Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Long live Ndeh Ntumazah!

The death has been announced of Ndeh Ntumazah, President of the Union of the Populations of Cameroon (UPC), in St. Thomas’s Hospital in London on January 21, 2010 at the age of 83.

By Tazoacha Asonganyi

Pa Ntumazah was a political activist for nearly 60 years. He joined the UPC around 1950 and remained a militant of the party until his demise. When the UPC was banned in French Cameroon in 1955, he was advised by his comrades to create another party in the Southern Cameroons, which would be the UPC in disguise. The party was called "One Kamerun Movement - OK", with Ndeh Ntumazah as its President. Following its banning, the UPC started a war of liberation in French Cameoon, so Ntumazah from the safety of Southern Cameroons, liaised with his comrades in French Cameroon to carry out their underground operations.
Following the unification of the Republic of Cameroon and Southern Cameroons on 1st October 1961, the relative freedom and safety Ntumazah and his comrades enjoyed in Southern Cameroons evaporated. Since the regime in place sought to eliminate all the leaders of the movement, some, like Pa Ntumazah eventually went on exile while others like Um Nyobe and Earnest Ouandié remained in the bush to continue the liberation war on the spot.

Pa Ndeh Ntumazah left Cameroon to seek political asylum abroad in 1962. While abroad on exile, he adopted another name, Mbarack Ben Ibrahim which he went around with in the foreign passports he used. He stayed in Ghana, Guinea, Algeria and finally in Britain where he spent most of his time sensitising the world about the plight of Cameroon using various avenues like writing, conferences and deputations.

Before I left Cameroon in 1975 to the UK for postgraduate studies, the public trial of Bishop Ndongmo, Ernest Ouandié, Wambo le Courrant and some 160 others had taken place in Yaounde in December 1970, so I had been sensitised about the conflicts between the Ahidjo regime and the UPC. Thus, in spite of the efforts of the Ahidjo regime to sell the UPC to the population as "maquizards" whose only mission was to wage war on a peaceful population, I already knew by 1975 that the UPC was a very serious nationalist organisation with emblematic figures like Ndeh Ntumazah, Mongo Beti and others still alive.

When I got to London and heard that he lived there, I decided to visit him. My first successful visit brought me face to face with a very warm, caring, fatherly person, who seemed to be very excited to meet a young Cameroonian! None of the images of him that I had from fairy tales fitted the real man! He gave me tons of documents about Cameroon and I devoured them! Since he was a good raconteur, he missed no opportunity to feed me with the hows and whys of the liberation struggle they launched in Cameroon before he escaped to safety.

Although Pa Ntumazah was not a communist, he was certainly much influenced by communism because many of his speeches and writings were filled with communist rhetoric. In his conversational autobiography published in 1991 by Patron Publishing House, Bamenda, he stated that "Ouandié advised Mandela and he changed tactics". Indeed, Mandela changed tactics by starting a guerrilla war against the apartheid regime, like the one the UPC had started in Cameroon against the neo-colonial regime. Beyond merely changing tactics to engage in a liberation war, the ANC combined war, militant mass action and seduction to win power and is still governing South Africa today.

Although the UPC was at the origin of the creation of the OK of Ntumazah, it never went further – when it was banned - to create other surrogate organisations in Cameroon to channel the anger and frustrations of the people into militant mass action, like the ANC did when it was banned in South Africa. Further, the UPC never engaged in any seduction of the regime. The seduction effort started single-handedly by Bishop Albert Ndongmo did not seem to enjoy the blessings of the UPC because, when it went wrong, he was accused of "having betrayed Ouandié". Thus, in dying, Pa Ntumazah leaves behind in his biography, the impression that Ernest Ouadié was captured by the Ahidjo regime because Bishop Ndongmo betrayed him.

After reading Mongo Beti’s "Main basse sur le Cameroun" (Maspero, Paris, 1972), Bishop Ndongmo’s extensive interview in Jeune Afrique Economie (N° 148, 1991, pp 117 – 134), and what can best be described as a spin-doctoring effort by Frédéric Fenkam in his book "Les revelations de Jean Fochivé" (Ed. Mansi, 2003), it seems to me that Pa Ntumazah was misled by the partisan reports on the Ndongmo trial written in western newspapers by so-called international observers.

As a revolutionary, Pa Ntumazah knew very well that under certain circumstances, certain options like going on exile or making false confessions to remain alive become the best option. This is why, when N.N. Mbile in his biography blamed Pa Ntumazah for escaping into exile instead of staying in Cameroon to help in nation building, Pa retorted that Mbile did not understand what it meant to be wanted dead or alive. Which is why Pa would have understood why following the arrest of the Bishop, his physical and psychological torture by Ahidjo’s regime pushed him into despair, especially because the highest ecclesiastical authorities had delivered him to Ahidjo’s mercy; and the Cameroonian bishops had distanced themselves from him, nudged to that option by Bishop Jean Zoa who was thirsty for vengeance!

And so the defeated Ndongmo is said to have broken down in tears, weeping, obviously not in confession - because more than anybody else, he was aware of his innocence - but in fury and impotence. Pierre Biarnès in Le Monde Newspaper of 22 – 23 November 1970 claimed that the Bishop confessed that "I deceived everybody, the government, the Church and the UPC". Since he was completely cut-off by distance from the reality on the ground in Cameroon, Pa probably used such "declarations" to reach his conclusions on the Bishop!

It is probably in full understanding of this sorry state in which Bishop Ndongmo found himself that Cardinal Tumi in his recent book reports that he told Governor Ousman Mey who wanted to frighten him with the Ndongmo case the following: "I am not Mgr Ndongmo. I don’t know what his crime was. By the way, it would seem the Cameroon government has never proven his guilt. Perhaps he had the courage to say what he thought and that might have scared you, Mr. Governor". When Bishop Ndongmo’s efforts at reconciliation are viewed within the perspective of the power of seduction and charm in revolutionary politics, judgement of him would be more lenient than suggested by Pa Ntumazah.

Pa Ntumazah was UPC "army chief of staff" who lived in exile from 1962 to 1991; 30 years! He was born in Mankon, Bamenda in 1926. He spent the better part of his life suffering and sacrificing for the freedom of Cameroon. When I visited him in St. Thomas’s Hospital in London on June 2, 2005, he was lying blind on his hospital bed. He was no longer the talkative man I knew. He kept staring blankly at me, and I knew that he was in deep reflection with so many things rushing through his mind. No doubt one of them was the regret that upon returning to Cameroon in 1991, he still jumped into local UPC politics with people like Dika Akwa, Kodock, Mayi Matip, Hogbe Nlend, Wougly Massaga and others whose anti-revolutionary activities he repeatedly decried. A second regret would probably have been that his wish to have Moumié’s corpse given a dignified burial in Cameroon had not yet been fulfilled. And yet another would have been that he was lying helpless
while "mercenaries" – his own word – were still ruling Cameroon.

Overall, one satisfaction would have overcrowded these regrets in his mind: the fact that he is one of the architects of the independence and reunification of Cameroon. Whatever has become of the reunification they fought for, he dies satisfied that whatever they did, they did in the best interest of Cameroon. Happily, even the "mercenaries" that are still ruling Cameroon now recognise that "the independence of our country was hard won by many worthy children of the land...through desperate struggles by the contending forces who used all means and strategies they could imagine. Their common denominator was the Cameroonian nationality. .."

Pa Ntumazah is dead, but he lives on because his life stands out as a point of focus. Throughout his life, he strove for more than individual goals; he will continue to be emulated as a role model by our children and future generations. After all, Cameroonian youths desperately need role models to guide them towards discovering and fulfilling their mission for Cameroon.

There is no doubt that Pa Ntumazah is a truly great man. Long live Ndeh Ntumazah!

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

What are you doing to help those in Haiti?

When we spend our treasurable time conversing or arguing why a massive earthquake of 7.0 mag struck Haiti, on Jan. 12, 2010, reducing much of its capital to rubble rather than doing something to help those in need in this country, then we know we are doing something injudicious. It was the worst earthquake in the region in more than 200 years, with several thousands feared dead. Yes, but what are you doing to help those in Haiti?

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Haiti, as we all know, is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. The country is equally plagued with complications ranging from near-constant political uproar, health catastrophes, stark environmental deprivation and an annual bombardment of hurricanes, which killed about 800 people and caused vast destruction in 2008.

However, this country whose 8.7 million inhabitants are of African ancestry was not this poor from time immemorial. During the 18th century the western portion of Hispaniola, called Saint-Domingue, was one of the richest colonies in the French empire, known for its lucrative sugarcane and coffee plantations.

Then the African slave population revolted in 1791, eventually winning independence from Napoleon Bonaparte's France and becoming the second country in the Americas to free itself from colonial rule and the world's first black republic. The country was renamed Haiti. Yes, this is Haiti, where four out of five people are living in poverty, and more than half in abject poverty. And this is Haiti, suffering a humanitarian catastrophe of enormous fraction.

What are you doing to help those in Haiti, perhaps through your community or church? We need not to have friends or family in this country to offer our contributions. Consequently, my entire family and I invite you to visit American Red Cross at to make contributions.

The American Red Cross is working with its partners in the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network, including the Haitian Red Cross, and other partners to assist those affected by this disaster. Any amount you can donate will be highly appreciated.

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