By Martin Jumbam
If there is one person in this country who had thought he would find peace of mind during his retirement to carefully work on his writings, that person is certainly Christian Cardinal Tumi, the Emeritus Archbishop of Douala. He has been working hard on his second book and says he needs all the peace and quiet he can get to round it up.
Mboua Massock, on the run
It was when the police started chasing the marchers away that one of them decided to rush for the safety of the Archbishop’s House. Catholic journalist, Ireneaus Chia, who happened to be around when the incident happened, says that he saw a man and a younger person rushing across the Cathedral courtyard and through the Archbishop’s gate. It was then that he saw three or four truckloads of helmeted and heavily armed policemen and women rushing after them. As the trucks came to a screeching halt, five or six of them, firearms at the ready, forced their way through the Archbishop’s gate in pursuit of the fugitives, who had rushed in a few minutes earlier and were hiding in one of the rooms.
It was then that the Cardinal and the present occupant of the Metropolitan See of Douala, His Grace Samuel Kleda, were informed that one of the political leaders, Mboua Massock, who had been out peacefully protesting on the street outside, had fled, with his son, from the forces of law and order and taken refuge in their house.
Killing a mosquito with a hammer!
In his usual no-nonsense style, Cardinal Tumi walked up to the five or six policemen, who had fanned out in the yard and were trying to enter into the house, and in a loud voice, ordered all of them to leave immediately. “You have no right to be here! Where’s the warrant authorizing you to search our premises? I say, get out!” The crowd, listening outside the gate, cheered when the Cardinal stood his ground and firmly ordered the intruders to leave immediately. Timidly, the police sneaked out, one after the other, to the jeers and boos of onlookers!
Talking about the incident sometime later, Cardinal Tumi wondered why the government needed truckloads of armed men and women to stop a handful of people from making their voices heard in the street. Isn’t that tantamount to killing a mosquito with a hammer? And see how many truckloads of armed men and women rushed after a small man and his son and were not even able to catch them!, he chuckled.
Whither your search warrant?
Asked what the invasion of the Archbishop’s House in Douala meant, Cardinal Tumi said it constituted a serious violation of the law on several counts. Nowhere else in the civilized world is a member of the forces of law and order allowed to force their way into someone’s private residence without a proper search warrant from a court of law. Even Cameroonian law recognizes this fact. It is also forbidden for a member of the forces of law and order to enter a place of worship to arrest a suspect. Anyone who takes refuge in a church, or in a mosque, is deemed to be protected because the law respects the sanctity of all places of worship and considers them inviolable.
Should a suspect take refuge in a place of worship, the matter is then reported to a senior official of such a place of worship, in this case, the Archbishop of Douala, His Grace Samuel Kleda, who would then determine if it was appropriate or not to hand over such a suspect to the legal authorities for prosecution. Should the suspect be accused of a criminal offence, the church authority in question would have no choice but to cooperate with the law.
Church's sanctity violated.
However, the case of Mboua Massock and his son, the Cardinal thought, could not be said to be a criminal offence at all. They were simply exercising their constitutional right to be heard through a peaceful march. Handing them over to the police would have been sacrificing a man and his son into the hands of people who would not have hesitated to torture them, knowing what our forces of law and order are capable of doing. Such an act would make the Church an accomplice to brutality towards a citizen of the land and his son. Secondly, the intrusion of the forces of law and order into the Archbishop’s residence also constitutes an unacceptable violation of the sacred nature of the Catholic Church as a whole. Wherever the bishop resides is as sacred as the Church itself and, by invading the Archbishop’s House in Douala, the Cameroonian State is guilty of violating the sanctity of the Catholic Church.
Father, forgive them of their ignorance!
Asked what the reaction of the Church authority has been, Cardinal Tumi said the Archbishop, His Grace Samuel Kleda, had sent a strongly worded protest to the Regional Chief of National Security of the Littoral, asking him to rein in his boys. To the Archbishop's protest, came a strange answer: “Father, forgive our boys and girls, they knew not what they were doing! They did not know that they needed a warrant to come into your yard. That will never happen again!”
What a strange answer from a regional security chief! If people charged with keeping law and order do not know that they are not allowed to force their way into people’s private residences without a proper warrant from the legal authorities, then we have reason to worry about our security, more from them than from the criminal fringe of society.
We join our Archbishop, His Grace Samuel Kleda, and our Archbishop Emeritus, His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi, to decry this gross violation of our Bishops’ residence, which also constitutes a serious violation of the sanctity of the Catholic Church that is in Cameroon.