In Part 5 of his interview to Cameroon Life Magazine, Celestin Monga says that our religious leaders of all denominations have let the country down. He openly accuses some of them of complicity with Biya to keep Cameroon in a perpetual state of misery and poverty.
Mr. Monga, let me take you away from politics for a moment into the area of religion. What’s your opinion of religion?
My parents were Christians. My father …well, that’s kind of private, isn’t it? (laughter), but it doesn’t really matter. Yes, my parents were Christians but, as far as I am concerned, there’s only one god: my work.
That’s an astonishing answer. You consider your work a god?
That’s correct; it’s my god. You see, for many years, religion in Cameroon was very intimately linked to colonialism and now to neo-colonialism, especially over the past 20 years or so. Even now, I believe the men of religion in Cameroon have failed us. I respect Christian Cardinal Tumi but I think he and the other religious leaders (Christian as well as Muslim) have not done enough to promote the struggle to save our society from the stranglehold of this regime. I know they’re afraid people would accuse them of rooting for the opposition but they can and should do much more than they are doing now, to rescue our people from this dictatorship. You see, when it is your responsibility to defend the moral values of a society, you have to take a firm stand against any violation of those moral values. You must become involved in the struggle to ensure the triumph of those moral values. I respect religious leaders but I believe they’ve failed to do what is expected of them.
But the Catholic Bishops’ Conference recently took a stand against the status quo which many saw as revolutionary!
That was too little, too late.
Do you have any personal contacts with any religious leader?
No, not really. I have a few friends like Reverend Jean Marc Ela and one or two others. There is, of course Christian Cardinal Tumi, who has my respect.
What of Jean Zoa? Do you know him?
No, not personally. But I believe he’s Mr. Biya’s bishop (Laughter).
Did you know late Mgr Albert Ndongmo?
I met him for the first time at the airport in Paris when I was going to Montreal to talk to Messi Messi. He was coming from Quebec. I noticed that he was quite tired. I believe his contribution to the struggle for freedom in our country has been the most significant by any religious leader. I had great admiration for him, but I didn’t know him personally.
There was a rumour that he arranged your interview with Messi Messi to disgrace the Biya regime. Is that what happened?
No, that’s pure speculation. He had nothing to do with my meeting Messi Messi.
For how long have you known Blaise Pascal Talla, the owner of Jeune Afrique Economie?
My links with him are very recent.
One wouldn’t think so as you seem to be working very well together.
We don’t work together. I have my job here in Douala. When he bought his magazine, Jeune Afrique Economie, he asked me to join him in Paris and be its general manager. In fact, his offer took me completely by surprise because I didn’t know him then. Even when I was writing for Jeune Afrique Economie before he bought it, I never met him. So, we had no working relationship of any kind. That’s why his offer came as something of a surprise to me. I turned it down because I didn’t want to live in exile. It’s then that he asked me to write articles for the magazine. I gave him a few conditions and to-date there’s no problem. When I have an idea, I write an article for him, that’s all.
November 01, 2006