The government of Cameroon on Tuesday July 4 shredded more light on the death of Bishop Jean-Marie-Benoît Bala. It asserts that drowning is the most probable cause of death of the bishop.
According to release signed by the Attorney General of the supreme court in Yaounde,the conclusion was drawn by a team of forensic pathologists commissioned by Interpol who examined the body at the end of June.
Two German doctors arrived in Cameroon on June 29 to conduct an autopsy of the body, Michael Tsokos, director of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in Berlin, and Mark Mulder, coordinator of the Disaster Victim Identification Unit at Interpol.
“No trace of violence”
“After an in-depth examination, no trace of violence was found on the body of the deceased,” the doctors found, concluding that the most probable cause of death was drowning.
This international team was called in by the Cameroon authorities after two examinations of the body on June 2 and 22 by “local medical colleges”.
These new conclusions of the Interpol doctors radically contradict the major theory behind the death of Bishop Bala, who disappeared on the night of May 30 – 31.
His body was found on June 2, seven kilometers from the Sanaga River bridge, around 80km from the national capital, Yaoundé.
A short note left on the back seat of Bishop Bala’s car suggested that he had ended his own life.
However, this was almost immediately refuted by his relatives and the Catholic Church. The authorities also labeled the death as suspicious.
The National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon released a statement on June 13 stating that Bishop Jean-Marie-Benoît Bala had been “brutally assassinated”, accusing “obscure and diabolical forces” of conspiring against the Catholic Church.
The bishops demanded that “light be shone upon the circumstances and motives of the assassination of Bishop Jean-Marie-Benoît Bala so that the culprits can be identified by name and brought to justice and judged according to the law”.
They also urged the government to “assume its responsibility for protecting human lives, especially those of ecclesiastical authorities.”
The Church went on to call on the murderers to “engage in a process of urgent and radical conversion”.
Sign of mistrust
However, the verdict of the Attorney General contradicts this murder scenario.
The elements of the autopsy conducted by the Interpol doctors are all the more troubling since previous reports published by the Cameroon press had noted severe mutilation of Bishop Bala’s body.
Several observers have already begun to interpret the publication of these conclusions as a sign of mistrust of the Catholic Church by the government.
“The Church finds itself in an unprecedented situation,” says an expert on the Cameroonian bishops.
“The bishops must have had conclusive evidence to believe that Bishop Bala was brutally assassinated,” he continues. “What will they do now?”
The investigation continues
Certain relatives of the bishop now suspect the authorities may have sent a body other than the bishop’s for the Interpol doctors to analyze.
Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Yaouné, who is also president of the Episcopal Conference, had by Wednesday, July 5, at 2.30pm local time, not yet responded to questions from Urbi & Orbi Africa.
Meanwhile, the Cameroon courts will continue the investigation “in order to determine the exact circumstances of this tragedy” and will publish its conclusions “at the appropriate time”.