Who could afford to miss the ordination, everything being equal? Since the appointment of Mgr. Aloysius Fondong Abangalo as third resident bishop of Mamfe, I have been full of love and admiration for him. This is especially so because I worked closely in the vineyard with him, fresh from ordination and deployed straight to Holy Family parish Newtown, Limbe where I worship.
About a fortnight to the ordination, a few of us, parishioners, were shortlisted to represent Newtown Catholic Church as delegates to the ordination. On May 2, 2022, the parish pastoral (PP) council picked just one person out of the shortlist. The lot logically fell on the PP chair in respect of hierarchy, but he was unable to make the trip due to personal reasons and ill health, so the second choice fell on me.
Due to hints of insecurity along the way and especially in parts of Manyu Division where the ordination took place, the PP chair informed me the parish priest had doubts over my trip to Mamfe and our parish gift would be sent to Mamfe through other means.
My trip was finally approved, though, and I hit the road on May 5, leaving Limbe at 4:30am and arriving Mamfe at 10:30am. Just when the head of state’s personal representative, Defence minister Joseph Beti Assomo, took his seat in the tribune, I took mine under the scorching sun. At least I was glad the start of the ceremony “waited” for my arrival.
The ceremony kicked off with the Knights of Columbus. Over 200 priests were on hand and about all the Bishops of Cameroon episcopate. Also present was the Apostolic Nuncio His Excellency, Julio Murat and the Archbishop of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province and newly elected president of the Episcopal province Archbishop Andrew Fuanya Nkea who was the chief celebrant.
Besides the numerous state defence and security controls points along the way, there was this particular control point which, curiously, was hardly a kilometre from the last military check point. At a small sensitive bend in an area called Babensi, behold! our vehicle ran into gunmen without uniforms. Tgey were obviously the non-state armed men we have been hearing of. They were about six fierce-looking men, armed to the teeth with guns and amulets. We were obviously lucky as the car right in front of oura was directed into the bush by some of the gunmen. I felt goose pimples on my body.
The gunmen approached our vehicle in majestic confidence and spoke to us. Don’t ask me whether we paid ransom happily or not. Mami Maria was on my fingers. I was counting like never before, telling her “It is for your son Bishop you appointed that we are going to install ooh!” She heard me and we were shown the way forward. Perhapa our added advantage was that Bishop Fondong is a Blue Army faithful, so her crown was over us like it happened with Pope St John Paul II when he was shot.
I smiled when they allowed us to go, then they ask me in particular wearing the bishop’s ordination fabric, “Are you going to church? Because we have seen this particular dress pass here severally.” I said, “Yes”. It will be hard to describe the smile on my face when they said, “Go, we are coming later.” I can’t tell whether they came, how they came nor what they meant by that.
Security situation in Mamfe
It was really bad in Mamfe last week. At the park, I saw the charred remains of about six vehicles, believed to have been set ablaze by gunmen, perhaps as punishment meted on those who violated their orders as if often narrated. There were about five other charred vehicles at different locations along the road to Mamfe. That is when
It dawned on me why the head of state opted to delegate the Defence minister who, in that capacity, could easily mobilize the kind of military arsenal suited for the situation on the ground. Mamfe was littered with sophisticated armoured personel carriers with warheads. Looking at the weaponry, I understood this country is rich but its wealth is in the hands of a few, to the exclusion of the rest.
Testimony by Martin Ngwa