Writings by Ruben Um Nyobe: Political Constant of Unity Practiced by Ruben Um Nyobe – 1959

Ruben Um Nyobé
Ruben Um Nyobé

In celebration of the life of  Ruben Um Nyobé, I chose to share with you his writings below on this day, 13 September. These writings by  Ruben Um Nyobé, leader of the UPC, were published in 1959. The book was published as “Constante politique d’unité pratiquée par Ruben Um Nyobe – 1959,” by Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC). The text below by Ruben Um Nyobe served as a preface to the book, and has been translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com . For the original, go to gallica.fr

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Flag of the UPC
Flag of the UPC

Political Constant of Unity practiced by Ruben Um Nyobe – 1959

 Author: Union des Populations du Cameroon

Inform to Enlighten by Ruben Um Nyobe, General Secretary of the Union the Populations du Cameroun (UPC), Leader of the National Resistance for the Liberation of Cameroon

The national aspiration, which has just cumulated in the recognition of our independence, Is the concrete and objective expression of the result of the struggle of our people. No one can claim that independence has been granted to us, we have conquered it. All those who fought for this national liberty, whether dead or alive, have sealed their names in the history of our motherland, their glory will be immortal! But now at the term of a crowned struggle, instead of concord uniting all members of the coalition, a storm of jealousy and hatred, still sweep over our poor little country. Until when obscene passions and the most execrable hypocrisies cease to brave virtue and honesty! Why will cruel selfishness and blind ambitions not recoil before the honor and national dignity? In this flood of provocations and hatreds, where is the future of our children, the tranquility of our homes, the future of the country? Is it possible to build a country without its population? Is there independence without independent citizens? Answer! Yes answer! All those who oppress our people and those who aim to exploit it.

I say that we must give the people the means to hope and the opportunity to have confidence in them. To reach that goal we have some preliminary work to do.

  1. Present the people with clear options for his future.
  2. Prepare for the people a climate of cordiality and put an end to insecurity.
  3. Train the people’s judgment through civic and political culture / instruction.

All this is feasible/possible, so long as it is wanted. No need to dodge the work by creating tribal oppositions.   

Kamerun_Map 1901-1960
Map of Kamerun from 1901 to 1960 (Wikipedia)

I add that all those who sow hatred and call for crimes, throw the boomerang, which unfortunately does not clarify the future. In politics, there is good sense and virtue, notwithstanding the apprentices of Machiavelli! In politics, truth is also necessary, even if it hurts and displeases because we do not define the future of the people in lies and slanders! Yes, we have to be realistic! To all my compatriots, I formally repeat this: our enemies in this crucial hour of our history, are those who divide us, because they expose us weakened to the solicitations and appetites of the foreigner…

When one reflects on current events, one reaches a first observation: it is the conception of power and sovereignty which is at stake. If it is true (and it cannot be otherwise) that power comes from the people, is it not up to the people to freely designate their interlocutors? Why pretend to take the place of the people? Why seek to abuse and deceives the masses? To get elected and impose a dictatorship, isn’t it? Finally, we believe that the events of the past should make the darkest adventurers retreat. It is only in ignorance that a dictatorship can be imposed, even if it is subtle. In these conditions our task is clear: to enlighten the people. We must do it and we will do it against all adventures. Our goal is to safeguard the national dignity and sovereignty of Kamerun.

“History of Histories is Needed to Address Systemic Racism” by Gisele Yitamben

Black power symbol

In recent months, racial and social justice, and systemic racism have been at the forefront of the battle for human equality. A few days ago, Mrs. Gisele Yitamben wrote a piece for the World Economic Forum (WEF) where she addressed a very important point in the battle against systemic racism, namely the fact that the history of the victim needs to be told accurately in all its glory and entirety for the healing process to start. There is a saying that “until the lion tells its story, the hunter will always be the hero.” Mrs Yitamben has been most gracious to share with us her ideas on ways to address systemic racism, and expand on her WEF article here. Enjoy!

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History of Histories is Needed to Address Systemic Racism

By Gisele Yitamben*

“Systemic racism” is used to talk about all of the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions that harm certain racial groups and help others. “Systemic” distinguishes what’s happening here from individual racism or overt discrimination, and refers to the way this operates in major parts of society: the economy, politics, education, and more.

Systemic racism is also a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other issues. 

Systemic racism has its roots in extractive capitalism”

 It is “a deeply rooted prejudice, combined with institutional power and systemic oppression of certain groups of people.” continuing inequalities in education, housing, employment, wealth, and representation in leadership positions are rooted in humanity’s shameful history of slavery and systemic racism.

In the case of African and people of African descent, it is a direct consequence of doctrine patiently distilled, policies developed and communications put in place to downgrade the blacks with the end results of taking their wealth, their souls.

To support the Portuguese expansion, Pope Nicholas V issued a Papal bull on 18 June 1452 authorizing Afonso V of Portugal to conquer Saracens (Africans) and pagans and consign them to “perpetual servitude”. Successive popes reiterated the Bull: Pope Callixtus III in 1456 with Inter Pope Sixtus IV in 1481 and Pope Leo X in 1514 with precise denotations.

Pope Nicholas V

This position of the Catholic Church, accompanied by the legend of Shem in the Bible, that the noble institution disseminated without being encumbered with its real textual and theological foundation, too happy to have new territories of crusades, of evangelization, would be authority sweeping the reluctance herding slave traders and neophyte traders.

The position of the Catholic Church in relation to the slave trade was not going to be an epiphenomenon, far from it, its encouragements to enslavement would continue throughout the Negro period, like doctrinaire activism of the eminent French theologian Bellon de Saint Quentin, who used the “Holy Scriptures” to free the conscience of those who relied on his science.

All sorts of means will be used to dehumanize races, as a matter of policy to seek to assimilate cultures, for example, US and Canada, established boarding schools, prevented native language speaking, and separated children from their parents to put them in foster homes.

Slaves on board a ship

“People went as far as exhibiting Africans in Zoos”

Human zoos

Paris, the  capital of lights celebrated 100 years of freedom, equality and fraternity in 1989 with a “Universal Exhibition”. In addition to the brand new Eiffel Tower, the main attraction offered to the 28 million visitors to the “Universal Exhibition is the “Negro village” and its 400 Africans, exhibited on the Esplanade des Invalides, in the middle of the colonial pavilions. For ten years, these indigenous villages have been present in most of the major exhibitions, and they continued to be so for much of the 20th century in Hamburg, London, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Barcelona, ​​Osaka. Senegalese, Nubians, Dahomeans, Egyptians, Lapps, Amerindians, Koreans, and other so-called exotic peoples were thus presented in an environment evoking their countries, often in junk costumes and alongside wild beasts. More than 1 billion visitors rushed to these exhibitions between 1870 and 1940.

Caricature of Sarah Baartman from the 19th century

One of the most pathetic cases, of those  human zoos, is that of Sarah Baartman, who was put on display around Europe as a sexual freak, paraded naked on runways by a keeper who obliged her to walk, sit or stand so that audiences could better see her protruding backside

Even when she died, destitute and diseased, the ”Hottentot Venus,” as she was called, did not get a decent burial. Napoleon Bonaparte’s surgeon general made a plaster cast of her body before dissecting it. He preserved her skeleton and pickled her brain and genitals, placing them in jars displayed at Paris’s Museum of Man. Her brain, skeleton, and sexual organs remained on display in a Paris museum until 1974. Her remains weren’t repatriated and buried until 2002.

It was President Nelson Mandela who took up the cause of trying to get the young woman’s remains a proper resting place. Nelson Mandela sought the intervention of President François Mitterrand for his help in the matter when the two men met in South Africa in 1994. It took 8 more years to finally get Sarah buried.

Exposed face of Sarah Baartman from the French Museum

For more than five centuries, the Doctrine of Discovery and the laws based upon it have legalized the theft of land, labour and resources from Indigenous Peoples across the world. This has regrettably rendered indigenous peoples to be seen as dolls (see history of Sarah Baartman) that appeared not to have made any contribution to the evolution of mankind. Research has proven that modern day medicine took roots from traditional medicines practised by indigenous people. It is the same with other domains of social science.

Addressing the root causes of systemic racism and bias

Manuscripts a Tombouctou (Mali) montrant de l'astronomie et mathematique
Manuscripts a Tombouctou (Mali) montrant de l’astronomie et mathematique

As a Black woman in Africa, I am living the reality that the “deep roots” of systemic racism lie in extractive capitalism on this continent. Slavery, the colonization of Africa and the economic exploitation and speculation that continues today, are driven by greed for profit which is underpinned by cheap replaceable labour and raw materials seemingly at any cost, using obnoxious cooperative accords inherited from the colonial era [The Charter of Imperialism]. Ultimately, it is greed that has led all European to the systematic and methodical devaluation of all Africans. For centuries, African peoples have been discounted and devalued as the colonizers sought to maximize profits and focused on their own needs and “happiness”. This mindset continues to drive racist attitudes today.  What is amazing is that the exploitation of African resources have been going on for 500 years and the minerals are showing no signs of depletion [The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu]!!! This should have called in a big change of the system’s approach.

Current approaches to addressing racism have failed for the most part because they have addressed the symptoms but not the root causes of racism. We see this when we consider that while slavery and colonialism were officially abolished, the system of oppression merely transitioned into Central banks serving slave owners [The Bank of Senegal: Ancestor to the FCFA – producing Bank], but not former slaves [Reclaiming History: Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners], and police forces serving elected officials rather than  ordinary citizens.  In Liberia for instance, a country populated by ‘freed’ slaves, plantations enslave the rural populace.

If we want to end systemic racism we need to get beneath the surface and understand what’s really going on, especially on an unconscious or subconscious level. And to do this, we need to go beyond campaigns, slogans and figureheads—important as these are—and re-write the real stories of each race and its contribution to humanity.

Writing the history as it happens

Black Pharaohs of Nubia
Black Pharaohs of Nubia

It has always been curious to me that the “black pharaohs” of Egypt – powerful Kushite leaders that ruled all of Egypt from Nubia to the Mediterranean Sea from about 760 B.C. to 650 B.C. – have been largely forgotten by history [The forgotten kingdom of Nubia]. This dynasty of leaders embarked on an ambitious building program up and down the Nile, including the construction of pyramids in modern-day Sudan [Africa’s Forbidden Pyramids: Meroe, Nubia, and Sudan], under which their kings are buried. Yet the average person – black and white alike – if you mention pyramids, they think of those in Cairo first, and are not even aware that such structures exist further down the Nile in Sudan because this southern country is mostly a Black country.

“Black people need to start telling their stories”

In confronting racial stereotypes we need to tell the story as it happens and show how the development of the world is made of interwoven efforts; that will rebuild respect. There’s a reason why the Black Lives Matter activists are targeting statues of colonial and slave oppressors – because they recognize that there is power in these stories and symbols that have kept people trapped for centuries. As David Adjaye – lead designer of the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum for African American History and Culture in Washington DC –once wrote: “there is a direct relationship between symbols and systems and that people are starting to seek complex truths in new symbols that don’t ignore the losers or the forgotten underbelly of history”.

Pyramids of Nubia
Pyramids of Nubia, Sudan

For many years, the narratives about Africa have been about misrule, corruption, poverty and hunger, yet it remains one of the richest continents in terms of mineral wealth and agricultural potential. This is not to discount the reality of poor governance and corruption, which I must stress out is being encouraged and promoted by developed countries within the frame work of the exploitation strategy.; Many people lose their lives each year trying to cross dangerous waters into Europe in search of a better life largely because of these factors [Francis Bebey, Fatou Diome, and Immigration]. But there are positive stories we can tell too.

“When we really know each other, their contribution to common history and see that their solutions also hold value, we may start to shift systems” 

Africa needs to take the lead in telling her stories to shape a new perception. This new perception will be positively shaped if truth is told. It is not about begging to be accepted. We need to tell the stories that make visible the things we value, the beauty and the power that have been written out of history. We have a saying – “Until the lioness tells her side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

Driving systems change at the local level

By telling real Africa’s stories (victories and downfalls) and making Black history more visible we can start the work of unraveling the systems that hold racism and oppression in place, but this alone will not be enough. Systemic racism has also to be tackled at structural, institutional and political levels. A system that has historically devalued a whole group of people is by definition exclusionary; we need to therefore re-design systems that value inclusiveness. In this, solutions cannot be imposed from outside. Those that need change most must be involved in bringing it about.

Flag of Cameroon

The COVID-19 pandemic may ironically be showing us a way here. In Cameroun working in remote areas with social entrepreneurs – lockdown measures have effectively cut us off from our usual means of trade; incomes have collapsed and we’ve been forced to create new systems to ensure that people can attend to their basic needs. This has included creating a local currency to allow people to trade during this time and setting up of new localized trade routes. While driven in this instance by necessity, there is power in this approach in that it starts with what is under the control of the beneficiaries and needed and what is valued and then builds around that.

Going forward, we can seek to apply this principle of localization more broadly. When we start to respect others and see that their solutions also hold value, we can start to shift systems.  These systems are built on mutual trust.

I believe social entrepreneurs will have a central role to play in this regard by driving localized solutions, for example, creating access to affordable finance for initiatives that can improve livelihoods for future generations of Africans. In this way we can build out a new narrative for the continent and create systems that value people, and their happiness and well-being, over profits.

We are at a historic moment in the fight against systemic racism. There is a wider moral recognition that some things in our society are fundamentally wrong and a broader understanding of the need to address the root causes of these ills. We have an opportunity to uproot systemic racism and it starts with rediscovering what has been forgotten and revaluing what has been systematically devalued.

Gisele Yitamben is the Founder and President of Association pour le Soutien et l’Appui à la Femme Entrepreneur (ASAFE) a social enterprise  that provides business training and development services, alternative financing and access to e-commerce to support thousands of women entrepreneurs in Cameroon as well as in Guinea, Benin, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She can be reached on myitamben@yahoo.fr

Alexandre Dumas and Today’s Google Doodle

Google Doodle of 28 August 2020 commemorating Alexandre Dumas (Source: Google)

Today I am happily surprised by the Google Doodle of the day which commemorates the French writer Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, to name just a few of his works. In the Doodle he is clearly depicted as a Black man! Why does it matter? Do you know how long it has taken for him to be recognized as so? Do you know that it took over 100 years for Alexandre Dumas, the most read French writer to be buried at the Pantheon? just because of the color of his skin! It is only in 2002 that, then French president Jacques Chirac had Dumas’ body exhumed and then enterred at the pantheon! The most prolific French writer of all times!

Please check out the article I wrote about this great man a few years ago:

Alexandre Dumas the Greatest French Writer is of African Descent

King Lobengula Quote on the Chameleon and the Fly

Zimbabwe_King Lobengula 1893
King Lobengula in 1893

Did you ever see a chameleon catch a fly? The chameleon gets behind the fly and remains motionless for some time, then he advances very slowly and gently, first putting forward one leg and then the other. At last, when well within reach, he darts his tongue and the fly disappears. England is the chameleon and I am that fly.”  King Lobengula

Is Zimbabwe the New Haiti?

Flag of Zimbabwe
Flag of Zimbabwe

Did you guys hear about the government of Zimbabwe agreeing to compensate white farmers the hefty sum of 3.5 billion dollars? I was shocked! When there is barely any money in the country, and the economy is in shambles, how can the government agree to this? Moreover, did these white farmers ever compensate the Africans after independence in 1980 for using their lands for a century, for abusing them off their lands? And for all the years of economic embargo forced on the country? Lastly, the clause is set so that the country will be paying this debt forever12 months to raise half of the money when the country is on life support? This is so disgusting, Robert Mugabe must be rolling in his grave!

Haiti flag
Flag of Haiti

So my question is, is Zimbabwe the new Haiti? Remember how Haiti was made to pay France for over a century because of their freedom (When France extorted Haiti, the greatest heist in history)? Because the past slaves had beaten the masters, they were forced to pay France for over a century the hefty sum of 90 million gold francs (equivalent to 21 billion U.S. dollars in today’s money – when Jean-Bertrand Aristide requested reparations, he was ousted) after winning its freedom from France…? And this is why Haiti is so poor! Imagine this: Someone abuses you for years, not to say decades and generations, you finally free yourself, and now you are forced to compensate them because you freed yourself through a ruthless battle from their years of inhumanity. How fair is that? We must be living in a different type of world, because I just don’t understand the logic! Now, it would seem to be Zimbabwe’s turn?

I have always been skeptical of Mnangagwa… but now it has been fully confirmed! When I see this, I wonder why Africa’s leadership is so full of traitors, collabos, and haters of their own people! This will be the topic for another day. Excerpts below are from the CNN article of July 29, 2020.

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Zimbabwe’s government signed an agreement Wednesday worth $3.5 billion to compensate white farmers who were evicted from their land during a controversial and often violent land redistribution program in the early 2000s under former President Robert Mugabe.

This momentous occasion is historic in many respects, brings both closure and a new beginning in the history of the land discourse in our country Zimbabwe,” said current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, after signing the agreement at State House with Andrew Pascoe, the president of the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe….
According to the agreement, 50 percent of the $3.5 billion would be paid with 12 months from the day of signing, while the balance is paid within five years.
Economists agree that the Zimbabwean government, cash strapped after years of hyper-inflation and allegations of mismanagement [and economic embargo imposed by Western powers], cannot afford to make the compensation.
In a statement, the Finance Ministry said that they will be issuing long term bonds and that the parties will approach international donors to try and raise the funds.

Why the Name: Bulawayo ?

Zimbabwe2
Map of Zimbabwe

I always loved the sound of the name Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, after the capital Harare, and the largest city in the country’s province of Matabeleland. BU-LA-WA-YO… Doesn’t it roll on your tongue? Doesn’t it sound like thunder ? … like something big must have happened there? Well, …

Flag of Zimbabwe
Flag of Zimbabwe

Bulawayo was founded by the Ndebele king, Lobengula, son of Mzilikazi, when he settled in Zimbabwe in the 1840s, after the Ndebele’s people great trek from northern Kwazulu, in South Africa. The name Bulawayo comes from the Ndebele word bulala which translates to “the one to be killed.” It is said that at the time of the city’s founding, there was a civil war due to a kingship succession dispute. The dispute was between Mbiko ka Madlenya Masuku, a trusted confident of King Mzilikazi and leader of the Zwangendaba regiment, and Prince Lobengula who he (Mbiko Masuku) thought was not a legitimate heir because Lobengula was the son of the king born to a Swazi mother, of a lesser rank.

Lobengula1
King Lobengula of Matabeleland

At the time Lobengula, was a prince fighting to ascend the throne of his father Mzilikazi. It was common at the time for people to refer to Bulawayo as KoBulawayo UmntwaneNkosi, “a place where they are fighting or rising against the prince” or the “the place where the prince shall be slain“. The city of Bulawayo coincidentally has the same name as the capital of the great Zulu warrior king Shaka ka Senzangakhona in Kwazulu, where Mzilikazi and his Khumalo clan and other Nguni people came from.

In the 1860s, the city was highly coveted by Europeans, because of its land, wealth, and strategic location. Cecil Rhodes tried different tactics to trick King Lobengula. Lobengula once described Britain as a chameleon and himself as the fly. The fact that Lobengula was a force to reckon with is not to be ignored. Cecil Rhodes himself confided to Rothschild saying, “I have always been afraid of the difficulty of dealing with the Matabele King. He is the only block to central Africa, as, once we have his territory, the rest is easy … the rest is simply a village system with separate headmen …” So trickery was the only resort for Rhodes in order to get Lobengula. Thus, the treacherous Rudd Concession – 30 October 1888 (British Colonial Treaties in Africa: The Ruud Concession in Zimbabwe 30 Oct 1888).

Zimbabwe_Cecil Rhodes
Cecil Rhodes

During the 1893 Matabele WarBritish South Africa Company (BSAC) troops invaded and forced King Lobengula to evacuate, after first detonating munitions and setting fire to the town. BSAC troops and white settlers occupied the ruins. On 4 November 1893Leander Starr Jameson declared Bulawayo a settlement under the rule of the British South Africa Company. Cecil Rhodes ordered the new settlement to be founded on the ruins of Lobengula’s royal kraal,a typical action by a conquering power. This is where the State House stands today.

Zimbabwe_Bulawayo principal street in 1905
The principal street of Bulawayo in 1905

Historically Bulawayo has been the principal industrial centre of Zimbabwe; its factories produce cars and car products, building materials, electronic products, textiles, furniture, and food products. Bulawayo is also the hub of Zimbabwe’s rail network and the headquarters of the National Railways of Zimbabwe. Thus its nickname: “City of Kings” and also “kontuthu ziyathunqa” – meaning “smoke arising” in Ndebele, because of its large industrial base, and the large cooling towers of its coal-powered electricity generating plant situated in the city center which once used to exhaust steam and smoke. Today, as the rest of Zimbabwe, it slowly pushes through the steam.

Zimbabwe_Bulawayo in 1976
Bulawayo in 1976 (Wikipedia)

Bulawayo is seen as the door of tourism to the Matabeleland province, as its capital. Matabeleland boosts of Victoria FallsMatopo National ParkHwange National ParkKhami Ruins and a bigger share of Lake Kariba. As a side note, the infamous Cecil Rhodes‘ grave is said to be at World’s View, a hilltop located approximately 35 km (22 mi) south of Bulawayo, which is part today of Matobo National Park.

Well, if you visit the city of Kings, remember King Lobengula, remember his fire, and his fight for his people’s freedom from western domination… remember the greatness of the Ndebele king, and remember the fire that burns dormant in the people of Bulawayo, fanned by their ancestors. Enjoy the video below on Bulawayo.

Lumumba’s Children Ask Belgian King for their Father’s Remains

Patrice_Lumumba_official_portrait
Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of Congo

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.

Lumumba detained
Lumumba detained, a few days before his death

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.

According to AFP, Juliana Lumumba’s letter was written and addressed to the Belgian monarch on June 30, which happens to be the 60th anniversary of the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo from Belgium.

We, Lumumba’s children, call for the just return of the relics of Patrice Emery Lumumba to the land of his ancestors,” Juliana said in the letter.

In Juliana Lumumba’s letter, which she said was written on behalf of her “wider family”, she said that her father was a “hero without a grave”.

The remains of Patrice Emery Lumumba are being used on the one hand as trophies by some of your fellow citizens, and on the other as funereal possessions sequestered by your kingdom’s judiciary.”

Joseph Merrick: Pioneering Missionary Work in Cameroon

Cameroon
Map of Cameroon, with the capital Yaoundé

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.

Cameroun_Joseph Merrick_at_Isubu_funeral in 1845
Joseph Merrick at an Isubu funeral, in Bimbia (1845)

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.

Cameroon_Victoria 1889_Thomas Comber book
Bird’s eye view of then Victoria, now Limbe, Cameroon, in 1884

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.

Cameroon_Limbe_Saker Monument
Monument to Alfred Saker in Downtown Beach in Limbe, Cameroon

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?

Francis Bebey, Fatou Diome, and Immigration

Francis Bebey_1
Francis Bebey

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.

Pirogue
Canoe on the Atlantic Ocean

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.

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Fatou Diome

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.

So Long to Zindzi Mandela: Daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela

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Zindzi Mandela (Source: Timeslive.co.za)

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 PresidentP. 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.

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Nelson Mandela clothed in a Pathe’O shirt

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.

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Winnie Madikizela  Mandela

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!