Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about leadership in Africa: the endless complaints about our poor leadership, or the killing of our good leaders, and then my friend said talking about Mali, “I wish we had more Assimi Goïta, Choguel Maïga, Abdoulaye Maïga, … on the continent.” Although my heart warmed at this statement, it reminded me that the fight starts at the bottom with each of us. We have to be the leader we want to see; we have to be the Assimi we want to have as a leader. Leadership starts with us, at the individual level. We cannot leave all the task to Assimi or whoever is at the head, we have to do our part; that is the only way to move forward. Otherwise, if something happens to the leader, what will become of our cause? In the article “How do We Continue the Fight when the Head has been Cut Off?”, I wrote, “the prize of freedom is too great to lay on the shoulders of one man, one leader, or a few… we do not follow men, we follow ideas… we are not fighting for men, we are fighting for our right to dignity, our right to humanity, our liberty.“
Very often it is said among Africans, that we have the leaders we have because that is, at the root, who we are. When you have watched Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Modibo Keita, Kwame Nkrumah, Ruben Um Nyobe, Felix Moumie, Sylvanus Olympio, Ernest Ouandie, Barthelemy Boganda, Mehdi Ben Barka, Muammar Kadhafi, and many others get assassinated by or in conjunction with foreign forces because of their vision for their countries, it is easy to cower away, and just bend the heads and accept whatever comes in silence. However, cowering in silence, perpetuates the problem endlessly. People often say, we all come on earth and will have to leave at some point, why not leave with dignity? Why cower away? If we start at our level, getting involved in our communities, doing our part (whatever our talents are), being there for each other, do you really think corruption will persist? Let us not wait for Messiahs (and we know how rare those are), but let us start laying the bricks to the foundation of the home we want to live in. If you are an educator, make sure to lay the foundation for the best education possible; if you are a brick layer, do your work with integrity; if you are an okada driver, drive with integrity; if you are a housewife, raise the next leader; if you are a business man, make sure honesty is at the core of your business; if you are a student, arm yourself to be the next leader; … If you want to be led by honest people, then deal with honesty in your daily encounters; if you want to have a transparent government, start with transparency at your level, etc. As my favorite quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr goes, “If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great sweeper who did his job well.” ” We all play a part in this whole that is our homeland, and each one of us is needed!
Thomas Sankara once said in one of his interviews, “if you kill Sankara, you will have a million Sankaras.” Let’s have a million Assimi Goïta, a million Choguel Maïga! Let us have millions of African leaders! Let us have a billion exemplary leaders and more!
A recent case has had my head spinning with this fundamental question: how do we keep going when the movement has been decapitated? Or when the leader is no longer fit to lead? I do not claim to have the answers as this is a crucial question, but it is worth pondering.
I recently read “The Cost of Sugar” by Cynthia McLeod, where she talks about the fight of the Maroons or Boni or Alukus of Surinam for freedom. Surinam was a Dutch colony, and so the Dutch crown sent troops to fight the rebellious slaves; they also hired local slaves to whom they promised liberty and land in return for fighting the Maroons. The Maroons never gave up! They were well organized, even though they had very little and were under-armed, and lived in the bush. Their leaders were very often killed, but they kept the fight… they were fighting for their freedom: men, women, and even children contributed to the fight. Yes… they terrorized the planters for many years, they were defeated, and fled to neighboring French Guyana, but kept the fight. Why? Because the prize of freedom is too great to lay on the shoulders of one man, one leader, or a few… the fight must continue in spite of some men (betrayers and others)… we do not follow men, we follow ideas… we are not fighting for men, we are fighting for our right to dignity, our right to humanity, our liberty.
We have to keep the fight. Yes, it is okay to cry, it is okay to fall, feel discouraged, but we have to rise up, and keep up the fight. We might be disappointed by the so-called leaders who may turn their backs on us and betray us [“The Cancer of Betrayal” by Amilcar Cabral, J.J. Rawlings in His Own Words: African Identity, Betrayal, and More], or we might get discouraged when our leaders and hopes have been killed, but we have to keep the fight. We rise up! Dust off ourselves, and keep on fighting! The enemy will try many tactics to distract us from our goals, because the enemy lives on our ignorance, the enemy flourishes on our divisions, our disappointments, and discouragements. We cannot afford to cry too long! When a leader no longer matches our ideals, we put him to the side and keep on fighting. We are not fighting for ourselves, we are fighting for our ancestors who died fighting, we are fighting for our children who should not be beggars on their own lands while the enemy feasts on it. We fight because it is more than just us. Dignity, freedom, is a divine right, and it is ours… we need to claim it!
It took 100 years for China to reclaim Hong Kong and Macao from the British… China was able to do so because its leaders kept telling them how Great Britain made them sign treacherous treaties and stole their lands, they did not hide it from their people like many African leaders do [Did You Know about the 999-year Lease granted to Europeans in Kenya ?]. As a result, 100 years later, the Chinese leaders went to the British, and said “time is up, give us back our lands”. The leaders who were forced to sign these treaties 100 years prior were no longer alive, but the history, the preparation, the muscling up, the battle continued!… so we have to plan over decades, generations, to ensure continuity in the battle, implying education, real knowledge of our history (our triumphs as well as our defeats and the causes), the stakes, and keeping a living memory of our history. It may take years, decades, even a century like China with Macao, but we have to grow, know, and muscle up… we cannot keep crying.
I have to talk about Fossi Jacob, the Chutes de la Métché (The Metché Waterfalls), and the Bamiléké genocide perpetrated by France in Cameroon (French President Acknowledges French Genocide in Cameroon). Fossi Jacob is a hero, and should be celebrated throughout Cameroon. A monument should be erected at the Chutes de la Metché to celebrate his memory and those of countless others who lost their lives there, just outside Bafoussam on the way to Mbouda, in the Western province of Cameroon.
When I visited the Chutes de la Metché, I finally understood the magnitude of the entire thing. Picture this:you are forcefully pushed from a 20 m tall waterfalls, with giant sharp-edged volcanic boulders at its bottom; there is no way anybody thrown down those waterfalls can come out alive; either you die from the fall, or your head hits one of those giants sharp boulders. This is what French officials did to so-called ‘rebels’ between 1950 and 1970 in Cameroon; in reality, most of these ‘rebels’ were simple peasants. During my visit, I was speechless! It was like visiting Gorée island, or Elmina Castle, it felt so sinister, yet so beautiful! Sinister, because it was as if I could feel the souls of all those who had been pushed there. It was as if I could hear their screams, feel their pain! Beautiful because the paths were covered with salt and palm oil, and you could tell that this was a place of pilgrimage, a place where people came to commune with their ancestors, who disappeared there, without sepulchers.
Why should we celebrate Fossi Jacob? Jacob Fossi had been imprisoned like countless others in the prison of Bafoussam during the dark days of Cameroon; he was a member of the UPC. Every night, the French officers would fill trucks with ‘rebels’ (from accounts, at least 350 every night), and drive them to the edge of the Chutes de la Metché, where, with a gun in hand, they would push the ‘rebels’ one by one down the waterfalls. Those who did not die from the falls were shot!
On that fateful day of 12 September 1959, when it was Jacob Fossi‘s turn (he was second to last), he called for the French official and told him to get close and that he would tell him where all the other ‘rebels’ were hiding. He promised to tell him everything. When the French official came close, Fossi Jacob held onto him, and jumped with him into the waterfalls. They were killed instantly. This caused the French colonial government to stop taking people to the Chutes de la Metché to be killed. The story of Fossi Jacob is known because on that fateful day, Fo Sokoudjou, the actual King of Bamendjou, who was going to be the last one to be pushed down the fall was not pushed in because of Fossi’s courageous act. Lucky one! Imagine the many lives saved because of one man’s selfless act!
Today, the Chutes de la Metché has become a place of pilgrimage for countless people, particularly Bamiléké people. During that dark era of the history of Cameroon, many lost their sons, husbands, fathers, relatives, and this is the only place where they can come and pray to their ancestors. Salt and palm oil strew the path as people come to make offerings to commemorate their long-gone loved ones. A monument should be erected there to celebrate the courage of Fossi Jacob who, thanks to his actions, stopped the horrendous actions of the French colonial government in those waterfalls.The Chutes de la Metché should be a place of pilgrimage for all Cameroonians, and beyond!
“When you have chosen the struggle, the path of struggle, for a true independence, you must necessarily expect to receive anytime the hard knocks that the imperialists will give you. But we are used to say that it is because the imperialists are beating us so much that we have become and are becoming stronger in our daily struggle.” [“Lorsque vous avez choisi la lutte, la voix de la lutte, pour une indépendance véritable, vous devez nécessairement vous attendre à tout moment aux coups durs que vous portent les impérialistes. Mais nous avons l’habitude de dire que c’est parce que les impérialistes nous portent beaucoup de coups que nous sommes devenus et nous devenons chaque jour un peu plus aguerris pour la lutte.”] Ernest Ouandié.
Here is an interview of Ernest Ouandié, leader of the UPC, on the Assassination of a fellow leader of the UPC, Félix Moumié. As you can see, this was a brilliant man who was fighting for the independence of Cameroon from foreign colonial powers; he was fighting for One Kamerun! One can also watch Marthe Moumié, the wife of the deceased Felix Moumié, and watch her dedication not just to her husband, but to the great cause of the freedom of her country. Enjoy!
On 15 January 1971, Ernest Ouandié, the leader of the UPC, was publicly executed in the capital of the Western region, Bafoussam, his natal province.
In reality, three people had been executed. Those 3 were: Gabriel Tabeu, aka “Wambo, the electricity“, Raphaël Fotsing, and Ernest Ouandié. The three were tied to a pole, facing a firing squad. The first two fell first. Ernest Ouandié, who had been accused of attempting to create a revolution, the organization of an armed bands, assassinations and other things, refused to be blindfolded. This led to a dispute between the authorities and him. Finally, they granted him his final wish, and as he was falling through the weight of the bullets, he shouted “Others will continue the struggle” staring death in the eye.
“Up until the last minute, we did not think that the government was going to execute Ernest Ouandié and his comrades. People thought that they could be condemned for life. It was for us a big surprise. They made us get out of school to go watch the execution of the nationalists. In the crowd, we disapproved of what was going to happen, even kids like us. There was in reality, a strong current of sympathy for the rebels. That is why as soon as Ernest Ouandié and his companions were shot, it was as if I had been wounded in the depths of my heart. The gust had wounded the head of a person who was at the parish of the evangelical church,” says Wanko Tchonla, a trader in Bafoussam. On the day of the event, he was a student at the Saint Joseph school of the cathedral. He still keeps in memory that sad day of 15 January 1971.” [“Jusqu’à la dernière minute, nous ne croyions pas que le gouvernement allait faire exécuter Ernest Ouandié et ses camarades. Les gens pensaient qu’on pouvait les condamner à vie. C’était pour nous une grande surprise. On nous a fait sortir de l’école pour voir l’exécution des nationalistes. Dans la foule, on désapprouvait ce qui allait se passer, même les enfants comme nous. Il y avait en réalité un fort courant de sympathie pour les rebelles. C’est pour cela que dès que l’on a tiré sur Ernest Ouandié et ses compagnons, c’est comme si j’avais reçu une blessure au fond de mon cœur. La rafale avait blessé la tête d’une personne qui se trouvait au niveau de la paroisse du plateau de l’église évangélique ”, raconte Wanko Tchonla, commerçant à Bafoussam. Au moment des faits, il est élève à l’école Saint Joseph de la cathédrale. Il garde en souvenir la triste journée du 15 janvier 1971.]
“It is no coincidence that the government of Ahmadou Ahidjo had decided to execute Ernest Ouandié in Bafoussam even though his conviction had been pronounced by the military court of Yaoundé. It is was important to create a collective psychosis in the minds. That is why people are always afraid to demonstrate for their rights. People are even afraid to join a political party by fear of being killed.” [“Ce n’est pas par simple hasard que le gouvernement d’Ahmadou Ahidjo avait décidé de faire exécuter Ernest Ouandié à Bafoussam alors que sa condamnation avait été prononcé par le tribunal militaire de Yaoundé. Il fallait créer une psychose collective dans les esprits. C’est pour cela que vous voyez que les gens ici ont peur de manifester pour revendiquer leurs droits. Les gens ont même peur de s’engager dans un parti politique parce qu’ils craignent d’être tués.”] Jean Michel Tékam, candidate for the Cameroonian Social Democratic Party (Parti social démocrate camerounais) in 1996.
Martin Kapnang, retired communal agent, remembers the staging around Ouandié’s execution. “ We knew that they had arrested the rebel chiefs. The administration had brought people, even from surrounding villages, to watch the execution of rebels. But the conditions under which their trial had unfolded always seemed very confusing. Because as soon as the arrest of Ernest Ouandié and others had been announced, we knew that they will be executed even if the greatest attorneys in the world intervened in their favor.” [“Nous savions que l’on avait arrêté les chefs maquisards. L’administration avait fait venir les gens même des villages environnants pour voir comment on devait tuer les maquisards. Mais les conditions dans lesquelles leur procès s’était déroulé semblaient toujours floues. Car dès que l’on avait annoncé l’arrestation de Ernest Ouandié et autres on savait qu’ils devaient être exécutés même si les plus grands avocats du monde intervenaient en leur faveur.”]
As soon as the first salvo is fired, he shouts: “Long live Cameroon” and then falls to the ground. A European officer detaches himself from the group of spectators, walks toward the dying man, puts his hand on his holster, leans forward and shoots… [cited in Jean Ziegler, Les Rebelles: Contre l´Ordre du Monde: Mouvements Armes de Liberation Nationale du Tiers Monde, Published 1983, Editions du Seuil ]
15 January 1971 marks the day of the execution of a Cameroonian and African hero: Ernest Ouandié! Outspoken, and brilliant, Ernest Ouandié is considered by many in Cameroon as a national hero. However, he has never been celebrated the way a hero should. He was a martyr! Ouandié was the last leader of the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC). The other renowned leaders of the UPC were Ruben Um Nyobé, Felix-Roland Moumié, Abel Kingué , and Castor Osendé Afana who, except Abel Kingué, were all assassinated by France or its puppets. Like those three, Ernest Ouandié was also assassinated, and paid with his life for his passion for the freedom of Cameroon, and Africa, from colonialism. So who was Ernest Ouandié?
Ernest Ouandié was born in 1924 in Badoumla, Bana district in the Haut-Nkam region of the Western province of Cameroon . He attended public school in Bafoussam, and then l’Ecole Primaire Supérieure de Yaoundé where he obtained a Diplôme des Moniteurs Indigènes (DMI) in November 1943 and began work as a teacher. In 1944 he joined the Union of Confederate Trade-Unions of Cameroon, affiliated with the French General Confederation of Labour (CGT). From 1944 to 1948, Ernest Ouandié taught in Edéa. On 7 October 1948, he was posted to Dschang. A month later, he was posted to Douala as director of the New-Bell Bamiléké public school.
In 1948 Ouandié became a member of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (Union des Populations du Cameroun – UPC), and 4 years later, was elected vice-president of the UPC. In September 1953 he was assigned to Doumé and Yoko in Mbam-et-Kim. In December 1954 he was posted to Batouri, then Bertoua. Finally, in January 1955 he was assigned to Douala again. He attended the World Congress of Democratic Youth in China in December 1954, and also traveled to Paris and Moscow.
In April and May 1955 the UPC held a series of militant meetings, circulated pamphlets and organised strikes. On 20 June 1955 the UPC leader, Ruben Um Nyobé, was sentenced in absentia to six months in prison and a large fine. On 13 July 1955 the French government dissolved the UPC by decree. Most of the UPC leaders moved to Kumba in the British-administered Southern Cameroons to avoid being jailed by the colonial power. Armed revolution broke out in Cameroon. The UPC nationalist rebels conducted a fierce struggle against the French, who fought back equally ruthlessly. The insurgents were forced to take refuge in the swamps and forests. Ruben Um Nyobé was cornered in the Sanaga-Maritime area and killed on 13 September 1958.
Ouandié had taken refuge in Kumba in 1956. In July 1957, under pressure from the French, the British authorities in western Cameroon deported Ernest Ouandié and other leaders of the UPC to Khartoum, Sudan. Ouandié then moved in turn to Cairo, Egypt, to Conakry, Guinea and finally to Accra, Ghana. After Cameroon gained independence in 1960, UPC rebels who had been fighting the French colonial government continued to fight the government of President Ahmadou Ahidjo, whom they considered to be a puppet of the French. Ahidjo had asked the French to lend troops to keep peace during and after the transition to democracy. What followed is a campaign of pacification of the Bamiléké territory, and some regions in the Centre and Littoral provinces; this is one of the greatest genocides committed by France, with the death toll in the hundreds of thousands (French President Acknowledges French Genocide in Cameroon)!
In 1960 Ouandié, Félix-Roland Moumié, Abel Kingué and other UPC leaders were exiled, isolated and desperate. Moumié was poisoned by French agents using thallium on 13 October 1960 and died on 4 November 1960, leaving Ouandié as head of the UPC. On 1 May 1961 the military tribunal in Yaoundé condemned Ouandié and Abel Kingué (in absentia) to deportation. That year, Ouandié secretly returned from Accra to Cameroon to work towards the overthrow of the Ahidjo regime. The Southern Cameroons (now the Southwest and Northwest regions) gained independence from the British and joined a loose federation with East Cameroon on 1 October 1961.Abel Kingué died in Cairo on 16 June 1964, leaving Ouandié the last member of the original leadership. President Ahidjo then declared Ouandié public enemy number one.
A post-colonial struggle by UPC rebels opposing the new Cameroon army (trained and armed by France) continued until August 1970 when the last battalion of the UPC, commanded by Ernest Ouandié, was arrested. Ouandié was sentenced to death and was shot by a death squad in the market on 15 January 1971, in Bafoussam. That day was a historic day in Bafoussam, as the populations were forced to witness the execution of their leader: my mother witnessed the event, she was just a child. The civil war, resulting in the destruction of villages and use of napalm is estimated to have resulted in at least 30,000 to 500,000 deaths. It has been conveniently removed from official history, both in Cameroon and in France (French President Acknowledges French Genocide in Cameroon).
On that fateful day, 15 January 1971, three people were executed in Bafoussam, the capital of the Western region. The three were Gabriel Tabeu, alias “Wambo, the electricity“, Raphael Fotsing (condemned to capital punishment 10 days prior, by a military tribunal) and Ernest Ouandié. The three were tied to a pole, facing a firing squad. The first two fell first. Ernest Ouandié, who had been accused of attempting to create a revolution, the organization of armed bands, assassinations and other things, refused to be blindfolded. This led to a dispute between the authorities and him. Finally, they granted him his final wish, and as he was falling through the weight of the bullets, he shouted “Others will continue the struggle” staring death in the eye.
Very often history books suffer from amnesia: they forget women’s contributions to revolutions. History acts as if the men had been all alone, as if only men were there, as if only men stood against injustice.
When people talk of the struggle for independence in Africa, and around the world, only the great men are cited. As one browses from country to country, only men are cited, as if women had been silent spectators. Do you think apartheid would have collapsed without the critical and vital input of women? Do you think without Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s name would have been anchored in our heads today? What do you think these women were doing while their husbands were in prison? History wants us to think that they were ‘just’ raising children as if that was not an enormous contribution already, but in the case of Winnie Mandela and countless others, they took up the fight, and were jailed, harassed, beaten, and humiliated by the system (some were even raped). Yet today, the world acclaims only the men! And when a woman raises too strong a voice, then she is vilified, told that she acts like a man, or is an ‘angry’ woman. How could you face injustice day after day, and just keep quiet? There comes a time when, as Bob Marley says, “You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time…” people will rise up!”
I am so sick of the saying, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” I think it is again quite sexist, and should rather read, “ALONGSIDE EVERY GREAT MAN IS A GREAT WOMAN.” Raising children, and pumping somebody’s ego after a day’s fight, taking up the fights, and then keeping the men’s memory so that the world does not forget them, are no easy fit; these are extraordinaryfits. Alongside Nelson Mandela, there is Winnie Mandela. Alongside Thomas Sankara, there is Mariam Sankara. Alongside Patrice Lumumba, there is Pauline Lumumba. Alongside Felix Moumié, there is Marthe Moumié. Rosa Parks had to be defiant and sit in the front of the bus, for the movement to be taken over by Martin Luther King Jr.; without her part in the fight, there would have been no movement!
It is our duty to remember this, and to claim it. The world and history wants us to think that men are the only ones in the world, when we know that 50% of the world’s population is female; men are not the only ones fighting for independence, liberation, freedom, revolution, democracy, … Can one make a revolution without the remaining 50%? NO! It is our duty to remember Women’s contributions to history, and stop the global historical amnesia!
It took over 70 years for a French President to finally admit the genocide perpetrated in Cameroon by France between 1950 and 1970, a genocide which claimed over 400,000 lives, and displaced countless others. In his visit to Cameroon last Friday, French president François Hollande acknowledged that French forces had tried to quash colonial separatists in the 1950s and said he was ready to open up the history books. He said, “I recognize that there have been extremely traumatic and even tragic episodes.” Should we jubilate?
I say NO. It is true that this is somewhat a step forward: recognition of wrong done. However, I call it arrogance to wake up one day, and finally say, “Oh, yes, I killed your fathers, mothers, brothers, or sisters, … I showered many of your cities with Napalm, … I decapitated so many of your freedom fighters and hung their heads in the villages’ square, … I killedRuben Um Nyobé, Felix-Roland Moumié, Castor Osende Afana, Ernest Ouandié, and so many others, … I forced some of you into exile, … and I displaced countless others inside and outside your borders.” And so what? Should we clap for you? where is the apology? Didn’t you think we knew you did that? Where is the reparation?
During the Maquis years, many lost a loved one; is there a reparation for that loved one? that father who never saw his children grow up? that mother who never saw her son again? What about those who kept waiting, and waiting, hoping that after so many years the loved ones would come back home?… What about the pain of that young girl walking to school who had to watch the decapitation of ‘maquisards’ on the public place: she was scarred for life! What about those entire villages burnt with napalm? And those who were displaced internally from French Cameroon to British Cameroon, running for their dear lives and leaving behind their lands? What about Ruben Um Nyobé and his family? Felix-Roland Moumié, and his widow who suffered years of imprisonment in the harshest places? and Ernest Ouandié… and all the children who had to watch in horror as he took his last breath under the firing squad’s shots? What about the remaining population whose history was erased from textbooks, those who now have a gap in their past?
And to stand up there, and say “yes I recognize that we killed you”… it’s like Hitler waking up today, and telling Holocaust survivors and their descendants, “I killed you, jailed your parents, forced you into exile, brought fear into your souls, and decimated every part of you… what can you do?” It is simply arrogant! It is just too easy. Until there is a clear “I am sorry”, until there is a clear “here is what we will do to correct the wrong”, until there is a clear “arrest of all perpetrators”, until there is a clear “story in the history textbooks, opening of all the classified documents”…. until there is a clear “respect for those killed,” until then, there will be no respect for arrogant presidents of the hexagon in our dictionaries!
I decided to make a compilation of some of Lapiro de Mbanga’s words in his interviews. The full interview to Daniel Brown from Freemuse can be found here; for the interview Lapiro gave to Le Messager, click here; and lastly the interview to Phoenix Gauthier can be found on RFI. The video below shows Lapiro de Mbanga’s proudly expressing himself at the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2013. Enjoy!!!
About life in prison: … There is no hygiene here and we must share our most intimate moments with the other cellmates. … I should have been taken to hospital for a consultation but my status as a political prisoner has meant I have not been allowed to go once in these two years. I somehow survived the typhoid attack in December by taking the antibiotics my wife Louisette brought me. It’s fortunate she comes every few days. It’s a five-hour round trip from Mbanga, it’s taking a toll on her, too. … I wake at 7 to 8 every morning …. I keep informed about the outside world thanks to TV5 [France’s international station] or Radio France International. I eat, chat with the others in the cell, play Ludo, scrabble, draughts. It’s impossible to compose in such an atmosphere. I need calm, serenity. Here, I cannot concentrate and write the thoughtful songs people expect of me.
We have penal rations twice a day. At 1pm we are given boiled corn and at 5pm there’s rice in some warm water. It’s the same every day. It’s way below minimum requirements. My wife brings me food every two days, I couldn’t survive otherwise.I’ve seen people die of hunger.It happens every day in Cameroonian prisons.
Normally, I should have no contact with the outside world. Telephones are illegal here. I’m speaking to you because we have to scheme like common crooks. In prison there are all kinds of trafficking going on, including this one. You pay guards to turn a blind eye. You know, in Cameroon you can buy everything. This country has been world champion in terms of corruption. It’s everywhere and filters down to here. (Source: Daniel Brown, Freemuse)
On being scared for his life because of his outspokenness:It’s all part of my struggle. If I was the scared type I would never have started singing in 1985. I’m not going to start getting scared after all these years. My struggle has always been to denounce inequalities and danger is part of that mission. The only thing that has changed for me since 1985 is I’m at the head of a family with six children. I can guarantee my own security, but not theirs. I’m scared for them. But I have no choice. If you start such a struggle, somebody must pay. Still, my family is unhappy with such risk taking. That’s why I think if I don’t go into exile after this prison term, I won’t survive very long out there – they’ll kill me. Because it’s obvious people in charge don’t want to be confronted with somebody who stops them from just getting on with things. (Source: Daniel Brown, Freemuse)
On going to exile: For starters, I am not in exile; I am political refugee in the USA. I needed a social security and an insurance for the future of my children; I refuse to manufacture unemployed people full of diplomas who will retire without ever having worked. [Pour commencer, je ne suis pas en exil; je suis réfugié politique aux USA. J’avais besoin d’une sécurité sociale et d’une assurance pour le futur de mes enfants; je refuse de fabriquer des chômeurs bardés de diplômes qui vont aller à la retraite sans avoir jamais travaillé.] (Source: Le Messager 04 April 2013)
About the way he spends his days now in the US: I dedicate myself to my children’s education. I have, during 3 decades, focused my life on my struggle, the fight against social inequalities, forgetting that I was first a head of family. Despite what the Um [Nyobé], Ouandié, Moumié, and all the known and unknown freedom fighters have done, nobody knows what has become of their offspring. For me, it is very serious. It is as if they had fought for nothing. [Je me consacre à l’éducation de mes enfants qui sont ici avec moi. J’ai pendant 3 décennies focalisé ma vie sur mon combat, à savoir la lutte contre les inégalités sociales oubliant que j’étais d’abord un chef de famille. Malgré tout ce que les Um, Ouandié, Moumié et tous les autres combattants connus et inconnus ont fait, personne aujourd’hui ne sait ce que sont devenues leurs progénitures, Pour moi, c’est très grave. C’est comme s’ils ont combattu pour rien …]. (Source: Le Messager 04 April 2013)
About his rupture with Biya and Fru Ndi: Paul Biya, even if he listens to my songs, does not count on my very short list of friends. So no need to break up with him even though I never voted neither for him, nor for Ahidjo’s party which he hijacked in Bamenda in 1985. Fru Ndi, whom I now call “CHIENMAN” and not Chairman, has ceased to be worthy of my respect, given his multiple reversals and changes. … I cannot be in good terms with an individual who plots against the people, it is as simple as that. [Paul Biya même s’il écoute mes chansons, ne compte pas sur la liste très restreinte de mes amis. Donc pas besoin de rompre avec lui encore que je n’ai jamais voté ni pour lui-même, ni pour le parti de Ahidjo qu’il a détourné à Bamenda en 1985. Fru Ndi que j’appelle désormais “CHIENMAN” et non Chairman, a cessé depuis bien longtemps d’être une personne ayant droit à mon respect, compte tenu de ses multiples virements, revirements et retournements de veste. … Je ne peux pas être en bon terme avec un individu qui complote contre le peuple, c’est aussi simple que cela]. (Source: Le Messager 04 April 2013)
On his dream for Cameroon? I dream of a Cameroon where the power will belong to the people. Where the wealthy will not use the misery of the poor by giving them some rice, fish, beer and 1000 FCFA to stay in power and plunder the country’s resources. [Je rêve d’un Cameroun dont le pouvoir appartiendra au peuple. Où les riches ne vont pas se servir de la misère des pauvres en donnant aux démunis du riz, du poisson, de la bière et 1000f pour aller au pouvoir piller les ressources du pays.] (Source: Le Messager 04 April 2013)
On his struggle: The fight continues. I got out of jail only three months ago. And I need to continue the fight at a greater level. … You have seen my environment. Here in Mbanga, it is 7:30PM and it is already dark everywhere. Without electricity, you can be attacked. Yet, there are people who fight at work all day. And at the end of the day, there is no light, no health, the children cannot go to school.There is no escape. That is my fight, my struggle. It is for that Cameroon that I am fighting. And I want the Americans and Europeans to understand. I come to tell them: thank you for fighting for Lapiro de Mbanga [release] , but there are 20 millions of Lapiro de Mbanga in Cameroon who experience the martyr daily. Wake up and do something. [Le combat continue. Je suis sorti de prison il y a seulement trois mois. Et je dois continuer le combat au niveau des grandes instances. … Vous avez vu mon environnement. Ici à Mbanga il est 19h30 et partout il fait noir. Sans électricité vous pouvez être agressé ici. Pourtant, il y a des gens qui se battent au travail toute la journée. Et, à la fin, il n’y a pas de lumière, ni de santé, les enfants ne peuvent pas aller à l’école. Il n’y a pas d’issue. C’est ça mon combat. C’est pour ce Cameroun-là que je me bats. Et je veux que les Américains et les Européens comprennent. Je viens leur dire par ma voix : merci d’avoir combattu pour Lapiro de Mbanga, mais il y a 20 millions de Lapiro de Mbanga au Cameroun qui subissent le martyr au quotidien. Réveillez-vous et faites quelque chose.] (Source: RFI, P. Gauthier, 12/07/2011)