Article by; Kinang Derick
In a world plagued by violent extremism, incitement to violence, terrorism, human right violation, crimes against humanity and above all, violent intra- state armed conflict, few states, organisations and individuals have demarcated themselves in word and action towards making the world a better place for humanity and posterity. Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, without fear or favour, stood out uniquely as an example of a peace crusader and a peacebuilder from conviction, destiny and occupation. His personality and actions made the world, especially Africa, feel like a better place and has remained a force even in his death. He leaves behind an image to be emulated in peacebuilding. About a month after his death on April 2, 2021, and his memory is still fresh.
The Personality behind the Name Cardinal Tumi:
As he was popularly known, Christian Cardinal Tumi was an “extraordinary” Cameroonian; born to a modest family on October 15, 1930, in Kikaikelaki village in Kumbo sub-division, Bui Division of the North West region of Cameroon. He became a seminarian in Cameroon and Nigeria and was trained as a teacher in Nigeria and London. After a licentiate in theology, he earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Fribourg Switzerland and was also a professor at Bishop Rogan College’s seminary 1. As to his portfolio as a prelate, Cardinal Tumi became priest of the Diocese of Buea on April 17, 1966, pioneer Bishop of Yagoua and received his episcopoal consecration from Pope John Paul II on January 6, 1980. In 1982 he became archbishop of Garoua, vice president and later on president of the National episcopal conference of Cameroon through an election, a post he held till 1991. In 1988, he became a Cardinal under Pope John Paul II who assigned him as Cardinal Priest of Santi Martiri dell’Uganda a Poggio Ameno on June 28, 1988 2 and by August 31 1991, he became Archbishop of the Douala Diocese where he lived till his death on April 2, 2021.
The Prelate as a Peacebuilder:
There is an equitable maxim which says; ‘he who comes to equity must come with clean hands’. To this effect, Cardinal Tumi was an epitome of equity and equality, a peace crusader who stood for justice, equity and equality, a human rights defender and source of consolation to the vulnerable and the less privileged in the society. His actions can attest to this description; as we can note the Bapanda 9 incident in which he instructed and stood by Fr Mukengashayi to provide the necessary assistance needed by the victimes. We can also note his Douala march to protest the endorsement of the Maputo Protocol of the African Union by Cameroon in 20093. Also, during the Major National Dialogue, the peacebuilding Prelate was also the chairman of the Commission to reflect on “Assistance to Returning Refugees and Displaced Persons” 4 another action of his that shows his resolve to fight for the vulnerable and the less privileged.
Cardinal Tumi in an attempt to provide lasting solutions to the Anglophone conflict, called for an Anglophone General Conference (AGC) in April 2018 to finetune possible way forward and get the views and standpoint of Cameroonians from the two English speaking regions. Though the conference didn’t take place due to the rejection and obstacles that came from the Cameroonian government and the separatists 5. However, the AGC succeeded in producing a research piece on the Anglophone conflict called ‘Reactions of the Anglophones to the AGC Questionnaire’ (The RAAQ) 6 which is resourceful to all those who need inside on the Anglophone conflict. It is worth noting that the Cardinal as a peacebuilder was also the watchdog of the Republic; as seen with his critical and just stance on the different actions of the regime and government in Cameroon. He was a fervent critic of President Paul Biya and many other African Presidents who in their actions contributed to the underdevelopment, human rights abuse and suffering of their populace. His peacebuilding efforts earned him many titles amongst which we can note the Nelson Mandela prize for building peace and justice in Cameroon in 2019 7 and Shufaay Wo Kintam given to him by the Nso community in Bonaberi Douala in honour of his dedication to the cross 8. This also shows how closed the prelate remained attached to his roots, customs and tradition while doing what he does best; peacebuilding and winning of souls for christ.
The death of Christian Cardinal Tumi is a great loss to peacebuilders around the world and Cameroon in particular. His actions to promote peace through good governance, justice, equality and equity, to fight against violent extremism, incitement to violence, hate speech and many other societal ills obstructing peaceful existence of humanity has entered into the archives of humanity; for his actions from all indication was guided by the maxim:
‘Bonum est faciendum est prosequendum est malum vitandum’ (Good must be done and pursuit and evil avoided).
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Tumi Retrieved on April 14, 2021.
- Concistoro per la creazione di 24 nuovi cardinali nel Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano (28 giugno 1988) | Giovanni Paolo II Retrieved April 22, 2021.
- Marche anti-avortement au Cameroun (lefigaro.fr) Retrieved on April 22, 2021.
- https://www.crtv.cm/2021/04/archbishop-emeritus-of-douala-christian-cardinal-tumi-dies-at-90/ Retrieved on April 14, 2021.
- https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon/cameroun-la-conference-generale-anglophone-merite-un-soutien-national-et-international Retrieved on April 14, 2021.
- Secretariat/Anglophone General Conference/2019.
- https://www.ucanews.com/news/first-cardinal-of-cameroon-dies-on-good-friday/91990# Retrieved on April 14, 2021.