The searches of the fire brigade under the bridge of Ebebda, on Wednesday and Thursday, having produced no result, the authorities appealed to the traditional authorities so that the body of the prelate could be recovered.
The remains of the Bishop of Bafia, Jean Marie Benoît Balla, are kept in the General Hospital of Yaoundé. He was found on Friday, 02 June 2017 in Tsang, near Monatélé by a fisherman at dawn. The latter, like many other fishermen, had lent a helping hand on Wednesday and Thursday to the teams of firemen and sailors sent to Ebebda following the then supposed disappearance of the bishop.
After unsuccessful searches, the authorities decided to resort to tradition in the hope of achieving results. Chiefs Bodi Guillaume (of Ebom-zoud village), Abega Ekassi (former head of Ebeda II) and Obono Bikie (Ebebda center) were solicited for the rites. Journal of Cameroon went to meet them. The account of their intervention told by his majesty Bodi Guilaume below.
“At about 2 pm (Wednesday) when I learned that someone had fallen from the bridge, I immediately went to the bridge. On the spot, I found the governor (Naseri Paul Béa, Editor’s note), the military, the SDO, there I understood that the case is serious. I soon realize that all are helpless, they do not even know where to start. We learn that the firefighters are on the way, nevertheless I always find that they are distraught. I then get closer to the SDO who knows me and I suggested that he use the local forces because in such circumstances we have people who can help. I was talking about the canoe riders and our guardians of tradition. He called the company commander directly and introduced my proposals. It is at this moment that I propose to commanders to bring in the canoe riders who can orient the firemen. This is was quickly done.
A few minutes after the firefighters arrived, they dressed directly to enter the water. It was the canoe riders who helped them enter the water because they came without materials. After several hours of diving, although some firefighters complained about the rocks that hurt them, research had to be stopped for that evening. It was already almost dark.
The next day (Thursday, Editor’s note), the firefighters came back with a rather imposing material, they dived all morning, they saw nothing. They really looked everywhere, they went far enough so that set up on deck as we were we no longer saw them. At noon they went to eat and they rested. They then resumed research in the water, the rest of the afternoon. They did not see anything. It was then that I went back to the mayor and told him to allow us to resort to tradition to find the body, because if we did not deploy quickly we would find the body totally damaged and We would never have known what might have happened. Now, in the state where it was found, the investigators can tell us what happened.”
“Too much time had passed. It was necessary to make quick to find the body. Under the pressure of time, the mayor listened to everyone, that’s how people misled him with all sorts of reasoning. Some marabouts even presented themselves to the mayor, they claimed to be able to find the body. They gave the list of the equipment they needed, the authorities bought. They did their rituals. At the end they said that the corpse would appear after a few hours. We waited but nothing. Finally I chatted again with the mayor and the SDO when I knew we had the go-ahead, went to get the patriarch (Obono Bikie) and our water specialist (Abega Ekassi).
They asked for some clothes that belonged to the bishop, the meal he liked to eat, and some extra tools. No one has complicated, the bishop sent us what we asked for (clothes, big fried fish, potatoes, red wine and maltas). So we went down under the bridge around 9:30 pm the Patriarch then asked that we change places and also that there were no people with us. We moved, we went under the bridge at the water’s edge. We were only six with the mayor and the bishop’s driver and another chief who came to lend us a hand. The mayor did not follow the whole operation, he apologized he felt tired. The one who attended until the end is the driver of the bishop. So we spoke in turn, as tradition calls it. We are not going to enter into the secret of the rite, but what we have to know is that we asked our ancestors to free the priest because as a man of God his place is not found In the lowlands.“
A whole world in the water
“The work was very hard. It was not easy to free the bishop. Because in fact what we did was to ask the inhabitants of the other world to release him so that the body could be found. Because the world of water is organized, we find all that we have here on earth, prisons, court, houses … And when the priest arrived no one expected him he disturbed the tranquility of others and therefore he was held captive.
By midnight we continued our operations, and the Patriarch, in agreement with our water specialist, reassured us that our work was on the right track. He asked for the mayor to be brought before six o’clock so that he could come and follow the answer that was given to us. At 5:30 the mayor arrived.
On his arrival, we told him that the work for which we have been detained is finished and that the first fisherman who is going to go in the water will bring back the remains. We knew because the water specialist had already told us where we would find him. The body was found at Tsang by a fisherman who blocked it in the grass and came to warn. The navy then sent a boat to retrieve it. Monsignor had just a few scratches on his face, the fish had begun to eat him. But otherwise it was as we saw it in the pictures.”
Everything is not finished
“We say today that it is not over. We are happy because the body is found, all the questions we ask will have answers and the family can mourn. However, we should now thank those who help us to work. I’m talking about people in the shallows because they allowed us to find the body of the bishop in a good and recognizable state. “