Cameroon: Over a month in captivity, Kidnapped priests and others regain Freedom

By Sonita Ngunyi Nwohtazie & Boris Esono Nwenfor

Uncertainty still surrounds the kidnapping of the Priests and circumstances surrounding their release

Nine Catholic Christians, including priests, and a nun who were kidnapped by gunmen in Mamfe, in the restive South West Region of Cameroon have been released. The Christians regained freedom on October 22, though the circumstances are still blurry.

On September 16, unidentified gunmen with reports linking to the separatist fighters in the area, stormed the St. Mary’s Catholic Nchang Parish of Mamfe Diocese, South West Region of Cameroon during which nine people were abducted and buildings in the parish premises, including the church, razed.

The attackers kidnapped Fr. Elias Okorie, Fr. Barnabas Ashu, Fr. Cornelius Jingwa, Fr. Job Francis Nwobegu, Fr. Emmanuel Asaba, Sr. Jacinta C. Udeagha, Mr Nkem Patrick Osang (Assisting Catechist), Ms Blanche Bright, and Mme. Kelechukwu.

His Lordship Aloysius Abangalo Fondong, Bishop of Mamfe who welcomed the release said: “While sincerely appreciating you all for the display of the one family spirit during these difficult times, I urge each of you to pray a decade of the rosary in thanksgiving to God for their safety and release of our brothers and sisters who were kidnapped.”

Condemning this criminal act on the church, as church buildings, s

His Lordship Aloysius Abangalo Fondong, Bishop of Mamfe

chools, and hospitals are regularly attacked by armed men since the start of the crisis in 2016, the bishop warns that the church is neutral and has nothing to do with the crisis and as such armed men have no right to target men and women of God.


“I seize this opportunity once again to condemn the act of desecrating the church, in the strongest terms possible, and to decry the need for the enhancement of human dignity. Taking away the freedom of fellow brothers and sisters to make money at all cost is inhuman, and should desist from,” His Lordship Aloysius Abangalo Fondong added.

“… I supposed is time to rethink your approach and ensure that the dignity of the human person is upheld in every way possible.”

Unclear if a ransom was paid off not

The circumstances of the release of the religious authorities are still unclear. While some sections have pointed out to a ramson paid for their release, the church in the past has been adamant about paying ramsons which may set a dangerous precedence in future.

In an interview with ACI Africa, about a week after the kidnapping, the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Bamenda, Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuannya, said: “Those who abducted these people and set the church ablaze are only asking for ransom… They are demanding 100,000 USD and they have been arguing and coming down. They are somewhere around 50,000 USD but we don’t have even a dollar to pay for this kind of thing.”

“We have tried to explain to all those who have always tried to abduct ministers of the Church that the Church cannot be paying ransom to separatist fighters or criminals.”

Following an eleven-second video on social media platforms, they released priests and others are seeing thanking separatist fighters for their release. “We want to thank the freedom fighters of Ambozia for releasing us without no ransom paid,” they said.

The Catholic Church has increasingly become the target of attackers, not leaving out the Presbyterian and Baptist churches which have also come under attack for their views shared. The bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province have called for a peaceful resolution of the present conflict in the North West and South West Regions that has had untold sufferings on the population with the church not being left out. They said: “If there are issues affecting our nation we should sit together and discuss it. We should not be killing people, harassing people and destroying property.”

The six-year violence in the North West and South West Regions has taken a heavy toll on the civilian populations in the Northwest and Southwest regions, with attacks against schools, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and a general sense of insecurity forcing millions of Cameroonians to flee to neighbouring countries.

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