YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala claims Cameroon is being “stripped” of its natural resources by corrupt officials.

“Our country is being badly beaten, stripped of its wealth, its dignity, its honor, its human and natural resources, and is in agony, because of the bad governance organized by its own sons and daughters,” the cleric said in a March 2 pastoral letter.

“At the source of most of the ills that are plaguing Cameroon today, is bad governance with the normalization, legalization and even institutionalization of corruption in the management of the country,” the archbishop said.

The prelate said “Irresponsible, selfish, corrupt and unpatriotic kleptocrats parading as leaders” have removed the people and the public welfare from the center of their concerns.

Rather he said, the emphasis is “on the individual, the group, the clan, the ethnic group, the lobby, which sacrifices the majority of the population, thus pushing it inexorably towards impoverishment and misery.”

“Bad governance disrupts political life and hinders the social, economic and even religious growth of our country. It destroys the achievements, compromises the legitimate aspirations of the citizens, and jeopardizes the trust between the people and the rulers,” Kleda said.

“Corruption not only leads to the plundering and wasting of public resources, but also paralyzes the functioning of the state, creates injustice and inequality among the population and plunges the whole society into despair in the face of an uncertain and mortgaged, even bleak, future,” the archbishop continued.

Kleda’s comments come in the wake of a stream of reports that funds meant for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic had been stolen.

Church groups, human rights organizations, and opposition political parties have been pressuring the government to publish its findings after reports that most of the $335 million borrowed from the International Monetary Fund to deal with the pandemic was siphoned off by officials and their cronies.

There have also been news reports of corruption and embezzlement during the construction of the Olembe stadium that hosted some of the matches of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament earlier this year.

“Do we have the right to remain silent? Will our citizen and Christian conscience not place us before the court of history for having been accomplices, direct or indirect, passive or active supporters of a plot that has contributed to the destruction of Cameroon and mortgaged the future of millions of people, especially the youth, of this Africa in miniature?” Kleda said. “In the present day of our history, can we stand before the Creator and affirm that we are managing this country so rich with so many resources that He has entrusted to us and that we have inherited from our ancestors?”

The prelate said it was time every Cameroonian rediscovered the fundamental values on which any society that respects itself should be based, namely respect for the dignity of every life, truth, justice, honesty, responsibility, freedom, love, equity, and loyalty.

“Above all, let each one have the courage to renounce the sin that makes him complicit in the drift of our country. Let each one of us contribute to the fight against the ‘structures of sin’, which paralyze and destroy Cameroon, its development, its growth and the well-being of its people,” Kleda said.

He said it was not a utopian idea for Cameroon to be able to build a society rooted in good governance, and insisted the way forward is simply to stand up to bad governance. He said it was indeed possible to “build a strong, prosperous, stable country, a true haven of peace where it is good to live as brothers.”

Cameroonians “must overcome the appetite for possession and illicit enrichment which are at the origin of these evils that undermine our country and operate a change of mentality and a radical and profound conversion,” the archbishop said.

“Let every Cameroonian, wherever he or she is and according to his or her activity, commit himself or herself in an honest and responsible way to the transformation of our country according to the values of the Gospel,” he explained.

The prelate also called for prayer and penance, noting that they are “the weapons that will enable those who lead us to govern our country well, and all of us to strive to eradicate these scourges that, like a fearsome demon, threaten our country dangerously.”