA F 650 million, and because of that money, he was eliminated by Gabonaise and Sagat. Fombat of Fako in the UK has also taken his share of the fortunes.
When the Tunisian contractors were kidnapped, CFA F 50 million were paid to General Ikeku, and once again, it disappeared, as he used it to build his mansions in Nigeria,” Barah said.
But kidnapping for ransom is not only carried out by armed groups claiming to be part of the Southern Cameroons’ pro-independence movement. Opposition SDF Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi has at least twice accused President Paul Biya’s government officials from the area of maintaining their own ‘Ambazonia’ armed groups that specialize in kidnapping for ransom.
Human Rights Watch has described as ‘endemic’ the kidnappings in “Cameroon’s Anglophone regions”, noting that since 2017, “armed separatists in the Anglophone North-West and South-West regions have kidnapped hundreds of people, including students and clergy.”
The government of Cameroon is yet to make an official statement regarding the holding of the 80-year-old senator appointed by the country’s President, Paul Biya.