‘Cyprian is here!’.
Ko Klaver mhm, the bursar and guestmaster at the Mill Hill House Nairobi, was still up and about when I arrived late in the evening of January 3rd from Amsterdam. We sat down for a drink and a chat to reconnect and share some of the latest ‘news’. That’s when he told me that Cyprian Taah mhm had just returned from burying his father in Cameroon and would accompany us to Kakamega for the annual Mill Hill assembly next week.
I had heard of the tragic fate of Cyprian’s father. Another victim of the violence that increasingly engulfs Anglophone Cameroon in its struggle against the central government’s perceived discrimination and neglect. I only knew the bare fact and was keen to get the full story from Cyprian who is a Mill Hill missionary working in the diocese of Malindi on Kenya’s east coast.
So, next morning after breakfast, we sat down and Cyprian calmly shared his story of returning to his home village of Ngwah, not far from Fundong, the divisional headquarter for Boyo Division, NW Province, Cameroon, to mourn his father and console his family.
“They came early in the morning just after dawn. Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Cameroon stationed in Fundong on a burn and destroy mission. Apparently they suspected the presence of a camp of the separatist Ambazonian Defence Forces in the hills behind our village.”
“Most people took to the bush at the first sign of trouble. But the soldiers caught the assistant local chief, his wife and my ageing father in their homesteads. They searched our homestead and found an old hunting rifle. So they grabbed hold of all three and roughed them up. ‘Why had the assistant chief not hoisted the national flag’, they wanted to know. ‘Was he going to raise the rebel flag instead?’ The assistant chief’s defense – ‘It’s too early in the morning, I have not had time yet’, fell on deaf ears”.
After some further beatings they were taken to the main road passing the village. There the woman captive was released and told to make herself scarce. She still witnessed how the two men were ordered to kneel down and summoned to raise their hands above their heads. Cyprian’s father refused. A violent prod. ‘I will only raise my hands to praise God’, he retorted. At some distance from the scene the woman heard two shots.
They found the two bodies in the afternoon of that same day after the soldiers had left the village leaving behind a scene of chaos and devastation.
Meanwhile in Witu, in faraway Kenya, Cyprian Taah mhm got a phone call relaying the tragic news of his father’s killing. His efforts to get his father’s body taken to the mortuary in Fundong proved fruitless as the road between the village and Fundong was too insecure. His mother told him that the body was badly bruised and had been lying in the sun all day. The burial could not wait.
Cyprian returned to Cameroon a week later and eventually managed to reach his home village. A time of intense mourning could begin.
Fons Eppink mhm