Culled from Gifford, Paul. 1998. African Christianity: its public role. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp.253-256
"Yaounde, Cameroon: A military tribunal Wednesday sentenced a black Roman Cathloc bishop to death before a firing squad for his alleged role in a plot to assassinate the Cameroon president. The Vatican expressed 'extreme suffering' over the verdict and appealed for clemency." Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jan 7, 1971
Albert Ndongmo was the first local bishop of Nkongsamba, appointed in 1964. At this time, the diocese of Nkongsamba covered all the Bamileke area. Beginning in the 1950s, the UPC conducted an armed uprising against the French, from whom it elicited a brutal response. -it was the era of the uprising in Algeria, and the French were in no mood to compromise. But even after Cameroon's independence, the UPC continued its revolt against Ahidjo, whom it regarded as a usurper, left by the French to perpetuate French control. Ndongmo claimed that he was asked by Ahidjo in 1965 to see if he could mediate with Ouandie, the last rebel leader still at large, in an attempt to conclude hostilities. His instructions were uttered in front of witnesses, important functionaries who he named.
Ndongmo claimed that all this was in terms of a remit granted him by the President, but he was from that area and, according to later statements, all his sympathies were with the rebel cause. 'The struggle was just. If the end sought was truly what her claimed, namely to make Cameroon a modern, developed country, and Cameroonians a blessed people who are not governed from abroad. He did not want us to have our feet in Cameroon and our heads in Paris or London or wherever.' when his interviewer remarked 'Clearly you chose one side, the rebels', he replied: The side, yes, but not necessarily the methods.' He was a controversial character, although no one doubts his exceptional gifts. He had preached against government brutality towards the local people, and even gone as far as to threaten that he would urge the people of his diocese to refuse to pay taxes. As two authorities on Cameroon euphemistically put it, '[son] comportement personnel ne manquait pas d'être juge quelque peu baroque par de nombreux catholiques.'
After taking the rebel leader to his safe place, Ndongmo had to leave for Rome, summoned there to explain how he came to own a plastics factory in Douala. Ndongmo explained that 'I did not depend on the Vatican economically, because I took initiatives on the diocese's behalf. I thought - I still think - that it is absolutely humiliating for African bishops to go all over the West begging on their knees for money. One should be able to set up some self-financing structures, and that's what I had begun to do.' He added: 'But I was denounced by some "colleagues", by one bishop in particular, whom I will not name.'
Ndongmo took nearly three weeks to return to Cameroon, and on his arrival at Douala airport, he saw a newspaper headline announcing a new apostolic administrator had been names for Nkongsamba, sede plena; in other words, he remained bishop, but Rome had taken the administration of the diocese from his hands and given it to another (who had been ordered to sell the plastics factory). But Ndongmo has no time to think of this, or even to learn that while he was away Ouandie had been discovered and arrested, for he had immediately gone to see the Archbishop of Douala, and had been there only a few minute when the telephone rang and the governor told him that a car was being sent to fetch him. In fact, the car was already there, and Ndongmo was taken to the notorious military prison in Yaounde. He was interrogated for months, and then tried for treason in January 1971. This was a military trial, and, and the judges 'did not know' that President Ahidjo had commissioned him to search out Ouandie with a view of bringing about peace. Years later, when asked if he had told the court that Ahidjo had entrusted him with this task in front of witnesses, Ndongmo replied: 'There are some things that a chief does not say in public, and I am a chief myself. I simply said that someone would be able to tell them better than I why I had gone to see Ouandie, namely the President of the Republic Ahmadou Ahidjo. I suggested that they should ask him if he knew anything, yes or no.' Ndongmo was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death by firing squad, but this was commuted to life imprisonment. He was sent to a notorious camp in Tchollire, where he had no radio and no newspapers, and was kept away from other prisoners. He had a few visits from the papal nuncio (the Pope sent him some seeds for his garden), but he had little support: 'After my arrest, a bishop - what am I saying, an archbishop - went to tell the Head of State that the measures were quite correct, and that I should be punished.'
After five years, Ndongmo was freed - just before an election, which enabled Ahidjo to present himself as merciful. The release was part of an agreement with the Vatican, according to which Ndongmo was to leave Cameroon for Rome. Ndongmo insisted on seeing Ahidjo before he left, but the meeting seemed to resolve nothing. Although Ahidjo said that his exile in Rome would be only for a few years, Ndongmo moved to Canada and lived quietly there as a Canadian citizen for the rest of his life. He returned to Cameroon with Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the papal visit in 1985, and again in 1989 in connection with the establishment of a Catholic university in the country. He remained a figure of controversy and to the end of his life he would speak of his own principled stand, comparing it with that of others: 'I opted to defend the people. I struggled, and I always had the people behind me. But at that time, some other bishops had only one aim, to appear favourably in the President's eyes, with whom they would sip champagne.' Indeed, on his 1989 visit the Archbishop of Douala was reluctant to have him as a guest. within UPC circles, some even suspected that Ndongmo might have played some role in betraying Ouandie to security forces. In later years, Ndongmo was dismissive of Biya, claiming that Ahidjo had deliberately picked him as his successor, knowing full well that he would destroy Cameroon; in this way Ahidjo would have proved that he had been indispensable. Yet Ndongmo continued to offer himself as someone capable of reorganising the country politically, even as president of a national conference. He died in Canada in 1992, and his body was brought back to Cameron, to be buried with some pomp in his dilapidated cathedral at Nkongsamba.