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File picture of Bishop of Mamfe, Andrew Nkea with some Mill Hill Missionaries (Photo credit: Mill Hill Missionaries) File picture of Bishop of Mamfe, Andrew Nkea with some Mill Hill Missionaries (Photo credit: Mill Hill Missionaries) 

Bishop of Mamfe says Fr. Ondari died “doing what he offered his life for”

Cameroon’s Bishop of Mamfe Diocese, Andrew Nkea, has called for a stop to killings of innocent people in his diocese and in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.

Africa Service, Radio Vatican – Vatican City

All fingers point to the government’s security forces.

According to Bishop Nkea, Fr. Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Mill Hill Kenyan missionary based in Mamfe Diocese was shot in front of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Kembong, Cameroon.

“Eye Witness accounts say that he was killed by Government Soldiers (Gendarmerie Nationale), who were shooting at random from their passing vehicle. A certain Mr Johnson Ndip Nchot was also shot in front of his house, a few meters from the Church building,” said Bishop Nkea.

Bishop Nkea explained that at about 3.00 pm local time, on Wednesday 21 November 2018,  Fr. Cosmas Ondari, a Mill Hill Missionary, who was in front of the Church of the Parish of St. Martin of Tours, Kembong, was shot and killed on the spot in cold blood. Fr. Ondari was the Assistant Parish Priest of the St. Martin of Tours Parish since April 2017. It was to be his first and last appointment.

Bom in Gucha, in Kenya on the 19 September 1985, Fr. Ondari joined the Missionary Society of St. Joseph (Mill Hill) and was ordained on the 26 March 2017 in his home Diocese of Kisii, Kenya.

A priest who was close to the people even in their suffering

“Already in December 2017, when the security situation in Kembong was very tense, Fr. Ondari and his Parish Priest Fr. Tiberius Vouni, MHM, along with some of their parishioners, moved out from Kembong to Mamfe. The village of more than 5000 people was almost completely abandoned, and many houses were burnt down. In April 2018, in a bid to give hope to the desperate population, many of whom were living in the bushes in horrendous conditions, Fr. Ondari and his Parish Priest courageously opted to go back to Kembong so as to encourage the people to return. Some of the people with whom they ran to Mamfe went back and sought refuge in the closed down premises of the Catholic School in Kembong. It was in this context that Fr. Ondari was brutally and recklessly murdered,” narrated Bishop Nkea.

He died doing what he offered his life for

“I visited Kembong Parish on Thursday 22 November 2018, and I personally counted 21 Bullet holes made on the Church building of Kembong where at the time, the priest, the Catechist and many Christians were carrying out various activities in the Mission compound. The blood of the murdered priest was still clearly seen on the cemented entrance to the Church just at the door. He died right in the house of God, and it is our prayer that the God whom he served so well will welcome him into his eternal kingdom. I call on all the Christians of the Diocese of Mamfe, especially the Christians of Kembong Parish, to stay calm and be united in prayer. The forces of evil are on a rampage against the Church of God, but as Christians, we believe in the promise of Christ that the gates of the underworld will never prevail over the Church. While we mourn with the Mill Hill Family and the Natural family of Fr. Ondari, we trust that he died doing what he had offered his life for,” said Bishop Nkea.

The Mill Hill Missionaries corroborated the circumstances leading to the killing of Fr. Ondari saying, “Cosmas was standing outside his Church while meeting (internally displaced persons). At that moment soldiers entered the Church compound at high speed in an army vehicle. As they drove by, they started shooting. At this, the refugees fled into the Church. Cosmas was still outside when he was hit in the thigh and chest. He was taken to a hospital, but on arrival there (was) pronounced dead,” said the Mill Hill Missionaries on their website.

Kenyan family, Church and friends mourn Fr. Ondari

Back in the Kenyan village of Fr. Ondari, Sengera area of Kisii, the Daily Nation of Kenya reports that the news has cast a very sombre mood among family members and relatives of the slain priest saying they received news of his death with absolute shock.

His father Charles Omboto said his son was on a missionary mission when he was killed. Most parishioners described Fr. Ondari as a “very spiritual” and a man fired by the missionary spirit, the Daily Nation reports.

Kisii’s Diocesan Bishop Joseph Mairura said the deceased priest was dedicated to the work of the Church.

“He was a young priest fired with the missionary spirit, but death has snubbed him at a time we knew he had much still left to do in reaching out to lost souls,” Bishop Mairura told the Daily Nation.

The Anglophone crisis

Cameroon, a Central African nation of approximately 24.68 million people, is divided into 10 regions. Eight of these regions have French as their national language, and two have English. The central government of Cameroon is located in the francophone part of the country.

Tensions between the Anglophone regions and the rest of Cameroon have been growing. For years, there have been complaints about the marginalisation of Anglophone areas. The ‘collapse’ of the two-state federation in 1972 is sometimes cited as the origin of the current conflict. Nevertheless, matters came to a head in 2016 when citizens protested the increased number of French-speaking teachers and judges being sent to their areas.

It is said about 400 civilians have died in the last year alone.

United Nations says dialogue the only way forward

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani said in Geneva, this week, that dialogue was the best solution going forward.

“We call on armed secessionists groups to refrain from the use of violence. We urge the Government to respect and protect the rights of all, to address the long-standing grievances of the communities in these regions, including through dialogue, to promptly investigate all cases of violations reportedly involving its security and defence forces, and to hold perpetrators responsible, Shamdasani said.

23 November 2018, 16:12