André Marie Mbida and the fight against racial segregation
Colonialism despite its different era, has nothing strange compared to
slavery. When the black code governed relations between white masters and slaves, the indigenous code (a set of laws, which created a lower legal status for natives of the French colonies from 1887 to 1947, which was set up first in Algeria in 1887 and then applied throughout the French Colonial Empire from 1889) in the colonies, governed poignantly reports of subordination between the colonial administration and indigenous peoples. If America had its Jim Crow Laws, sub-Saharan Africa had its version of discriminatory laws imposed by colonialism until the edge of the truncated independence of the 60s. Despite the logic that states clearly that the same people who practiced slavery, are the same who vulgarized colonization of Africa by using the same methods, some malicious Africans and Western scholars, or very little savvy about the realities of colonization, as the massacre of the Congolese people in plantations rubber of King Leopold, where children had their limbs amputated for breach of hard work. In the same pattern the railway of death in Cameroon, where many Cameroonians perished as slave digging bare hand into stone, to build a railway line which was to assist the colonizer, to export local wealth to its metropolis, remains a story very little rumored in popular African imagination, like the racial segregation that was well established in the former West African colonies.
The struggle towards independence could not be done without breaking the balls of contempt and hatred that the Western colonizer was bent on imposing to local people, who survive mainly because of their resistance to various plagues that were closely related to the Western presence, as deadly contagious diseases, poverty, forced depopulation and mass deportation to concentration camps and distant lands to break rebellion, and to the fact that the colonists had also local labor hands needs. A final solution like the one that was taken toward American Indians was not an option. The fallacious reality related to the civilizing mission of the West towards the natives was a lure that spread terror, with a cohort of misery and desolation, at light years of social progress as announced. Proof after more than five centuries of Western presence in the tropics, if the era of time has changed some things, conspicuous realities on the ground remain critical. Blame it on the establishment of an anti-progressive system that continues to be emulated, after the dummy independence allowed more than 50 years ago. One type of independence that André Marie Mbida first local to lead his country Cameroon opposed fiercely.
André-Marie Mbida was born on 1 January 1917 in Edinding, in the Nyong and Sanaga region of Cameroon. He grew up in the traditional aristocracy. He was the son of traditional leader Simon Monbele Ongo Nanga, the same who led a rebellion against the German invader. André Marie MBIDA attended the Efok rural primary school in the department of Lekié. Brilliant student he continued his secondary studies at the minor seminary of Akono from 1929 to 1935, where he became professor of Latin and mathematics. From 1935-1943 tempted by the priesthood he will go to the grand seminary of Mvolyé, where he became a friend of future presidents Fulbert Youlou ( a prelate who was the first president of Congo Brazzaville) and Barthelemy BOGANDA (first Prime Minister of the Central African Republic). Nevertheless he left the seminary, probably torn by celibacy ideas related to the profession and the ancestral tradition which states that a son must raise a family to perpetuate the legacy. Also André Marie Mbida will persist in education and to become head of teachers of Balessing rural school in western Cameroon in 1943. Far from resting on his laurels he continued his studies and obtained a law degree in 1945. He then worked in the colonial administration at the treasury of Yaoundé before becoming sales representative in Yaoundé and Ebolowa (South Cameroon) until 1954. In the early 50s sensitive to the plight of his fellow, he decides to enter politics and begins to campaign in the Democratic Block Cameroonian, of Dr. Louis Paul Aujoulat, a colonial party of Catholic obedience, he will soon feel very cramped and quickly will begin to campaign for a culturalism of local populations by opposing openly Western assimilation, creating the movement ANACSAMA that advocated a type of enculturation of socialism anchored in the pure Bantu tradition. In 1953 André Marie Mbida will have the audacity to break with the party of Dr. Aujoulat who in 1951 was elected as the leader of the Cameroon after completing the majority of votes in the Territorial Assembly of Cameroon in 1953. André Marie Mbida will ally with the COCOCAM (Coordinating Committee of Cameroon, COCOCAM) a party founded by Manga Mado, Ngoa Constantine Ombgwa Onesimus, Master Joseph Ateba and Ateba Yene (the father of the late prolific Cameroonian writer) with whom he will beat Paul Louis Aujoulat during a close vote, becoming in the process the first Cameroonian to be elected as the representative of its country of origin to the French National Assembly status by the Staff College a significant advance when we know that in colonial times ago that the same oppressors settlers who were responsible for defending the interests of the colonized, an aberration.
Once the territorial assembly became the legislature in December 1956, because now those elected to the local assembly, could legislate that is to say make laws for their country rather than face the French colonial laws. On May 12, 1957 he became the first head of government of Cameroon quasi hands free he signed the first laws giving Cameroon its motto Peace - Work - Fatherland, and the colors of the red green flag and Yellow colors inspired by the Pan-Africanist movement of Haile Selassie and resistance against Western invasion of Menelik II of Ethiopia. Even as the colonial code forbade him to float a flag other than that of France in the Cameroonian public buildings, he began a true racism destruction policy that will grant the formerly reserved for whites to blacks privileges. Under its mandate, which unfortunately will be short, it will be prohibited to all public buildings to all tenants of trade exhibit placards with derogatory terms like banned in Dogs and Blacks. Public or private schools also became open to all as well as to young black children indigenous settlers. André Marie Mbida will not only sign the decree against racism but it will give the means to enforce the law by imposing severe penalties to members of the white colonial community who had the arrogance to ignore these laws. Between May 1957 and February 1958 the Government of André Marie Mbida expelled from Cameroonian territory a higher number of French settlers in more than 50 years. The second largest construction site on track for the takeoff of the country will be the nationalization of administration officials in Cameroon, including members of the clergy, these ambitions of reclaiming Cameroon for Cameroonians will make him a man terribly hated by the French colonists, including the Archbishop of Yaoundé René Graffin and his former party comrade Dr. Aujoulat, for whom he became a marked man. Having sensed the trap of fake independence, which he dangled Africans will inquire about the reality of independence by asking the French authorities the question of what it meant in a semi autonomy, or it is independent or it is not. While he had engaged his country in a large construction appropriation of key sectors, as a good teacher, he focused on diligent management training, instead of paying into the cooperating scheme which later will be adopted in the following years, with its defeat in a coup plotted by the neo-colonial forces.
One of the earliest coups of France in the tropics was made in Cameroon. In 1958 with the arrival in Yaoundé of the colonial administrator Jean Ramadier who had to settle once and for all the problem of the union of population of Cameroon, the independence party which demanded full independence of Cameroon including through armed struggle, and André Marie Mbida, which had the purpose of releasing the Cameroon using a less violent manner. The colonial administrator will address the Legislative Assembly of Cameroon in defiance of government lead by Mbida, detailing his plan to manage Cameroon and grant a pseudo independence. Angered by the interference of a colonial administrator in the internal affairs of his country, André Marie Mbida will appeal to the hierarchical superior of Ramadier traveling expressly to the French metropole for a request of explanation. While he travelled to Paris for emergency consultation Jean Ramadier remained in Cameroon, and fomented a coup, by breaking the coalition that had brought to power André Marie Mbida. He demanded the parliament members to make a vote of no confidence against the Government of Mbida using coercive manners by bribing parliamentarians and calling government members to resign by paying them each a sum of 200,000 CFA francs, he will go further by choosing the new Prime Minister Ahmadou Ahidjo to whom he wrote himself the inauguration speech. Outvoted André Marie Mbida while returning from France after meeting French President and parliamentarians where he apparently managed to convince a certain portion of the French public opinion of the merits of its approach, he will resign, giving way to the takeover of Cameroon under the sphere of influence of neo-colonialism that will be later called the Mafia France-Africa a kind of neo-colonialism that maintained as vassals until today a number of African states, former French colonies.
In this story the casual observer can easily observe the duplicity of the French authorities. How a clerk of the French administration as Ramadier could have refused to respond to his urgent return to France for consultation, facing the supposed pressures of his superiors as the French President René Coty, if he didn’t have the insurance to be covered by the same authorities who affirmed to André Marie Mbida that he was within his rights, moreover where were coming the staggering sums with which Jean Ramadier corrupted part of the political class to his cause? If not from the French government without doubt from quite influential peoples such as wealthy neocolonialists industrials, with the design to exploit indefinitely riches of Africa, and who already back then were able to make and break governments. Representing these powerful interests Ramadier knew he was untouchable. In this colonial drama worthy of the Roman tragedies there was collusion duplicitous betrayal and naivety.
In any case the ideals of freedom and democracy of the now former Prime Minister of Cameroon will help his downfall, in 1962. After the sham independence of 1960, multiparty democracy will be the last bastion that neo colonialists will blow, (a multiparty democracy that the same western forces will impose in the nineties to better cover their tracks with the end of the Cold War) once again, corruption and intimidation will be used to dissolve various political parties to enforce the rule of a single state party. After a short exile in Conakry, Guinea, where he met the figures of the struggle for freedom in Cameroon as Félix-Roland Moumié and Ernest Ouandié with whom he will define the guidelines of an action plan for Cameroon, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Cameroon in 1960 under the banner of his party, the party of the Cameroonian Democrats. In 1962 denouncing the presence of French troops on the ground in Cameroon during the terrible war that led the French colonial army against the people of Cameroon until 1972, with a balance sheet that according numerous sources would be over 500,000 dead. André Marie Mbida will found The national united front, UNF with some other politicians like Mayi Matip Theodore from the Union of population of Cameroon, Charles Okala, from the Cameroonian Socialist Party and Marcel Bebey Eyidi, from the Cameroonian Labour Party. In June 1962 the movement published a manifesto signed by Mbida, Okala Eyidi and Matip, in which they affirmed their refusal to join the single state party. The signatories added that a one-party state inevitably leads to dictatorship. A dictatorship that was the secular arm of neo colonialism. André Marie Mbida will unfortunately also be the first political prisoner of Cameroon. Therefore, he will be arrested with his three other comrades and imprisoned in the infamous Tcholiré prison in northern Cameroon. This incarceration physically lessened the former, first Cameroonian prime Minister, he almost lost sight, to the point that in 1965, he will be placed under house arrest. In 1966, under the dictatorship of the now President Ahidjo, he will get under the pressures of some of his connections of the French Socialist party, permission to seek medical treatment in France. Back in Cameroon two years later, he will be again placed under house arrest in Yaoundé from August 3rd 1968 to May 30th 1972 when the unitary state under the single state party was proclaimed while the French neocolonial forces bent luggage after a war of over 10 years against Cameroon.
Until his death, which intervened in Paris in 1980 André-Marie Mbida refused to endorse the idea of a single- state party. The Cameroonian Party of Democrats refused to merge with the National Union of Cameroon (UNC) and declining an invitation to the mangeoire a terminology that has become the metaphor of those who succeeded Ahmadou Ahidjo, where administrative positions are distributed as emoluments to the pact with the forces of obscurantism and neo slavery. Andre Marie Mbida, Refused to share the cake of infamous betrayal of the interests of the Cameroonian people, to the benefit of the colonial powers, which until now remain masters of the political game in Francophone Africa. Africa, where the return to multiparty politics is no longer the miracle panacea for development with a political class that has lost the patriotic fiber, and favors the selfish interests of its various stakeholders, this abject bargaining can only help to perpetuate the influence of neocolonial forces on the management of the affairs of the African city.
By Hubert Marlin Elingui Jr