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Pastoral Letter for Peace In Cameroon: Before, During & After October 9, 2011 Presidential Elections 

By + Samuel KLEDA
Douala Metropolitan Archbishop

To Christ’s Faithful of Douala Archdiocese And To All Men And Women Of Goodwill. Dear Brothers and Sisters, “May the Almighty God and Jesus Christ Our Lord grant you grace and peace.”
 

1)      I am addressing you at a time we are preparing ourselves for an important and significant event concerning the life of our nation, the Presidential election that will take place on October 9, 2011. We, Bishops of Cameroon, your pastors, have already written a Pastoral Letter to you on this subject on May 30, 2011. (Our Bishops Speak To Us: Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Cameroon on the Occasion of the 2011 Presidential Election.)

What Can We Really Expect From This Election?
 

In our archdiocese, you have questioned me many times about this election. These questions, no doubt, express your expectations and concerns at the same time.  “What can we really expect from this election? Will it finally be an occasion for lasting peace in our country?” Like you, I am also asking the same questions. I know a majority of you are longing for lasting peace, which is expressed in each person by the opportunity of having real hope.
 2)      The upcoming Presidential election is an important moment in our democratic process, as it will permit us to choose the person or people who will have the daunting task of ruling in our name. It sets itself apart from taking over power through force and the hereditary transmission of power.

By its democratic nature, it offers an opportunity for debate which permits taking a critical look on the life of our nation, on the answers to be given to our existential problems, topmost among which are education, health, justice and equity, resource management, and access to basic social services. It is, therefore, a moment of evaluation and truth which provides an opportunity for the confrontation of ideas, susceptible of giving each and every one a chance to listen to each other and to draw lessons to readjust their vision and programme for a better Cameroon.
 
Delicate Moment: Division, Intimidation, Violence

3)      This election is also a very delicate moment with the risks of the resurgence of division, intimidation, violence and other ills susceptible of threatening social cohesion, already very precarious in our country. Since, “Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain,” (Psa. 127, 1), it is, therefore, good for us to pray more than ever before so that our beloved country should become stronger from this election. Let us always remember that our first missionaries, the Pallotines, placed our country under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through her intercession, may her Son, Jesus, Prince of Peace, transform the fragile peace we are living at the moment, so that it becomes a true and lasting peace for all Cameroonians, a peace expressed through the integral development of all. 
 
4)      Thanks to prayer, each politician could allow himself/herself to be guided, in the organisation of this election, by a democratic spirit which will permit him/her to act in line with the truth, to respect others’ opinion, to not only have the desire to fight for power, but also for justice, the rule of law and the dignity of each Cameroonian. An election organised in a free and transparent manner, without fraud, without violence: this is what will attest to Cameroonians’ political maturity. Each and every one of us is, therefore, called to show proof of this spirit in our quest for true peace.
 
5)      Our aspiration to lasting peace must take root in a vision which transcends apparent peace and the absence of war. This peace is inspired essentially in God’s Plan for Life at the centre of which is the human person, who God loves, He who “Is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14, 33). This lasting peace is that which the Resurrected Christ offers to the entire world. (Cf. John 20, 19) This lasting peace is the plenitude of life and integrates all dimensions of the human person. It can neither be built on the violation of rights and justice, nor on the opulence of some and the hunger of others, if not we would have considered our God, in whom we believe, as a God of disorder.
 
6)      Let us open our eyes to the present political reality. We are fed on several speeches about peace and other subjects related to social and economic promotion. In our appraisal, let us allow ourselves to be guarded by the principles of the common good, the respect of human dignity, the preferential option for the poor, with a critical look on the capacity and sincere desire of each candidate to fight against suffering and to drag us out of the poverty which presently overwhelms us and hurts our human dignity.
 
7) Today, the time has come for us to strive to get into the path of sustainable development, which is the new name for peace. (Cf. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio.) This peace cannot be built without social justice and the respect of others’ rights; let us not be afraid to mention it! Our duty is, therefore, to eliminate that which is susceptible of provoking conflicts in our society; Council Fathers have given the conditions for building peace: “The first condition is the elimination of discord among men, which fosters war, beginning with injustice.  A good number of these stem from excessive economic inequality as well as the need to look for necessary remedial solutions. Others are born from the desire to dominate, disregard for people, and if we address the most profound causes- envy, mistrust, pride and other egoistic practices.” (Gaudium et Spes, § 83)
 

Radical Change Of Mentality

8)      The war which we have to fight today, especially those who govern us, is to create social cohesion among all Cameroonians by destroying the wide inequality which a majority of them are victims. That is why we are called upon to ensure that each one of us has what is needed for his/her fulfilment. That can only be realised through a radical change of mentality on the part of each Cameroonian, by the sincere will to serve in truth and love, humbly accepting that we have failed ourselves in the management of public affairs in our country. Such an approach will permit us, we hope, to open our eyes and see the real problems our country is facing, as well as the miserable conditions in which most Cameroonians are living.
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
9)      I share the views of those of you who are looking for peace. My profound worries, and yours as well, are born and justified by another of the Council Fathers’ teaching: “The joy and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of this time, the poor, and especially all those who are suffering, are also the joy and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the disciples of Christ and there is nothing truly human that does not find a place in their hearts.” (Gaudium et Spes, § 1)
 
Majority Of You Are Without A Future
 

10)  In effect, many among us are languishing in misery despite our immense natural riches- riches to which each and every one of us has a legitimate right. We are witnesses daily to the sad reality of the lack of employment which you are facing, especially the youths. You are forced to become smart to survive. A majority of you are without a future and living with your parents. It is not possible for you to build a house or a family. Our society has pushed you to the fringes and most of you are only thinking of leaving our country- to leave Cameroon in the hope of looking, finding and giving meaning to your lives.

Let us turn our attention to street children whose number is rising considerably in our towns, and without doubt elsewhere as well; towards all these families which do not have homes and living under inhuman conditions. The squalid conditions in our quarters, to which is added difficult access to potable water and proper health treatment, make our population extremely vulnerable and threatened by pandemics like cholera. Such a sad situation places each of us before our incorruptible conscience, where God asks each of us, as He did to Cain: “What have you done with your brother?” (Gen. 4, 10)
 
Wanton Power Cuts And Water Shortage
 

11)  Today, we are all witnessing wanton power cuts and water shortage in our towns and we are obliged to go back to using power generating plants, to sinking wells and drilling boreholes to have potable water, but it is only a few Cameroonians who can afford that. In the education domain the problems are also serious: classrooms, from the primary to the university level, are witnessing plethoric numbers that no teacher can handle. Our children’s intellectual level is dropping, they are not receiving quality education, which is hardly a surprise to anyone, yet nothing is being done to solve these problems. New quarters that are created in Douala day after day lack educational and other structures, except, perhaps, a few private institutions.

Declare Assets At The Beginning And End Of Mandates
 
12)  How many Cameroonians have enough to eat? It is important to note that the income of Cameroonians has reduced drastically. We could continue to speak out against this sad reality which most Cameroonian families are going through daily; but those who experience these difficult situations could add to this litany of problems.
 
13)  What have we gained from the fifty (50) years of independence we have just celebrated with much pomp and fanfare? Why have we been unable to build a State? What is it that we lacked, knowing that our country disposes a remarkable human potential able to build it? Are all the candidates vying for the State’s highest function asking themselves these questions? Today we, Cameroonians lack an essential thing, that is, the will to build a State. Building a State requires from a people, who want to handle their own destiny- sacrifice, abnegation, love, a sense of duty and honour. Others used these values after the Second World War to build their shattered countries. We lack these values in Cameroon today as each one of us works for his/her own interest at the expense of the common good. How many Cameroonians have illicitly enriched themselves?

We all know that their riches are the fruit of theft, yet some are proud to have stolen in our country and becoming rich by stealing is a sign of intelligence and bravery! Much has been said against corruption, but unfortunately nothing has changed. In the Bishop’s Letter cited above, we asked that Article 66 of our Constitution be applied. It states that all those who aspire to public offices should: “declare their assets at the beginning and the end of their mandates”. Up to now, no politician has respected this prescription. Against this backdrop, are all the problems our country is going through not going to remain without a solution?
 
14)  Today, we need to imitate the attitude of Zaccheaus, a tax collector (who used to steal public funds) who desired to meet Jesus, because he wanted to convert, to turn his heart to the Lord. His desire to change is summarised in these words: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over” (Lk. 19: 8). How many Cameroonians have decided to reimburse what they have stolen from the State or from their brothers?
 
 
15)   In the same way, we also have the testimony of a whole people, the children of Israel, who acknowledged their sins before God and decided to change their ways. Let us also go before the Lord and confess our sins with great sincerity. Let us follow the steps of the children of Israel toward conversion, as presented by the Prophet Daniel: “We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.

O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you…” (Dn 9: 5.8). This act of repentance should lead to a new behaviour among the members of our community, from the smallest to the greatest, and from the simple citizen to the one with great authority. We need to engage in a new way, that of truth, which is essentially imitating Jesus Christ. It is the way to lasting peace, which will permit us to transform our country at the cost of abnegation and sacrifice.

 Leaders Capable Of Solving Grave Problems

16)  What we are expecting from the next presidential election, is a team of leaders able to bring solutions to the grave problems each Cameroonian is facing, and this, in all the different areas. For this to happen, let no one neither be duped by flattering gifts, nor by deceitful speeches. Let us stand for truth, for the good of all Cameroonians and for lasting peace. Because we live daily with the candidates to the presidency or their representatives, the post-electoral period will give us an opportunity to appreciate their programmes in the light of their interaction with us and from their ability to provide answers to the many social, economic and political challenges of our country.
 

 Less Corrupt, Better Governed
 

17)   At this turning point in our history, it is important to ensure that all the candidates and their representatives, in mutual respect, are proposing strategies to turn Cameroon into a country of lasting peace and of justice; a country in which we are all reconciled to one another, because Cameroon would have become less corrupt, better governed, prosperous and truly emerging as of today.
 
18)  During the past electoral consultations, cases of violation of the electoral law were mentioned. The report of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Douala, on the last legislatives elections, noticed many irregularities that hindered the progress of the vote in the city of Douala. Let us hope that these dysfunctions will not happen again, for they are susceptible to reawaken the seeds of hatred, as in other countries, which led to violent conflicts and carnage and have opened the door to the humanitarian intervention of the international community considered helpful by some and destructive by others. We need to respect the democratic rules and show our political maturity by handling this election responsibly and transparently, by putting aside any triumphalism that could engender frustration and hatred. After wining in freedom and transparency, let the winner of this election govern.
 
 
19)   May this election, beyond the choice of a president, be a starting point for Cameroon where good governance facilitates favourable conditions for an integral development of our cities and villages, where young people work with elation, and most of all, a country where those who govern understand that: “… Each commandment, each exercise of authority is a service… God wants that those who have responsibility over the human community should welcome, with good hearts, this last and great lesson of Holy Thursday, and learn to acknowledge that their authority will be accepted by their people if they exercise it in a spirit of humility and service and total devotion for the good of all.” (Speech of John XXIII before the Diplomatic Corps on Holy Thursday 11 April 1963).
 
Dear Brothers and sisters,
20)  Let us pray together with faith so that the forthcoming election reinforces our vested interests and lay the foundations for a radical change in view of true peace in our society, and country. May the Lord’s blessing come down upon each one of us.      
 
 
Given in Douala, September 21, 2011
On the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

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