From 1884-1916, the Germans signed 95 treaties with various ethnic groups but there is nothing about German Kamerun that made the territory or the people one, united and indivisible.
By Ekinneh Agbaw-Ebai*
Amid increasing pressure for political restructuring in the wake of the ongoing Anglophone crisis, there seems to be a consensus among Francophone government officials and Biya regime apologists to echo what seems to be a new national slogan: “Cameroon is one, united and indivisible” and this unity is non-negotiable. However, despite the ubiquitous grandstanding, anchored on a willful misrepresentation and revisionist interpretation of history, the fact remains that, two distinct entities came together to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon in 1961. After 56 years of failed unification, the one, united and indivisible Cameroon mantra is a mere subterfuge for the parasitic affiliation for survival by French Cameroun on Southern Cameroons resources. The unity of a country is a structure with a foundation. Justice is the foundation of unity, truth go round it. The ongoing Anglophone protests have exposed the truth about Cameroon, as a country erected on a weak foundation of unity. Anglophones therefore have no justifiable reason to continue in the union as presently defined.
All told, the union between the two Cameroons was nothing short of a marriage of convenience between a hesitant couple brought together by political and economic considerations of foreign matchmakers. The one, united and indivisible Cameroon is the tragic story of a country suffering from leadership paralysis, elite rapacity and unenlightened self-interest; and of a people traumatized by the mental and behavioral illogicality of a vampire elite that has captured and taken the nation hostage. Rather than address Anglophone grievances over the national question, the government has been gas-lighting the crisis with its meaningless show of naked power that has claimed hundreds of innocent Anglophones lives and entrenched a bitter acrimony that refuses to leave the national consciousness.
The Myth and Illusion of German Kamerun (1)
The ridiculous myth of one, united and indivisible Cameroon can be better understood when historical records are considered. To Biya regime apologists, the restoration of Anglophone independence is a political transgression which amounts to secession. But French Cameroun cannot continue to be in denial of the fact that we are two different peoples, with distinct histories and cultures beyond language. It is laughable for Francophones to continue to peddle this fallacy of a united and indivisible Cameroon because even within the contraption called German Kamerun, we were never one people.
Many will deny it, but if one thing unites Francophones of all ethnicities in Cameroon, it is their collective disdain and support for marginalization of Anglophones, whom they see as a conquered and captured people whose resources can be pillaged with impunity. Listen to Francophones and you will hear such self-serving arguments that we are “brothers” and should not allow ourselves to be separated on the basis of “foreign linguistic distinctions” imposed by British and French colonialism. After all, the argument goes, “we were one Kamerun under the Germans.” In theory and practice, it has been demonstrated time without number that this is a big fat lie; a huge fraud perpetrated by Francophones to continue the pauperization of Anglophones and the mindless exploitation of their natural resources.
To begin with, it stretches credulity to assume that the writ of whatever protectorate treaties the Germans signed with Douala chiefs, was binding on Ambazonia tribes west of River Mungo. We were never one, united and indivisible, and could not have been, because after signing treaties with Douala chiefs, the Germans still had to fight bloody wars to “pacify” the Ambazonia tribes. Once the Germans crossed the Mungo, they met stiff resistance from the Bakweris who were on the frontlines of the resistance to German efforts to appropriate their land to open plantations. Led by King Kuva Likenye of Buea, the “Vakpes” stood up to the Germans during the Battle of Buea in 1891, in which Karl Freiher Gravenreuth was killed. In 1894, the Germans launched a punitive counter-expedition killing over 1200 of the estimated 1500 Buea population. King Kuva fled and later died in exile, and his brother, Chief Endeley signed a peace treaty with the Germans in 1895. This genocide is partly responsible for the now infamous “woman-headed household” syndrome in present day Fako.
In present day Ndian, the Oroko resistance against the Germans was led by Chief Nakeli wa Embele of Ikoi village, who fought running battles with the Germans until 1892 when he was captured and publicly hanged. Even after the Germans opened plantations in Essossong and Tombel in present day Kupe-Mwanenguba, they faced strong resistance led by Chief Nked me Akwe, who refused to honor German compulsion requests for free plantation labor. The Bakossis employed unorthodox methods, including Mwakum; the most powerful Bakossi juju to resist the Germans.
In 1899, a German Lieutenant, Queiss, was killed in battle near Otu by Ejaghams resisting the German advance. In November of that same year, the death of a German trader-recruiter, Conrau in Fontem was blamed on Bangwa people who resisted his efforts to draft plantation laborers. The German Governor in Buea, Jesko Von Puttkamer ordered a punitive expedition against the Bangwas and Ejaghams which led to the 1904 uprising in which Ejagham, Boki, Anyang and other Bayang villages attacked German factories in Bachuo, Badje, Agbokem and Mamfe. The Government Station at Ossidinge and the Customs Post at Nsankang were sacked and five Germans, including the District Officer, Graf Puckler-Limburg were killed. Manyu people fought the Germans to a standstill during what became known as the “Mpaw-mankuh” (Rotten Cocoyams) war, which dragged on as a low intensity conflict, culminating with the defeat of the Germans in Nsanakang in 1916 during World War One.
The Germans also faced resistance in the Northern zone, where Eugene Zintgraff and German troops, led by Von Pavel were defeated several times during the Bafut Wars from 1891-1907. On January 31, 1891, German forces attacked Mankon - an ally of Bafut as a reprisal for the killing of two messengers Zintgraff sent to Bafut to demand ivory. The town of Mankon was burnt down, but from his military headquarters at Mankaha, Fon Abumbi I directed Bafut warriors who ambushed and inflicted heavy losses on the Germans. Although Abumbi eventually fled to Fernando Po after defeat in 1907, Bafut warriors continued the resistance, forcing the Germans to reinstate Abumbi I and negotiate a peace deal, totally independent from the Douala chiefs. Likewise, after facing stiff resistance from the Balis, Zintgraff signed a treaty in 1891 with Fon Fonyongha and in 1912, agreed to pay him an annual 10% of all head-tax revenue collected from the laborers he sent to work on the German plantations.
The Germano-Kom war of July 1904-Feb, 1905 was the result of the refusal by Fon Yu to supply labor and food for construction of the German military station in Bamenda. In response to a request to give one of his daughters to be the mistress of Lt Herr Adametz, the German station commander, Fon Yu instead sent him a bundle of ashes, which in Kom tradition amounted to an invitation to war. The people of Kom finally signed a treaty of friendship in Anyajua between Fon Yu and Commandant Werner in 1905. Elsewhere, the Ba’atum warriors of Esu also resisted the Germans.
This history proves that although there was a territory geographically delimitated as German Kamerun, the morass of onomastic evidence suggests that it was a loose amalgam of contending interests held to obedience by German military conquests and treaties of friendship with different tribes, completely oblivious and independent of each other. From 1884-1916, the Germans signed 95 treaties with various ethnic groups wherein Kings and Chiefs on both sides of the Mungo River, surrendered sovereignty and administration to the Germans, who established their capitals in Buea and Yaoundé. After defeat in WWI, the whole pernicious enterprise of German Kamerun ended. To aver the contrary is not only disingenuous but moronic.
Besides, the “pacification” of the Anglophone tribes west of the Mungo had nothing in common with whatever arrangements existed between the Germans and Francophone chiefs east of the Mungo River. Therefore the one united and indivisible Cameroon is a myth created under the illusion of German Kamerun. The truth is that Southern Cameroons was first British and was only ceded to Germany after the Berlin Conference of 1884. The ridiculous assertion that Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun were part of German Kamerun; hence ought to remain “united” is laughable because German Kamerun as a political entity was a mere geographical contraption and there is no basis for its reconstitution, either in history or international law, as it included several other territories which are now independent nations.
Furthermore, French Cameroun can only treat Southern Cameroons as part of its territory from the former German Kamerun if it can also treat other territories of that German Kamerun (Chad, Central African Republic, Gabon, and former British Northern Cameroon in present day Nigeria) as part of French Cameroun. Even under German rule that lasted a mere 17 years, Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun were never one people; let alone united and indivisible. Let no one tell you otherwise! The one, united and indivisible Cameroon is a hocus pocus of lies that have been told repeatedly, to the point of gaining national acceptance as the truth. The bad faith and lies about unification by French Cameroun is the subject of the next article in this series.