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« May 20th Commemoration: In Search of the Elusive Common Ground | Main | Amnesty International 2006 Cameroon Human Rights Report »

May 23, 2006

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Ebie

Ha, ha, ha, this is a funny one! Bakossi folks used to drive us nuts in PSS Kumba back in the day with their outlandish stories about their "Broom stick warriors". I didn't even think this story was based on real events - always thought they were repeating an old wife's tale from the pre-colonial era. We definitely do not know anything about our history...

Ndogmo Jean Pierre

The Tombel incident was a violent precursor to the cam-no-go phenomenon which gripped Cameroon's coastal towns in the the 1990s. While it is alleged that security forces unleashed an orgy of violence and destruction in the wake of the massacre;and while there were legitimate complaints in West Cameroon at the time that the perpetrators were tried by a military court (a novelty in the region at the time) which did not generally go by the book, this has to be balanced by the scale of the atrocity in question; the slaughter of largely defenseless men, women and children in a progrom reminiscent of the sacking of Warsaw during WW II, the Bosnian ethnic cleansing of the 1990s, or the Rwandan genocide of 1994, albeit on a much reduced scale. This is one incident that should definitely not feature on the Southern Cameroons' list of atrocities committed by the "frogs" against the people of the region.

Ma Mary

I agree with Mr Ndongmo. That episode is a mixed bag, controversial and Dr LeVine's description above does not even touch the full extent of the troubles in that area. Those who are old enough will also recall that the Tombel area was also the focus of very intensive anti-maquisard operations in which a lot of Bamileke men, women and children were killed by the Camerounese army, often in joint operations with the West Cameroon mobile wing. This was not a period to be proud of. Children were taught to hate Bamileke. They are 3/4 maquisards according to Sadou Daudu, Ahidjos Army Minister in a public speech. There is no question that Camerounese government policy created the climate in Tombel that led to the massacre. In turn, they cracked down heavily on the population of Tombel, wantonly torturing and killing. The full extent of this shameful episode needs to be told.

During that period, the Camerounese Occupation Government clamped down on the Southern Cameroons and took away our civil liberties. These were the consequences of British negligence in not leaving Southern Cameroons with the means to defend itself.

Did you know that British Army troops were also involved in killing and torturing Bamileke "communists"in the Santa border area? It is laughable that anyone could consider the Bamileke as viable communists. They rank up there among the most entrepreneurial people on the planet. Their cardinal sin was that they provided viable competition to the French in la republique.

Dibussi Tande

I just found an interesting article about the Bamileke on Wikipedia which sheds more light about the Tombel incident and its context:

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

French administration and post-independence

Under French colonial rule, the Bamileke birthrate grew, and their small territory's capability to support a large population was put to the test. Thus, beginning In the 1940s, Bamileke migrants continued and expanded the trend begun by the Germans almost a hundred years earlier of moving to the Mungo region of the Littoral, Southwest, and Centre Provinces in order to work as labourers, open businesses, or start farms. These farmers mostly purchased their land from the region's historical inhabitants, the Duala and Bakossi peoples. By the 1950s, the Bamileke had come to outnumber the native Dualas and Bakossi of the area. The original inhabitants of the region were growing increasingly disenchanted with having given up their lands.

In 1955, the French banned a wing of the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) political party, which they deemed to be a terrorist group. This party had much support among the Bamileke, so many of them fled to the Tombel region of British Cameroon (today part of the Southwest Province). When further attacks on the French colonial government originated from the region, the native Bakossi were quick to blame the Bamileke newcomers. The Bamileke counter-accused the Bakossi of perpetrating the acts in an effort to reclaim their lands. A spate of skirmishes between the two groups soon followed, and attacks, blamed on the UPC militants, continued.

The independence of French Cameroon on 1 January 1960 did not stop the tensions. Things finally came to a head in December of 1966. UPC militants attacked a Bakossi vehicle near the Bamileke settlement of Nken, at the edge of the Kupe Mountains of the Tombel region. The Bakossi blamed the Bamileke of the nearby villages of Ekonegbe and Nsoke for the murders, and the victims' families and other enraged Bakossi sacked the villages. The government of British Cameroon sent troops to quell the violence, but not before many Bamileke settlers had been killed.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamileke

DANGO  TUMMA

BAMELEKE OR NOT IN THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE
IT WILL LOOK LIKE ATRIBAL STRUGGLE THAT SCNC IS WAGING.
OURS IN A DE COLONIZATION STRUGGLES AGAINST
AN AFRICAN COUNTRY OF THE REPUBLIC OF CAMEROUN.
SOUTHERN CAMEROONS/ANGLOPHONES IS NOT A TRIBE BUT A COUNTRY WITH 6.5M INHABITANTS.

Nlatane

What a phenomenal and formidable force of broom-riding witches and wizards my ancestors were!! If only we had kept these exoteric powers, we would be making the most effective use of it today. Barricading all those marauding aliens hell-bent on depriving us of our identities. Ah, the good old days, lost forever!

Nlatane

What a phenomenal and formidable force of broom-riding witches and wizards my ancestors were!! If only we had kept these exoteric powers, we would be making the most effective use of it today. Barricading all those marauding aliens hell-bent on depriving us of land and identities.
Ah, the good old days, lost forever!

Joel Kalle

Folks,
The power of the written word can never be mistaken. War mongers from that time till now continue to insinuate that there was a "Bakossi/Bamileke" war. There was no such thing. It was a "war" against terrorists! Many of them just happened to have been Bami. In fact some of them were "Bamenda people" many of whom had lived peacefully amongst the Bakossi but thought they could side with terrorists whose main aim appears to have been to strip the natives of their land. The Bakossi are a peaceful but hardy folk!
JK

UnitedstatesofAfrica

Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings? hmmmmm

Nhon George N. Enongene

The Bakossi are a peace loving and hospitable people. The mystic of the Bakossi broom is not totally lost. Today's generation is too hot tempered and for fear of their misuse of this treasure, it was well galvanised in the hands of specially forged individuals. The broom's vector agent works best in a just course and could calamitously backfire if used wrongfully reason for which it has been incarcerate.

facter

Nhon George. You really believe those stories? Anyway, I remember one of my Bakossi grandfathers was tortured by gendarmes in Kumba. They used to beat him and force him to look at the sun until he became blind. The daughter repeatedly went to Kumba to get his release from the BMM in 1967.

esther

this does not actually seems the right story. bakossi people too lost their life in their numbers. you need to actually do primary research data on this. writing such a thing and looking at it on one angle that just the bamilikes were killed in their numbers is a wrong thing. i am writing like a bakossi daughter who was brought up and groomed there.

The Observer

I would advise Esther to read a recent book by Piet Konings titled "Neoliberal Bandwagonism: Civil society and the politics of belonging in Anglophone Cameroon" which is available on Amazon.com [ http://www.amazon.com/Neoliberal-Bandwagonism-politics-belonging-Anglophone/dp/9956558230 ]

It has a chapter called "Autochtony and Ethnic Cleansing in the SW Province: The 1961 Tombel Disturbances" which traces the beginning of the Bamileke-Bakossi conflict from 1961 to the violent events of 1966 using primary sources, including official documents from the West Cameroon archives. She can also check the 2010 edition of the very reputable dictionary of Cameroon.

All of these sources actually add more weight to the version that Victor Levine narrates above.

From all indications, the Bakossi mythology built around this event is very far from the truth. But that mythology has served the Bakossi well by giving them a certain amount of confidence and fearlesslness in spite of the precarious situation of their tribe - demographic, political, economical, etc. - no different from the myths of European invincibility which were used to subjugate "colonial peoples" or even the myths of the Christian bible...

BTW, we would definitely like to read Esther's own version as told by her Pas and Grand Pas.

Edide Motto

The Observer, one thing is certain about this story or myth as some would asume. There is no written account of the incident. All the sources that are citd in the various publications are all based on pass-ons from the elderly.1960 is not like a century old and there are still many people living today in Tombel form both the Bamilike and Bakossi entities. Even there the story is not consstent. I have had the oportunity to ask our Bamilike neihbor about the incident; I have also had the oportunity to here the story frm my grand dad. Both men were friends then and are still friends now. However, they both gave slightly different accounts of the incident on which each of them tried to make the other look not too good. In both accounts the "broom thing" was real, the mass killings from both sides were real, the millitary intervention was real and the co-existence continued. BUT the difference in their accounts remain in the cause of the war which I certainly dont have time today to type it on this forum. While growing up in Tombel I saw many in the likes of the writers mentioned in the article. They came for first hand information. For those who could not comprehend the lethal characterics of the "broom thing" because of the inability of the people to explain the mechanism simply considered it mythical.
Bottomline is the bakossi people are peaceful and hospitable though others always take it for a weakness. I have been to many rural areas in all 10 regions of our country and none is more diverified like the Bakossi rural areas.

Donny

Edide writes: "There is no written account of the incident. All the sources that are citd in the various publications are all based on pass-ons from the elderly" That of course is the lie of the century. The contours of this incident were extensively documented by local authorities as it unfolded and there are tons of primary sources, not the faded memories of old pa's in the village to know exactly what happened. Even documentation on the trials are all available in the Buea archives and elsewhere. So we know exactly what the participants thought, did and said to the investigators and courts. And also have the copious reports of administrators such as DO Kisob and others.

We are educated because we can go beyond emotions, ethnic sympathy, and subjective village narratives to do real scientific research to figure out what happened. Fortunately, many people, including sons and daughters of Tombel have started writing the real and unvarnished version of these events.

Nhon Ntubehnzong McMekande Cornelius

Hi, what I will want you to know is that the broom is still having that power and force.It is an immortal weapon for the Bakossi people.It is only the Bakossi people who knows when,how and where to use it.
And it can only be used as a deadly weapon during extreme and critical moments like in the 1966.

Nsong Antoine

Yes ooh! Many well informed commentaries..but I have read piet konings' work. What Donny doesn't realized is that there are civil servants of the time who reports the broom mystics did occurred...it was purported a means of inflinging paralysis and death..some people report that whilst chanting incanatations they can make people hit by the broom to go into some epileptiform seizure all with foamings at the mouth...it is in some written sources.
However, we must understand that it is agreed by all sources that the maquis was at the origin of this but some historians feel that the maquis was not responsible for the ransacking of the headteacher and his carload of bakossi clan leaders but a trick by the French colonial armies who have been seeking to destroy the maquis, who always sought refuge in the peaceful zone of the bakossi in southern Cameroon across the moungo. Not been able to steer the bafaws of kumba; they manipulated the bakossi to attack the bamileke instead, thus playing into manipulations.

EBONG KESTEN

CAN SOMEONE REALY WRITE ON HOW CHRISTAINTY CAME TO THE BAKOSSI LAND IN GENERAL

ebagge divine

Good

George

People tend to ignore the fact that Karemun as known under the German had never been a colony of Esther the United Kingdom or France. Fed up with the Anglophone vs Francophone stuff. Look at and fight together against deprivation nationwide as you aré neither French nor English but Douala, Bakweri, Mboh etc...

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