Armed men kidnapped a prominent Cameroonian Catholic priest in the restive northwest region of the country on Thursday, sources said.
Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Archdiocese of Douala and Cameroon's first-ever Cardinal Priest, was seized in Babessi while accompanying the paramount ruler of Nso, Fon Sehm Mbinglo, to his native Kumbo palace, a source close to the cleric said.
A prince of the Nso Fondom also confirmed the kidnap explaining that the cleric and the traditional ruler were part of a convoy but the armed men asked the rest of the convoy to stay back as they ferried their target away.
The traditional ruler had been out of the palace for several months because of insecurity caused by an armed conflict between government troops and armed separatists pushing for the secession of minority Anglophones from the majority French-speaking Cameroon.
At the time of filing this report, no group had claimed responsibility for the action and the government was yet to give an official communication about the incident, but sources are pointing accusing fingers at the armed secessionist fighters.
An influential voice in all matters of national life, especially the four-year-long conflict, Cardinal Tumi, who celebrated his 90th birthday last month, was viewed as someone who could bring warring sides of the conflict to the table.
However, the Anglophone General Conference (AGC), an initiative to that effect which he led, was frustrated.
Created in July 2018, the AGC involved Catholic, Protestant and Muslim Anglophone leaders. During consultations leading to peace talks last year aimed at seeking lasting solutions to the conflict, Cardinal Tumi told the press that he had submitted a 400-page document to the Prime Minister containing proposals of the group.
Cardinal Tumi later headed one of eight commissions at the Major National Dialogue; dealing with the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. He would later lead a post-dialogue “peace caravan” to the northwest region.
The English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon have remained volatile since a peaceful demonstration by teachers and lawyers, over perceived marginalisation, morphed into an armed conflict in 2017.
Armed separatists have been battling government troops since declaring the independence of a yet-to-be recognised country called Ambazonia — made up of the two English-speaking regions. Both sides have been accused of committing untold abuses against the population, including burning villages, closing down schools, and killing civilians.