Exactly 63 years within the past, on September 13, 1958, Ruben Um Nyobè became once shot by the French military. Perpetrated within the context of a “secret battle” that Paris has never acknowledged, the assassination of this nationalist activist is now mobilizing Cameroonians. Through this anniversary, they’re commemorating tens of thousands of victims of the colonial strength, who possess never been acknowledged both.
“After having shot him in his woodland hideout, France and its Central African henchmen also desired to abolish him within the hearts of Cameroonians. But they didn’t succeed,” says activist André Blaise Essama of Ruben Um Nyobè. This Cameroonian independence fighter became once killed precisely 63 years within the past by the French military. When Essama became once a younger individual, the title of this hero became once evoked within the finest secrecy. But on the present time, in opposition to all odds, the memory of Um Nyobè has reach out of hiding – to the excellent displeasure of the present regime of Paul Biya, whom Essama and rather about a Cameroonian activists accuse of being a “servant” of France.
From farmer’s son to militant nationalist
Um Nyobè became once born in 1913 in Bassa nation, within the south of Cameroon, which became once below German occupation on the time. His mom and father were tiny farmers. After the German defeat on the pinnacle of the First World Battle, the fresh League of International locations (predecessor to the United International locations) gave France and the UK a mandate to administer Cameroon. After his review in Presbyterian colleges in French Cameroon, Um Nyobè became a civil servant. He became acknowledged as a change unionist sooner than organising, in 1948 in Douala, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), a nationalist social gathering. The UPC campaigned for the reunification of the nation, independence and social justice. In a snappy time, he became the undisputed leader of Cameroonian nationalism. He began to be called the Mpodol (“spokesman for his other folks” within the Bassa language).
“Ruben Um Nyobè has an virtually legendary, extremely worthy air of secrecy. He is a key settle within the fight for Cameroon’s independence, the lynchpin, a thinker, an illustrious organizer, a unifier of absolute integrity,” explains French journalist Thomas Deltombe, co-writer with Manuel Domergue and Jacob Tatsitsa of the book “Kamerun! A Hidden Battle on the Origins of Françafrique (1948-1971)”. “He enjoys tremendous appreciate from his compatriots, and his qualities are acknowledged within the confidential reports of the French colonial administration and police. He is the most emblematic settle of the UPC.”
In 1955, a fresh Excessive Commissioner, Roland Pré, arrived in Cameroon, determined to construct an raze to the UPC and to Um Nyobè, whose charisma became once tense. Barely after Pré’s arrival, social unrest shook Cameroon, causing several deaths. The French authorities frail this as a pretext to ban the UPC on July 13, 1955. Um Nyobè went into hiding in a woodland in his native topic. And the colonial administration swore to search out and abolish him. The hunt began.
Body immersed in concrete
“His hideout became once seen around September 13, 1958. All over the hunt, Um Nyobè’s companions were arrested. Under torture, some of them knowledgeable the French military the put he became once. On September 13, 1958, he became once shot by a unit of auxiliaries commanded by a French officer,” recounts Cameroonian historian Jacob Tatsitsa in an interview with Justice Info.
In his book “La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun,” (Birth of the Resistance in southern Cameroon), Cameroonian thinker Achille Mbembe describes this killing, which he says took situation within the early morning. “The troopers, alongside with a Chadian conscript, Sara Abdoulaye, were firing in all directions. The trackers did now not scrutinize Um Nyobè first and well-known. (… ) It became once then that one of many guides pointed him out to the troops. Abdoulaye fired and hit him from unhurried. Um Nyobè collapsed, dropping a briefcase containing some paperwork and notebooks wherein he had written down his dreams, and he died with a groan. Sooner than being buried, his body became once immersed in a concrete block. By disfiguring the corpse, they desired to abolish the strong level of his body and decrease it to a shapeless and unrecognizable mass.” The final aim, Deltombe provides, became once to “root out the belief of independence from the very minds of Cameroonians”.
The assassination of Um Nyobe did now not, on the opposite hand, indicate the loss of life of the Cameroonian independence circulation, even if “it dealt it a heavy blow and demobilized a few of the combatants,” says Tatsitsa.
Paris stooge Ahmadou Ahidjo defeats the UPC insurgents
After weeding out the most principal pro-independence leader, France granted independence to Cameroon on January 1, 1960. Elections were held in May possibly well well possibly fair the connected twelve months, whereas within the Bassa and Bamileke regions the French military endured to repress UPC militants. Ahmadou Ahidjo, a protégé of Paris, took good thing about this topic and possess change into the first president of the Republic of Cameroon following huge electoral fraud.
The UPC then launched an armed insurrection that became once build down by Ahidjo with the support of French navy advisors. In step with the book “Kamerun! Une guerre cachée aux origines de la Françafrique”, it became once French officers who secretly directed the operations by the fresh Cameroonian military in opposition to the insurgents. A fluctuate of methods were frail: torture, compelled regrouping of the population, extrajudicial executions, psychological battle and poisoning. Nationalist leaders were killed now not finest in Cameroon but also in exile. Returning to the nation to coordinate the insurrection from within, Ernest Ouandié, a fellow fighter of Um Nyobè, became once arrested in 1970, tried and sentenced to loss of life. He became once done on January 15, 1971.
Crimes never acknowledged by France
Thanks to the strategic secrecy maintained by France around this battle, it is now not easy to present a human toll. British archives mention 76,000 deaths between 1954 and 1964. On a seek recommendation from to Cameroon in 2009, François Fillon, then French Top Minister, declared without flinching: “I entirely snort that French forces participated in any appreciate within the assassinations in Cameroon. All here’s pure invention.”
On July 3, 2015, after a meeting with Paul Biya, in Yoaundé, the French head of inform François Hollande took a first disquieted step, responding to the clicking. “On the seek files from of ancient past, it is correct that there were extremely tormented and even tragic episodes, since after independence there became once repression within the Maritime Sanaga and in Bamileke nation,” he stated. The discover “battle” became once subtly shunned.
On the different hand, 63 years after Um Nyobè’s assassination, the traces of this bloody repression are still viewed. “I in actual fact possess met survivors who still suffer from pathologies linked to the torture they underwent” within the hands of the French military, says Tatsitsa. “The Bassa topic continues to be isolated, a trend of punishment for its lack of submission to the French military.” For the Cameroonian historian, France must assemble reparation: “Right as the British compensated the Mau-Mau combatants (in Kenya), France ought to still compensate the UPC combatants and assemble financial and cultural investments within the areas fervent, as a secure of collective reparation.”
Théophile Nono, secretary traditional of the Mémoire 60 collective, notes, on the opposite hand, that there is “now not yet a structured circulation that demands reparations in an legit way”.
Eclipsed by the Algerian battle
For Deltombe, the battle in Cameroon became once overshadowed by “a combination of rather about a components. First France, to which the United International locations had granted trusteeship over Cameroon, needed to mask the massive repression since it became once unlawful below world law and contravened the trusteeship agreements signed with the UN in 1946”. Then there became once “the real fact that it coincided with the Algerian battle, which monopolized the attention” of French public thought and media. Finally, the defeat of the nationalists itself contributed to this concealment, and the authorities of self sustaining Cameroon endured the work of annihilating the UPC, by prohibiting any reference to Um Nyobè and his companions within the fight”.
Cameroonian Tièmeni Sigankwé, a researcher on the National Education Centre, consents with this evaluation. “This episode is shrimp acknowledged because all of us that fought for reunification and independence were eradicated or disregarded. At the moment, in class ancient past curricula, shrimp is dedicated to those nationalists. At one level, it became once even forbidden to discuss the UPC, and citing the of us that fought for independence became once belief to be a subversive act.”
Under present President Biya, who has been in strength since 1982, it became once now not till December 1991 that the first law became once passed to “rehabilitate grand figures of Cameroon’s ancient past who possess disappeared and who possess worked for the initiating of nationwide sentiment, independence or constructing of the nation, promotion of its ancient past and culture”. The law mentions Ruben Um Nyobè and Ernest Ouandié… but also Ahmadou Ahidjo.
Family, mates and admirers of Um Nyobè then rushed into this breach, erecting in 2007 a monument to the memory of their hero in Eseka village in Bassa nation, which became once the independence leader’s native land. But, primarily based entirely totally on the Cameroonian media, the authorities became once now not represented on the inauguration on June 22, 2007, even if it became once duly invited. “The rehabilitation law has now not been translated into fact,” says Sigankwé.
Register for free AllAfrica Newsletters
Regain the most popular in African news delivered straight to your inbox
Cameroonians were ready for a concrete gesture for the 50th anniversary of independence on January 1, 2010. But, as Sigankwé parts out, “in his speech, President Paul Biya referred to of us that fought for independence, but without citing a single title”.
At the moment, citing the battle of independence and its heroes isn’t any longer a subversive act. However the authorities has rather about a weapons at its disposal, as Théophile Nono, secretary traditional of the Memory 60 collective, testifies: “Our association became once created in 2010, but the administration refuses to scrutinize us because our purpose is to promote the responsibility to recollect the fight for the reunification and independence of Cameroon.”
Essama’s activist crusade
Activist Essama does now not need this recognition to act. For the past ten years, he has been on a crusade in opposition to the symbols of colonialism that still stand within the nation, notably in Douala. “The decolonization of public spaces is an imperative, destroying the monuments of the colonists is an act of public health. To each other folks its heroes, to each nation its pleasure,” he knowledgeable Justice Info.
His first aim became once the statue of General Philippe Leclerc, belief to be in France to be a hero of the 2d World Battle. Essama desired to interchange it with a monument to the memory of Um Nyobe. After toppling the statue of the French traditional in 2003, he decapitated it several cases, for which he spent time in jail. After restoring the statue’s head at any time when, the Douala authorities ultimately sealed it off and assigned guards to stable it. Essama says he has now given up attacking statues in favour of a campaign alongside with his group, Essama Hoo Haa, for the erection of monuments to Cameroonian and African heroes.
In the streets of Douala, “the fighter”, a colourful character, rides his bicycle embellished with the colors of Cameroon and with a banner on the front in memory of Um Nyobe. To commemorate the assassination of his hero, Essama has introduced that his group will assert a documentary this week featuring family members of the nationalist who are still alive, alongside with his kids and two wives. “The authorities will now not be ready to cease our circulation,” he says.