Early this month, I shared with you that the Belgian King Expressed his ‘Deepest Regrets’ for Colonial Past in Congo, by sending a letter to the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi on the day of the celebration of the DRC’s independence from Belgium. I told you that those were empty words, and that coincidentally, King Philippe had forgotten to include the period from 1908 to the independence of Congo, and the treacherous role played by Belgium in the assassination of the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
Now the children of Patrice Lumumba, led by his daughter Juliana Amato Lumumba, have asked the Belgian king to prove his good faith by sending back the remains of their father. These remains are parts that were taken, like Lumumba‘s teeth, from his body at the time of his murder. We know from a documentary which aired in 2000 that Belgian Police Commissioner, Gerard Soete, told AFP that he and acolytes had decapitated Lumumba’s body and those of two others, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo, and subsequently dissolved them in acid. In another documentary that same year, Soete showed two teeth which he said had belonged to Lumumba. He took Lumumba’s teeth as souvenir. In 2016, Ludo De Witte, author of the book “The assassination of Lumumba,” lodged a legal complaint against Soete’s daughter after she showed a gold tooth, which she said had belonged to Lumumba, during an interview with a newspaper.
How many Cameroonians have heard of Joseph Merrick? The Jamaican and first missionary to create a mission on the coast of Cameroon? Most people are used to hearing about the British missionary Alfred Saker who “brought” christianity to the coastal towns of Cameroon, and is often referred to as the pioneer, even though he was first hired as a ship mechanic, millwright, and naval engineer before becoming a missionary upon his arrival. So there are thousands of schools and streets named after this “great” white man in Cameroon: College Alfred Saker and Boulangerie Saker in Douala, Saker Baptist College in Limbe, to name just a few; there is even a monument to this man in downtown Limbe. Can you imagine my surprise when I learned that Alfred Saker was not the “pioneer” I had been made to believe, but rather a later pioneer following on the footsteps of others? Yes… Alfred Saker came after others had started sewing the seeds of Christianity on Cameroonian soil, and his main advantage was that he was a European (let’s call a spade a spade). The real man who should be considered missionary pioneer to the coastal towns of Cameroon was the Jamaican Baptist missionary, Joseph Merrick, who, assisted by another Jamaican Joseph Jackson Fuller, established the first successful mission on the Cameroonian coast of Africa.
Who was Joseph Merrick? Joseph Merrick was a Black Jamaican, who began preaching in 1837 in Jamaica and was ordained a full missionary in 1838. The work of the Baptist Society in Cameroons was an outcome of the freeing of the slaves in Jamaica. Many thousands of these freed slaves were members of Baptist Churches in that island, and the first-fruits of their new found liberty was the desire to help their own people in Africa, the land of their origin. Thus, Joseph Merrick had been recruited by the Baptist Missionary Society of London who was looking for Jamaicans to preach in Africa. Merrick, accompanied by his wife, arrived in Spanish-controlled Santa Isabel (then Clarence, and today known as Malabo) on the island of Fernando Po (Bioko) in 1843. In 1844, he visited Bimbia (near Limbe) and spoke to King William (William of Bimbia) of the Isubu people to request permission to establish a church on the mainland. After the initial resistance, he was granted permission, and in 1844-1845 he founded the Jubilee Mission. Over the next 5 years, he set up to translate parts of the New Testament in the Isubu language, set up a brick-making machine, a printing press, and translated the bible, and wrote a textbook for teaching in Isubu.
Adventurous, Merrick made several excursions into the interior from the coast, and climbed Mount Cameroon, thus becoming the first non-African to visit the Bakoko people.
Unfortunately, in 1849 he got sick, and set off to England with his wife for treatment but died at sea. Upon his death, Joseph Jackson Fuller took charge of the mission station and congregation at Bimbia. Merrick’s efforts also paved the way for Alfred Saker to make further progress – he made use of Merrick’s printing press to translate and print the Bible in Duala. Joseph Merrick can be seen as the pioneer of the missionary work in Cameroon. He had a talent for learning languages and within a short time he preached in both Isubu and Duala.
In essence Joseph Merrick is the man who should be celebrated, just as much as Alfred Saker, if not more, particularly in the Limbe region. Why has Joseph Merrick been forgotten? Is it because he was Black?
With his poem, ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ by Francis Bebey, the author talks about the story of many immigrants. Similarly Fatou Diome, the Franco-Senegalese author tells us about immigrants in her book Le Ventre de l’Atlantique [The Belly of the Atlantic]. It is as if Diome read Bebey’s poem, and made it into a novel. Her story The Belly of the Atlantic details the complexity of immigration, the struggles of those who have made it to maintain the image of ‘greatness’ of the promised land, and the hope those left behind have on those gone to send for them. Some young boys who are struggling to make ends meet in their home country of Senegal, and dream of immigrating to France for a ‘better future, with a loved one in Europe sending money back home. The book gives a glimpse into the families left behind, the joys, anxiety, scare, struggles, and sometimes the reconstruction of families around the women who are left behind to raise the children alone. As we have seen in reality, many will attempt to get to Europe via the Sahara desert, or even through the Atlantic on shady canoes.
As Bebey said, the immigrant “has left everything, [his] wife, [his] kids.” Sometimes, the families never hear back from those who have gone, and their goodbyes were actually final, as Francis Bebey said “my poor mother was sorry to see me go.” Sometimes, the loved one who “had long days of travel” makes it safely, and sends money back, but never returns home and forms a new family in the new country. Sometimes, the loved ones make it to the new country, find jobs, make a living, and send for the rest of the family to join them back in the new country… This is a real struggle. The story of immigration in search of a job, of a better future, is a true struggle which rips apart some families, while strengthening others.
Once those who have left come back, they are often seen as “better”, “richer”, or “foreign”. As Diome says of the loved one who comes home, “I go home as a tourist in my own country, for I have become the other for the people I continue to call my family.” For the families who raised money for the loved one to be afforded to leave, leaving is synonymous with success and failure is not a possibility. “Leaving means having the courage necessary to go and give birth to one’s self.“
On the eve of Christmas last year, the Côte d’Ivoire President, Alassane Ouattara, and the French president Emmanuel Macron announced the “end” of the FCFA and the introduction of a new currency, the ECO, to replace the treacherous FCFA currency. Many have applauded the announcement, but to me, it looks more like a coup perpetrated by France on African countries to colonize even the countries it never colonized, … simply by using currency.
The FCFA is a colonial tax imposed by France on its former colonies which amounts to at least 500 billion Euros every year in the coffers of France without having to raise a finger, as African countries which are part of this FCFA zone deposit 50-60 % (at one point it was 85 %) of their foreign reserves into France central bank.
A few things were already fishy with the Ouattara-Macron announcement:
2. Also, France says the new currency’s value will be pegged to the Euro, similar to the way the FCFA‘s value was pegged to the French Franc, and now to the Euro. The ECO will remain fixed to the Euro, though the required deposits from these nations into French coffers are now eliminated (how true is this?) and France will no longer hold a seat on the UEMOA-linked West African central bank; it will instead send its puppets like Ouattara.
Why do I call this a coup? The ECO is the currency that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), 15 members of the West African union, had been working on for years, to be rolled on the entire territory of their union to facilitate exchanges between countries. Thus the name ECO stems from ECOWAS. The 15 member states of the ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Out of these 15 countries, 6 are not part of France’s pré-carré, and thus do not use the FCFA: Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Cape Verde, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As you can see, Africa’s second biggest economy, Nigeria with its Naira is part of the ECOWAS, as well as Ghana with its Ghanaian cedi. This is also the reason why only the West African Franc zone countries will move to the ECO while the Central African Franc zone will not: because France is simply stealing the ECOWAS idea! Given the protests in recent years asking for France to step away from the FCFA and to leave African countries alone, France had no real choice but to act as if they had taken into considerations the requests. Now, France is trying to stage a coup on stable economies such as Nigeria and Ghana which have been fighting so hard to re-create President Kwame Nkrumah‘s dream of a common currency in the region and in Africa as a whole.
In essence, France is simply hijacking the idea of the ECO. More importantly and this is cause for serious action, France is trying to colonize some of Africa’s biggest economies simply by using the currency! This is extremely deceitful, and we pray that Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Cape Verde, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, will not fall for this. France is simply trying to harvest where it never sowed (as always), with the help of its puppet, Ouattara!
As a last note, it is about time that we, Africans, those who are still in the FCFA zone, those from whom France collects 500 billions Euros every year, it is high time to awaken, and to break the chains of slavery. Thomas Sankara said in his 1984 speech at the UN, “the slave who is not capable of assuming his rebellion does not deserve that we feel sorry for him. This slave will respond only to his misfortune if he is deluding himself about the suspect condescension of a master who claims to free him. Only struggle liberates …!” AFRICA MUST UNITE and FREE ITSELF!!!
It is with sadness that I learnt of the passing of Zindziswa Mandela, daughter of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela, this past Monday in a hospital of Johannesburg at the tender age of 59. Last child of her parents, she was affectionately called Zindzi. She grew up at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, of which her parents were at the forefront as revolutionaries: she was only 18 months old when her father was thrown in jail for 27 years. She was projected into the spotlight at the age of 16, when her mother was banished to Bramburg, and later on at 25 when her father Nelson Mandela was offered a conditional release in 1985 by the then-State President, P. W. Botha. Her father’s reply could not be delivered by either one of her parents. Consequently, Zindzi was chosen to read his refusal at a public meeting on 10 February 1985.
In a statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said of her legacy, “Zindzi will be remembered for a rich and extraordinary life, marked by many iconic moments. The years she spent banished with Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to the small town of Brandfort. That summer’s day in February 1985 at Jabulani Stadium when she read to the world Madiba’s rejection of President Botha’s offer of a conditional release from prison. Her own courageous work in underground structures. Public service as South African Ambassador to Denmark. We will also remember her as a special soul.”
Zindzi was a very strong woman who went through the struggles of her mother, Winnie, when she was banished and tortured during the apartheid regime; one could say that she was her mother’s closest companion. She had to grow up fast. In his personal archive, Nelson Mandela spoke of Zindzi’s strength, as well as to the nature of their relationship. In a 1969 letter from prison, Madiba noted that Zindzi’s “heart is sore because I am not at home and wants to know when I will come back.” In a 1987 letter to Zindzi, Madiba told her that he had heard from an acquaintance that she was as strong as a rock. He went on: “That is just the kind of remark a father would like to hear about his beloved child. I literally swelled with pride and satisfaction. That remark reached me at the right time, shortly after you had just gone through a rather harrowing experience.” He ended the letter: “Tons and tons of love darling, and a million kisses.”
I leave you here with Zindzi reading her father’s letter of rejection in 1985. You must admit that for a young woman, reading that letter must have required a lot of courage, determination and strength to defy the apartheid regime and stand in front of such a crowd (a full stadium) thirsty for words of encouragement, and hope from their leaders to keep facing the injustices of an inhumane regime. Bold!
Below is a description of the power of women in the ancient Kongo Kingdom. Remember that a lot of African cultures are matriarchal. The description below is from 1704, and shows that there were women kings in Kongo, and also that the Kongo Empire had vassal kings who reported all to the one King of Kongo. There were also great queens like Queen Nzingha: Great Queen of Angola in neighboring kingdoms, to whom other kings reported. The text below has been translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com.
The power of women in the Ancient Kongo Kingdom
In the evening I received the visit from a matron who was chief of her locality [Tubii] and other villages of the Sogno [Soyo] principality. She does not recognize any other authority above her but that of the King of Kongo. These villages are always governed by women.
Lorenzo da Lucca, 7th relation, Soyo, 31 January 1704 in Jean Cuvelier
Les Africains Vol.9, Editions J.A, C.-A. Julien, P. 58, (1977)
Many cultures in Africa are matriarchal, and it absolutely makes sense that the homeland is constantly portrayed as a woman in African poetry. Today we will talk about the poem “Congolese Eve” by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard. Tati-Loutard is a Congolese author from the Republic of Congo or Congo-Brazzaville. As an accomplished writer, he has published several compilation of poetry, and has won several awards. In his writings, he does a deep expose of the art, life, and nature; he often incorporates the feminine element in his work. Similar to other African authors like Léopold Sédar Senghor (former president of Senegal) or Ferdinand L. Oyono (minister in Cameroon), Tati-Loutard is also a politician, who has occupied several posts in the government of his country.
Enjoy ‘Ève Congolaise‘ by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, published in Anthologie africaine: poésie, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, Hatier 1988, p. 136. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.
Je l’ai vue quand Dieu l’a créée sur la Montagne :
C’était une pleine nuit, la lune ayant atteint
Le plus haut niveau de ses crues de lumière.
Avant que Dieu ne parût comme jadis sur l’Horeb,
L’herbe alentour marchait déjà tête baissée
Sous la brise.
Il prit de la terre non battue de quelque pied,
Et la coula – vierge comme au Jour Premier –
Dans un long rayon de lune.
En un tour de main, ce fut le tour des seins ;
Et la grâce et l’esprit giclaient d’Eve
En eclaboussements éblouissants de lumière.
Puis vint le signal :
Dans l’espace nu, le vent se mit à tourner sur lui-même
Comme s’il avait mal de ne pouvoir se détendre
Dans un arbre. Dieu reprit l’air dans le tourbillon ;
Et dans le silence plein de clarté,
L’Eve congolaise descendit vers le fleuve à l’heure
Où le soleil sort en refermant derrière lui
La porte de la nuit.
Isaw her when God created her on the Mountain:
It was a full night, the moon having reached
the fullest level of its light floods.
Before God appeared as He once did on the Horeb,
The grass around was already walking head down
Under the breeze
He took some dirt from some foot,
And the flow – virgin as on the First Day –
In a long moon ray.
In no time it was the turn of the breasts ;
And the grace and the spirit spurted from Eve
In dazzling splashes of light.
Then came the signal :
In the naked space, the wind started to turn on itself
As if it hurts not to be able to relax
In a tree. God took the air back in the whirlwind;
And in the silence full of clarity,
The Congolese eve descended towards the river at the time
Today we will talk about Beatrice of Congo, also known as Kimpa Vita, who was an African priestess and prophet who held a lot of power. Born into a noble clan, the Mwana Kongo clan, she was baptized in her youth, and later created her own religious movement which used Christian symbols but revitalized traditional Kongo cultural roots. She is seen as a strong antislavery figure; think about this for a moment, the catholic priests preaching christianity, yet silently participating in the slavery of the Kongolese. Didn’t it make total sense for her to turn away from catholicism and create a true Kongo religion? Her movement which is among some of the best documented in Kongo’s history is seen a precursor to modern African democracy movements. Below is the physical portrait of Beatrice of Congo by a contemporary Father Bernardo da Gallo in 1710 (Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com).
This young woman was about twenty two years old. She was fairly tall and with fine features. On the exterior, she seemed very devout. She spoke with gravity, seeming to weigh all her words. She predicted “the future and announced among other things that the judgment was near.”
She walked on tiptoes (toes), almost without touching the ground with the rest of her feet; she moved her flanks and whole body, like a snake, even though her body was tense, as if deprived of spirit, and with bulging eyes; spoke frantically with delirium.
Rapport du Père Bernardo da Gallo, Rome, 17 Decembre 1710, publié par Louis Jadin
Les Africains Vol.9, Editions J.A, C.-A. Julien, P. 58, (1977)