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, the day of his assassination in 1958 by French troops in Cameroon. 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.

Quote by Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau
Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau

« It is not the existence of a race and ethnic group or anything of the kind that define the behaviors of a human aggregate. No, it is the social environment and the problems arising from the reactions to this environment and the reactions of the human beings in question. All this defines the behavior of the human aggregate » (Cabral).

Proverbe Douala sur la Persévérance / Duala Proverb on Perseverance

poule3
La poule / The hen

La poule se dit: fouillons des deux pattes; si l’une ne trouve rien, l’autre trouvera (Proverbe Douala – Cameroun).- Ne pas abandoner après un insuccès.

The hen says: “let’s search with two feet; if one does not find, the other will” (Duala proverb – Cameroon). – Do not abandon after a failure.

Why Behanzin should stay in Blida

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

The article below is from 1906 giving reasons why the French government refused to return Béhanzin to his country. The English translation is brought to you by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com .

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Under this title, La Petite République published an article from which we extract the following conclusions:

What will be the effect of Béhanzin’s return in his country?

The Dahomeans, who in the old days, used to raid their neighbors have been transformed under 10 years, into a population of peaceful docile peasants and easy to be led. No troops are stationed in the ancient kingdom of Behanzin and the administration is working amazingly.

Do not for one instant believe that the negroes have forgotten their old master and here is what M. Francois, ancient chief of cabinet of the governor of Dahomey, says about this in the volume he published three months ago on this colony.

Behanzin_18 Juillet 1906
The original article from La Petite Republique, in French

The people of Dahomey have kept the memory of Kondo (Béhanzin). The name of our courageous adversary still exerts a magical power on his old subjects. The population remains certain of his return. They say, Kondo was defeated by the whites, Kondo is imprisoned on an island by his enemies and this despite the ancient law which guards the Kings of Abomey from seeing the sea, but anyhow, Kondo will transform himself into a small bird and will come back to his capital.

As for the chiefs, here is, from the same author, an anecdote which shows their state of mind:

“The old Alloan who used to command the Dahomean army when Béhanzin was not here, and who today is a worker on the Sudan railroad, was telling one of the engineers, “We know well that we could easily make you disappear, you and the other white people who are in the Dahomey. It would not even be necessary to kill you, it will suffice not to bring you any food for a few days. But what will be the point of this? You will come back, by the thousand, with guns which fire all at once and traverse palm trees. Moreover, if it wasn’t you, it will be the British or the Germans.” And he politely added, “better if it is the French.”

One can see that the loyalty of the chiefs holds onto a fine thread, an occasion, a possibility, to rid their land of the whites.

It is undeniable that the return of Béhanzin will provide this anticipated occasion.

Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj: Senegalese Queen leading the Resistance against French Colonization

Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj
Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj (from the cover of Kings and Queens of West Africa, by S. Diouf)

In 1855, when the French arrived to colonize Senegal, the first power of resistance they encountered was a woman. Her name was: Ndate Yalla Mbodj. While in France, women were not recognized as citizens until 90 years later, the French were stunned by this woman of beautiful stature, face, and strong body, and who headed an immense army. She was a beautiful and proud warrior, who inherited a rich tradition of bravery and gallantry.

The Lingeer or Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj (1810 – 1860) was the last great queen of the Waalo, a kingdom in the northwest of modern-day Senegal.  She was a heroine of the resistance against French colonization and Moors invasion. She was also the mother of Sidya Leon Diop or Sidya Ndate Yalla Diop, who went on to become one the greatest resistants to the colonization of Senegal.

Map of Senegal
Map of modern-day Senegal

Queen Ndate succeeded to her sister Ndjeumbeut Mbodj. She was officially crowned Queen of the Waalo on October 1st 1846 in Ndar (now called Saint-Louis), the capital of the Waalo.  Her reign was marked by an ongoing defiance of the French against which she fought a fierce battle. By 1847, she opposed the free passage of Sarakolé people by sending a letter to the governor expressing her willingness to defend the respect of her sovereignty over the valley in these terms: “We guarantee and control the passage of cattle in our country and we will not accept it the other way. Each leader governs his country as he pleases.

Warrior from the Waalo Kingdom, 1846
Warrior from the Waalo Kingdom, 1846

She fought both the Moors who happen to encroach on her territory, and the colonialist army led by Louis Faidherbe, the butcher, and bandit, who later became governor of Saint-Louis and colonial head of administration and army. Almost 10 years into her reign in 1855, she encountered the greatest colonialist pirate Faidherbe, with an army of 15,000 strong, fully armed and ready to fight her, dethrone her, and colonize Waalo and Senegal. Faidherbe defeated her army in bloody battles, before capturing Saint-Louis. In February 1855, while the Faidherbe’s troops were entering the Waalo, the Lingeer spoke to the principal dignitaries of her country as such: “Today, we are invaded by the conquerors.  Our army is in disarray.  The tiedos of the Waalo, as brave warriors as they are, have almost all fallen under the enemy’s bullets.  The invader is stronger than us, I know, but should we abandon the Waalo to foreign hands?” (Aujourd’hui nous sommes envahis par les conquérants. Notre armée est en déroute. Les tiédos du Walo, si vaillants guerriers soient-ils, sont presque tous tombés sous les balles de l’ennemi. L’envahisseur est plus fort que nous, je le sais, mais devrions-nous abandonner le Walo aux mains des étrangers?) … “This country is mine alone!”

She eventually lost the battle, but not the war; which continued to be a war of resistance until the early part of the twentieth century by Lat Dior Diop, and many other ‘Gelewars’. This conquest would forever change the trajectory of her reign and the geopolitical, military, and geographical road map of Senegambia, “Ganaar” (now called Mauritania), Mali (formerly called French Sudan), and Fouta.

Senegambia in 1707, with the Kingdom of Waalo written as 'R. d'Oualle ou de Brak'
Senegambia in 1707, with the Kingdom of Waalo written as ‘R. d’Oualle ou de Brak’

Her father was Brak (King) Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj, and mother was Lingeer (Queen) Awo Fatim Yamar Khuri Yaye Mboge. Her son, Sidya Leon Diop, who would later too become an anti colonialist, and fight the French until his capture, and exile to die in Gabon in 1878. Her son Sidya was captured as a hostage in Saint-Louis by General Faidherbe during their bloody war with Ndate, and was baptized ‘Leone’ and sent to Algiers for schooling in 1861. When he returned to Senegal two years later in 1863, he was enlisted in the French colonial army; the first African or Senegalese to hold such a post. But as the saying goes —like mother, like son, he refused to do their dirty job of joining forces with the European colonial foreigners and mercenary apparatus, against his mother’s kingdom and people. He then changed strategy and rallied with Lat Dior Diop and others, which resulted in his betrayal, and capture by the colonial forces; and exile to Gabon (just like Samori Toure).

Ndate Yalla Mbodj
Ndate Yalla Mbodj

Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj, as a true ‘lingeer’, developed the women’s army as one of the most formidable forces to recon with in her reign. The story of this Senegambia Queen is best amplified in oral tradition by the local griots. Her women army was similar to the “Amazon” women army of Benin, Behanzin’s fearless protective women’s army. She later went into exile in Ndimb in the northern part of the Waalo and died in Dagana, where today a statue has been erected in her honor (the only one erected in honor of a queen nationwide). To learn more, check out: Maafanta.com, Matricien.org, au-Senegal.com; the book Kings and Queens of West Africa by Sylviane Diouf has an entire chapter dedicated to this great queen.

 

The Return of Steve Biko and Quotes

Steve Biko
Steve Biko

I would like to share with you some quotes by Steve Biko himself.  When I read Biko’s words, I realize that he was a true African leader who wanted good for all; he was really ahead of his time.  I have also added, at the end, a documentary The Return of Biko‘ by Jeff Ogola. Enjoy!

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The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Speech in Cape Town, 1971

It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die.

“At the time of his death, Biko had a wife and three children for which he left a letter that stated in one part: “I’ve devoted my life to see equality for blacks, and at the same time, I’ve denied the needs of my family. Please understand that I take these actions, not out of selfishness or arrogance, but to preserve a South Africa worth living in for blacks and whites.”

“The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.” From Steve Biko’s evidence given at the SASO/BPC trial, 3 May 1976

“In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face.

'I Write What I Like' by Steve Biko
‘I Write What I Like’ by Steve Biko

Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.” The Definition of Black Consciousness, I Write What I Like, 1978.

Black man, you are on your own.”  Slogan coined by Steve Biko for the South African Student’s Organization, SASO. 

We do not want to be reminded that it is we, the indigenous people, who are poor and exploited in the land of our birth. These are concepts which the Black Consciousness approach wishes to eradicate from the black man’s mind before our society is driven to chaos by irresponsible people from Coca-cola and hamburger cultural backgrounds.”  The Quest for a True Humanity, I Write What I Like, 1978.

 

“It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realize that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.  We Blacks, I Write What I Like, 1978.
Black Consciouness Movement flag
Black Consciouness Movement flag

You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.”  On Death, I Write What I Like, 1978

Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time. Its essence is the realization by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin – and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude.  The Quest for a True Humanity, I Write What I Like, 1978.

There are also several articles on this African martyr: articles by South African History, The Independent, Time, and Black Agenda Report.  Enjoy!!!

Steve Biko: An Outstanding Leader and the Black Consciousness Movement

Steve Biko
Steve Biko

The month of September is sadly quite a busy month when it comes to African martyrs: many of our martyrs were either born or assassinated that month, Ruben Um Nyobe, Agostinho Neto, Steve Biko, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to name just a few.  Today, I have decided to talk about Steve Biko.

Steve Biko, is known to many as the outspoken leader of the Black Consciousness (BC) movement.

Stephen (Steve) Bantu Biko was born on 18 December 1946 in Ginsberg township, in present-day Eastern Cape, in South Africa.  Biko was the third of 4 children, and belonged to the Xhosa ethnic group.  He was orphaned at the tender age of 4, after his father passing.  As a child, he attended Brownlee Primary School and Charles Morgan Higher Primary School.  He was sent to Lovedale High School in 1964, a prestigious boarding school in Alice, Eastern Cape, where his older brother Khaya had previously been studying.  During the apartheid era, with no freedom of association protection for non-white South Africans, Biko would often get expelled from school for his political views.  He was influenced by Frantz Fanon‘s and Aime Cesaire‘s works, and like Fanon, he first started as a medical doctor, before turning to politics.

Black Consciouness Movement flag
Black Consciouness Movement flag

Steve Biko was not alone in forging the Black Consciousness Movement.  He was nevertheless its most prominent leader, who with others, guided the movement of student discontent into a political force unprecedented in the history of South Africa.  Can you imagine that: all alone they created a force that scared the apartheid regime, and started it on its end.  Biko and his peers were responding to developments that emerged at the height of the hideous apartheid regime.  This culminated with the Soweto uprising of 1976.

The Black Consciousness movement argued that blacks had to overcome the feelings of inferiority instilled into them by 300 years of domination, the “oppression within“, before they could deal with whites as equals. “It [BC] seeks to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life,” Biko explained in 1971.

Steve Biko was a very charismatic, tall, handsome, and articulate man.  Once asked by a judge “Why do you call yourself black, when your skin is brown?” Biko replied “Why do you call yourself white, when you are actually pink?” – he bore himself with rare confidence that showed no hint of any “oppression within.”  Remember his famous phrase “Black is Beautiful“, which was an inspiration to the civil rights movement in the USA, and to many other movements across the globe.

'I Write What I Like' by Steve Biko
‘I Write What I Like’ by Steve Biko

In order for Black People to achieve their freedom being political and economical, Steve Biko believed that they should rally together; hence he said:  The realization by the Black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin – and to operate as a group in order to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude.

Biko understood that the system we are facing is not just a matter of laws and policies that suppresses us, he knew that the system seeks to undermine our thinking, ideas, values  and beliefs, thus he said:  The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

On 18 August 1977, Steve Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 and interrogated by officers of the Port Elizabeth security police including Harold Snyman and Gideon Nieuwoudt.  This interrogation took place in the Police Room 619 of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth.  The interrogation lasted twenty-two hours and included torture and beatings resulting in a coma.  He suffered a major head injury while in police custody at the Walmer Police Station, in a suburb of Port Elizabeth, and was chained to a window grille for a day.  On 11 September 1977, police loaded him in the back of a Land Rover, naked and restrained in manacles, and began the 1100 km drive to Pretoria to take him to a prison with hospital facilities.   He died shortly after arrival at the Pretoria prison, on 12 September.  The police claimed (and the apartheid government) his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain hemorrhage from the massive injuries to the head, which many saw as strong evidence that he had been brutally clubbed by his captors.

'Cry Freedom' the movie on Steve Biko
‘Cry Freedom’ the movie on Steve Biko

Biko believed in the unity of the oppressed, he also knew we should constantly educate each other on what is happening in our society.  Today, Biko’s views could be applied to almost every society where there are oppressed people, oppressed by unfair laws, unfair economics that favors extreme greed, forced into poverty, and dehumanization.

I watched the movie Cry Freedom which talked about Biko’s life, and also about his journalist friend Donald Woods who published the pictures of Biko’s beaten body after his death, thus showing to the entire world that he had been brutally murdered by the South African police.  I do recommend it, the main actor is none other than Denzel Washington.  To learn more about Biko, you could read his own book I Write What I Like, or the autobiographic book Biko by Donald Woods.  In 1980 the singer Peter Gabriel had a world hit titled Biko, in which he sang: “You can blow out a candle/ But you can’t blow out a fire/ Once the flames begin to catch/ The wind will blow it higher.”  Let us all, keep the fire of Steve Biko. Enjoy this rare video of Steve Biko talking!

 

 

‘Poetry’ by Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau
Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau

January 20th, is the day of Amilcar Cabral, the father of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau independence was murdered.  I would like to celebrate this day of remembrance with a poem written by Amilcar Cabral himself.  He used to sign his poem by the name Larbac, which is an anagram of his last name Cabral.  The current poem is attributed to him… I was unable to find the Portuguese version.  Enjoy this poem by one of Africa’s greatest sons.

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… No, Poetry …
Do not hide within the inscrutability of my soul
Do not run away from life itself.
Break the invisible bars of my prison,
Open wide the doors of my being
– Come out…
Come out to struggle (life is a struggle)
The men outside call for you,
And you, Poetry, you are also a Man.
Love everyone’s poetry,
– Love Men
Let your poems flow to every race, to all things.
Merge with me …
Oh Poetry,
Take my arms to embrace the World,
Give me your arms to embrace Life
I am my own Poetry.
Amilcar Cabral Poem, 1946

Nelson Mandela, Madiba, Our Freedom Fighter is no Longer

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

Words cannot quite express my sadness at the loss of Africa’s greatest man, and probably one of the world’s greatest icon: Nelson Rolihlahla MandelaJust to think that this man spent 27 years in jail so that we, Black people, could have rights, could have freedom, could be free to love, live, and work, is beyond amazing!  Yes… almost 3 decades, and more, since he did not really lead a ‘true’ family life because he spent most of his time pursuing his cause for the freedom of Blacks in South Africa.  What tribute could I possibly give for a man who spent most of his life fighting so that I, a Black child, could walk free in South Africa after our land was taken by the Boer invader, and we were beaten under oppressive laws?  What could I possibly say for a man who epitomizes true leadership, statesmanship, democracy, humility, and love… love in the face of so much hateBecause, for Nelson Mandela to make it, there were those like Steve Biko or Chris Hani who were killed by the apartheid system.  I would just like to say farewell Madiba… for you, I am a proud African child… Farewell Father Mandela, for you, I can roam the streets of South Africa free… Farewell Nelson, for you, I am free… because of you, I am a proud Black child, for you I am a proud African!

Nelson Mandela raising the freedom fist
Nelson Mandela raising the freedom fist

I live you with one of his quotes:What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”  Madiba, you have truly changed my life, and that of millions around the globe!  The world is a better place because you stepped on it!  So long… Madiba!