Shedding light on a bloody, long-silenced and unknown part of history: a commission of French and Cameroonian researchers is beginning its research on the role of France during colonization and after the independence of this Central African country, a memorial work in a minefield. A commission in Cameroon for a memorial on the role of France:
A commission in Cameroon for a memorial on the role of France
After the Duclert Commission on the role of France in the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda (2021), the Stora report on colonization and the Algerian War (2021), the Franco-Cameroonian Joint Commission is in turn part of the memorial policy of French President Emmanuel Macron, at the heart of the “new” relationship he advocates with Africa.
They will be fifteen – fourteen members and a president, Karine Ramondy – to be part of the research component of the commission on the role of France in Cameroon before and after independence (1945 to 1971).
Among them, seven are researchers living in Cameroon. We wanted to ensure that several major universities in Cameroon are represented,” explains Karine Ramondy, co-chair of the commission responsible for this research component. Hence the presence of three historians from the University of Dschang, two from the University of Douala, and two historians from the universities of Yaoundé I and Yaoundé II. Alongside them, seven academics residing in Europe.
It is a commission of specialists in the history of Cameroon,” continues Karine Ramondy, “in particular of the independence movement UPC (Union of the People of Cameroon). But we have also brought together specialists in fields of research related to the mandate of the commission: colonial violence, photography, student movements, trade unions, military history … This will allow us to contextualize the work and to enter into fine and comparative analysis.
The commission is also composed of researchers of various statuses, ranging from doctoral students to university professors and lecturers. “This guarantees that the work will be continued by these young researchers.
When will the work begin? We’ve already started talking,” says Karine Ramondy. The final adjustments are being made, and the work should formally begin in the coming weeks.” The commission plans to make its work public at the end of 2024. Alongside this research component, a memorial component has also been initiated, led by the singer Blick Bassy.
Multidisciplinary Franco-Cameroonian Commission on “The role and commitment of France in Cameroon in the fight against the independence movements and opposition for the period from 1945 to 1971
A commission in which historians living in Cameroon and Europe are equally represented
List of members for the “research component” of the Commission under the direction of Karine Ramondy, historian (UMR SIRICE), University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.
- Assembe Ndi Alvine, historian (University of Douala)
- Arzel Lancelot, historian (Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po Paris)
- Bellot Gurlet Marine, historian (Ecole Normale Supérieure-Lyon)
- Blum Françoise, historian (Center for Social History)
- Dze Ngwa Willibroad, historian (University of Yaoundé 2)
- Guyon Anthony, historian (CRISES)
- Hiribarren Vincent, historian (King’s College/Les Afriques dans le Monde)
- Kenfack Nanfack Cyril, historian (University of Dschang)
- Koufan Menkene Jean, historian (University of Yaoundé 1)
- Mbowou Claude, political scientist (European Center of Sociology and Political Science)
- Ngo Nlend Nadeige Laure, historian (University of Douala)
- Ngouné junior Patrick, historian (University of Dschang)
- Noumbissie Tchouaké, historian (University of Dschang)
- Sacriste Fabien, historian (MIGRINTER)
After Germany’s defeat in 1918, the League of Nations (League), the forerunner of the United Nations, placed most of the German colony of Kamerun under French control and the rest – the western part bordering Nigeria – under British control.
Prior to the country’s independence in 1960, French authorities bloodily suppressed the “maquis” of the UPC (Union of the Peoples of Cameroon), a nationalist party engaged in armed struggle.
Tens of thousands of pro-UPC activists, including the independence leader Ruben Um Nyobè, were massacred first by the French army and then after independence by the Cameroonian army of Ahmadou Ahidjo’s regime.
The Commission’s work of remembrance already looks complicated.
Professor Daniel Abwa, president of the Cameroonian History Society, has been indignant for several days about the appointment of Mr. Bassy. “We can not have on one side a historian and on the other a singer, it is really insulting,” he said to AFP.
“Blick Bassy is young and certainly freer than all his critics,” retorted Jacques Deboheur Koukam, head of L’Harmattan Cameroun publishing house in Yaoundé, which has published many books on colonization in Cameroon.
Beyond the personal questions, “what is expected from this process? To lodge a complaint, to repair?” asks Mr. Koukam, regretting that the Commission does not have “clearer objectives”.
Jean Koufan Menkene, a Cameroonian historian and member of the commission, wonders about the relationship of Cameroon to its own history. “Despite the official discourse, our country has not been able to reconcile itself with its own history,” he writes.
Other voices question the possibility of carrying out peaceful work in a country ruled by an iron fist for nearly 40 years by President Paul Biya, and undermined by a deadly conflict with the regions populated by the anglophone minority.