Ruben Um Nyobé said it so well, “The colonial peoples can neither do the policy of a party, nor that of a state, nor a fortiori that of a man. Colonial peoples make their own policy which is the policy of liberation from the colonial yoke and in their struggle for this so noble objective, the colonial peoples observe and judge. They observe the government, the parties, the persons, the media, not on their ideology or their program, but only and only on their attitude towards the demands of the people of our countries.
This is the position of the U.P.C. [Union des Populations du Cameroon (Cameroon People’s Union] at the service of the people of Cameroon.”
(« Les peuples coloniaux ne peuvent faire ni la politique d’un parti, ni celle d’un Etat ni à plus forte raison celle d’un homme. Les peuples coloniaux font leur propre politique qui est la politique de libération du joug colonial et dans leur lutte pour cet objectif si noble, les peuples coloniaux observent et jugent. Ils observent les gouvernements, les partis, les personnages, les organes de presse, non sur leur idéologie our leur programme, mais seulement et seulement sur leur attitude à l’égard des revendications des populations de nos pays.
Voilà la position de l’U.P.C. au service du peuple camerounais. »)
As you can see, his answer does not just apply to Cameroon, or Africa, but to the entire world. The real government should be of the people by the people, for the people, and no person should stand against the will of the people or muffle its will, or sit on top of the people.
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
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.
Present the people with clear options for his future.
Prepare for the people a climate of cordiality and put an end to insecurity.
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.
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.
“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!
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.
Pour continuer sur la même lancée, je voudrais vous faire part de cette vidéo: “Cameroun: Autopsie d’une pseudo-indépendence” par Gaëlle Le Roy et Valérie Osouf. Cette vidéo porte sur les années noires du Cameroun, les années de repression, les années du maquis, les années du génocide en pays Bamiléké, et les techniques utilisées par Roland Pré, alors Haut-commissaire muté au Cameroun en 1954. Pour en savoir un peu plus, visiter le site: Kamerun-leSite qui fait état de cette guerre cachée qui sévira au Cameroun pendant plus de 20 ans et qui fera plus de 300,000 morts.
Castor Osendé Afana‘s maquis suffered a major defeat, and a final blow with the murder and decapitation of its leader on 15 March 1966. Here are some of the principal reasons of the defeat of the Boumba-Ngoko maquis in the south east corner of Cameroon. These reasons had been identified by Osendé Afana himself before his death, and by his some of his followers later on.
1 – The Boumba-Ngoko region (or Moloundou region) had not been exposed to any revolutionary movement, or any influx of political ideas about the liberation of Cameroon since the end of the second world war, like the populations of the West, Littoral, Center or Southern provinces. The populations there being mostly Bakaspygmies and poor Bantous peasants and illiterate had almost never led major economic or political struggles against the exploitation and domination of the colonial and neocolonial forces. Their political awareness was quite low, and they had very little experience fighting.
2 – The region was sparsely populated, which forced the guerilleros, who were supposed to move around the people as fish in the sea, to fight practically in the open against a very powerful enemy.
3 – The low number in Afana’s group which kept decreasing due to several desertions. It was also very difficult to recruit among the local people.
4 – No members of the initial group were originally from that region, and thus had little knowledge of the field, the language, and customs of the local populations.
5 – The maquis’ entrance from Congo-Brazzaville had happened without much discretion, and all their subsequent movements in the region did not go unnoticed. This made it easy for the colonial forces to trace them.
6 – No prior ground study had been done.
7 – The government of Congo, while giving their support to Afana, were opposed to any military action on their borders.
8 – Several tactical differences persisted within the group, with Osendé Afana, being more political and anxious of respecting the Congolese wishes, and with Fosso Francois, who was more military-centered.
9 – No prior contact/communication had been established with the Western maquis led by Ernest Ouandié. This could have ensure some help.
10 – An incorrect assessment of the colonial forces, their tactics, their capacity of enrolment, and the political activity of the masses on the national scale.
11 – Lastly, too big a reliance on external help.
For more information, visit afrohistorama.com to learn more about these critical events in the history of Cameroon.
Brilliant economist, Castor Osendé Afana is considered a national hero in Cameroon, however he is not as well-known as Ruben Um Nyobé, or Felix-Roland Moumié, or even his alter ego on the western front of Cameroon, Ernest Ouandié. Like those three, he was also assassinated, and paid with his life for his passion for the freedom of Cameroon, and Africa from colonialism. So who was Castor Osendé Afana?
Well, Castor Osendé Afana was born in 1930 in Ngoksa near Sa’a, in the Centre Region of Cameroon. In 1948 he was admitted to the seminary at Mvolyé, in Yaoundé, where he became a strong friend of Albert Ndongmo, the future Bishop of Nkongsamba. He was excluded from the seminary in 1950 because of his critical and rebellious character. It is as a ‘candidat libre’ that he successfully passed the first part of the Baccalauréat. He then started in philosophy at the Lycée Leclerc where he headed student manifestations demonstrating against the poor food service there. He nonetheless went on to successfully pass the 2nd part of the baccalauréat in 1952.
Later, Osendé Afana obtained a full scholarship to study Economics in Toulouse, France. By 1956, he was a vice-president of the Black African Students Federation in France (Fédération des étudiants d’Afrique noire en France – FEANF), and was managing director of the FEANF organ L’Etudiant d’Afrique noire.As a UPC militant he ensured that the issues of Cameroon were well-covered in the magazine.In 1958, Osendé Afana was named General Treasurer of FEANF, as well as being responsible for the UPC in France.
After the French government dissolved the UPC by decree on 13 July 1955, most of the UPC leaders moved to Kumba in the British-administered Southern Cameroons to avoid being jailed by the colonial power. In July 1957, under pressure from the French, the British authorities in western Cameroon deported the leaders of the UPC to Khartoum, Sudan. They moved in turn to Cairo, Egypt, to Conakry, Guinea and finally to Accra, Ghana, where they were hosted by President Nkrumah. In 1958, after Ruben Um Nyobé’s death, Osendé Afana decided to abandon his thesis and rejoin the leadership of the UPC, proposing himself as a candidate for the new Secretary General. Nyobé’s successor, Félix-Roland Moumié, told him “There is no longer a Secretary General. There was one, he is dead, that is it.” However, Osendé Afana was designated UPC representative at the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Conference in Cairo in December 1957 – January 1958. After Cameroon’s independence in 1960, the UPC continued to fight the government of President Ahmadou Ahidjo whom they considered a puppet of the French colonial power. Continue reading “Castor Osendé Afana: A Cameroonian National Hero”→
Today I will be talking about a writer of the caliber of Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a writer often forgotten, a writer who fought with his writings for independence, a Cameroonian writer who wrote about Cameroon’s first freedom fighter Ruben Um Nyobé, and whose writings were banned… you have probably guessed it, I am talking about the great Mongo Beti.
Mongo Beti was born Alexandre Biyidi Awala, on 30 June 1932 in Akométan, near Mbalmayo, south of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. From a young age, Mongo Beti was already exposed to the currents of independence and freedom that were shaking Cameroon, and was exposed to Um Nyobé. He would eventually get expelled from the local missionary school at 14, for being outspoken. As he himself said “At the time, I was very shocked by the idea of confessing my sins to someone else.” He would eventually attend the Lycee Leclerc in Yaoundé, and then move to the Sorbonne in Paris, France, for further studies.
Mongo Beti claimed that he entered writing through writing political tracts. His first piece was a short story published by Alioune Diop in 1953 in Présence Africaine, “Sans haine et sans amour” (Without hatred or love). He first started writing under the pen name Eza Boto, by fear of retaliation from the French colonial regime. His first book “Ville Cruelle” or “Cruel City” published in 1954, was actually on the school program in all high schools of Cameroon for many years in the 80s to late 90s. His second novel “Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba” (“The Poor Christ of Bomba“) was published under the pseudonym Mongo Beti, to distance himself from his previous piece. The name Mongo Beti means in Ewondo, ‘Son of the Beti people’. This new novel created a scandal because of its satirical and biting description of the missionary and colonial world. Under pressure from the religious hierarchy, the colonial administrator in Cameroon banned the novel in the colony. This novel was followed by “Mission Terminée” in 1957 (winner of the Prix Sainte Beuve 1958), andLe Roi Miraculé, 1958. All three books were translated into English and many other languages, which gave Beti a lasting international reputation. During this time, he also worked for the review Preuves, for which he reported from Africa, as well as a substitute teacher at the lycée of Rambouillet. He later on taught at the Lycee Pierre Corneille of Rouen until his retirement in 1994.
‘Wanted’ in the colony because of his sharp writings, and his connections to the UPC of Ruben Um Nyobé, Mongo Beti stayed in France. Ruben Um Nyobe’s murder by the colonial administration in 1958, truly shook Beti to his core; he fell silent and did not publish any book for the following decade. In 1971, he finally wrote “Main Basse sur le Cameroun, autopsie d’une décolonisation” (Cruel hand on Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonization) which was censored upon its publication by the French Ministry of the Interior Raymond Marcellin on the request, brought forward by Jacques Foccart, of the Cameroon government, represented in Paris by the ambassador Ferdinand Oyono. This essay perhaps sprang from frustration and rage at the collapse of the UPC rebellion and the public execution of its last leader, Ernest Ouandié, in 1970. It was a devastating critique of the authoritarian regime of Cameroon, and asserted that Cameroon and other colonies remained under French control in all but name, and that the post-independence political elites had actively fostered this continued dependence. The 1970s also saw two of his most passionately political novels, “Remember Ruben“ and “Perpetue et l’Habitude du Malheur,” both published in 1974.
Mongo Beti returned to Cameroon in 1991 after 32 years of exile. In 1993 he published La France contre l’Afrique, Retour au Cameroun, a book chronicling his visits to his homeland. After retiring from teaching in 1994, he returned to Cameroon permanently. He opened the Librairie des Peuples noirs (Bookstore of the Black Peoples) in Yaoundé and organized agricultural activities in his village of Akométam. However, his return did not leave the government silent: he was subjected to police aggression in January 1996 in the streets of Yaoundé, and was subsequently challenged at a demonstration in October 1997. In response he published several novels: L’histoire du fou in 1994 then the two initial volumes Trop de Soleil tue l’Amour (1999) et Branle-bas en noir et blanc (2000), of a trilogy which would remain unfinished. He was hospitalized in Yaoundé on October 1, 2001 for acute hepatic and kidney failure which remained untreated for lack of dialysis. Transported to the hospital in Douala on October 6, he died there on October 8, 2001. Some critics noted the similarity of his death to that of his heroine Perpetua, who also died while awaiting treatment in one of the country’s overburdened hospitals.
As I write about him today, I feel very sad that we, in Cameroon, don’t honor our heroes. No one can even fathom the depth of Mongo Beti’s work. It is immense, and his service to Cameroon’s history is beyond our imagination. At a time when everybody was scared of the regime (and rightly so, after the ‘maquis‘ years), he dared to write. From afar, yes, one might say from the safety of France and not Cameroon, he continued his mission of informing, and enlightening us. How many contributed like Mongo Beti to our knowledge of Ruben Um Nyobé? I am sure Mongo Beti’s book “Main basse …” is one of the rare written accounts of Ernest Ouandié. The African writer, Boubacar Boris Diop wrote: “Sans jamais se courber devant personne, il [Mongo Beti] a réussi à faire d’un simple pseudonyme un cri de ralliement. Sa vie durant, il a haï l’hypocrisie, le vain folklore et les faux-fuyants. Il est resté fidèle, jusqu’au martyre, à sa passion de la liberté.” (Without ever bending to nobody, he [Mongo Beti] succeeded in turning a pseudonym into a rallying cry. Throughout his life, he hated hypocrisy, vain folklore, and subterfuge. He remained faithful, up to martyrdom, to his passion for freedom.) Your work, O Mongo, is a true treasure in the archives of Cameroon. Peace be with you Mongo, you are not just a son of the Beti, but rather a son of Cameroon… Peace to you Mongo Cameroon.
Well, Abel Kingué was born Abel Kegne, in Fokoue near Bamendou (in the Menoua department) in 1924, into a polygamous household. Soon, he would live his home and move to the city of Dschang where he worked as a tennis ball boy for a while before getting spotted and given a chance to attend school. After school in Dschang, Bafang, and Nkongsamba, he went on to attend the Nursing school of Ayos. In 1947, he moved to Douala, and work in a big commercial center.
In April of 1950, Abel entered the direction of the UPC directly after its first congress in Dschang. He entered the spotlight when, despite his short height, he publicly denounced the political embezzlement of prince Ndoumbe Douala Manga Bell. Not only was Abel Kingué a great orator, but he also showed great firmness, great organization skills, great work ethics, and kindness.
He was re-elected vice president of the UPC during its 2nd congress in Eséka, in September 1952. He was also chief editor of the ‘Voix du Kamerun‘ (Voice of Kamerun), UPC’s main organ of expression. In december 1953, he went to the United Nations, to represent the JDC (Jeunesse Démocratique Camerounaise – Cameroonian Democratic Youth) of which he was a founding member. On his return, while touring the country to share his report with others, he was attacked in Mbouroukou, near Melong, and was seriously injured and left for dead.
The crackdown on the UPC movement intensified dramatically in 1954 with the arrival of the new French High Commissioner, Roland Pré. Roland Pré said in one of his interviews about his crackdown on the UPC that he implemented techniques he had learnt in nazi concentration camps to crush UPC’s leaders in Cameroon… One just shivers while imagining the brutality and atrocity that our courageous independence fighters had to face. On April 14th 1954, Kingué ran for elections into the ATCAM (Assemblée territoriale du Cameroun – Territorial Assembly of Cameroon), and despite his huge popularity, will be declared a loser by the colonial administration. Click here to Continue reading “Abel Kingué, Short but rising Tall for the Independence of Cameroon”→