By Dibussi Tande
So who exactly ordered the hit on Moumie and how high up in the French government did the crime and cover-up go? For years, French authorities strongly refuted any French government involvement in the Moumie assassination.
Jacques Foccart, "Mr. Francafrique", with President De Gaulle
Initially they even denied that Bechtel was a member of the French intelligence service, even though all the evidence pointed to the contrary.It wasn’t until after Bechtel’s death that tongues began to loosen. And it became apparent that the plot against Moumie directly involved the Matignon and even the Palais de l'Élysée.
As we saw in Part I of this posting, one of the first public admissions of French government invlovement in the assassination of Moumie was made by General Grossin to Roger Faligot and Pascal Krop in July 1984. In a forthcoming book by Faligot and Guisnel titled "Histoire secrète de la Ve République" (November 2006), which deals with the state secrets of the French Fifth Republic, General Grossin sheds more light on the Moumie assassination. In an excerpt published in La Lettre du Continent (« L’aveu de l’assassinat de Moumie » - N°503 - 12/10/2006) the authors write:
Questioned 20 years after the Moumie affair, General Grossin crudely shed light on the manner in which the SDECE set up the Moumie asssassination, at a time when Prime Minister Michel Debré, just like Foccart, was troubled by the situation in Africa.
One day, Debré says to me: There is a rebellion in the South of Cameroon, we have to do something. Do you have any intelligence? I reply: Because of their tribal system, if you kill the leader, it is over. Moumie is the leader and he is in Switzerland. We can get rid of him... We decide to poison him but the dose is too strong, or he drank some coffee. In short, he was supposed to die upon his arrival in Conakry the next day.
But he died in Geneva, hence the scandal... [My translation]
Recently in 2005, Pierre Mesmer, the former French High Commissioner to Cameroon from 1956 to 1958, and former French Prime Minister from 1972-1974, confirmed French responsibility for Moumie’s death in Garbely’s documentary. He justifies the assassination by arguing that the UPC was a communist party led by ruthless communists who deserved absolutely no mercy from the French…
Most significantly, two years before his death, Jacques Forccart, De Gaulle’s Chief of Staff for African Affairs and the « father » of Francafrique finally conceded in an interview with Jeune Afrique (16 février 1995) that the Moumie assassination was the handiwork of the French. As he coyly stated in the interview: « Je ne crois pas que cela ait été une erreur » / "I don’t think that it was an error".
One revealing moment comes when Foccart admits that the French secret services eliminated the Cameroonian Marxist leader Felix-Roland Moumie in 1960. First, he volunteers the information that there had been an "execution." Asked who decided it, he responds evasively that "the archives will one day answer your question", a fall-back position he often adopts. Gaillard then quotes a book by Pascal Krop in which it is written, "Debré, advised by Foccart, decided to eliminate the irritant", which produces the cool response, "To tell the truth, not particularly Foccart." However one reads this, Foccart is conceding that he was among those who took the decision to murder someone who was inconvenient to French interests.
Moumie’s second death
After his death in Geneva, Moumie’s body was embalmed and taken to Guinea where he was buried in a sarcophagus in Conakry. This was supposed to be a temporary resting place for Moumie until a time when it would be possible to repatriate his body to Cameroon. The Cameroon government has always opposed the repartriation of Moumie’s corpse to Cameroon.
On October 3, 2004, Felix Moumie’s widow, Marthe Moumie, traveled to Guinea Conakry in the company of Frank Garbely to visit Moumie’s grave. When they arrived at the cemetery, they were in for a nasty shock: the sarcophagus was empty! Moumie’s grave had been vandalized and his embalmed body stolen. We will probably never know if this was a simple act of vandalism or yet another chapter in the decades-long attempt to erase the memory of Felix Moumie and other historic leaders of the UPC.
One thing is certain, however: Moumie’s remains have disappeared forever, and he will never be buried in his native Cameroon as he desired on his death bed, neither will Cameroonians ever have the opportunity to pay their last respects to a man who, in spite of his shortcomings, had a nationalist vision for his country that was totally at odds (and rightly so) with what the French and their surrogates had in store for the French Cameroons, and ultimately the bilingual Cameroon Republic.
In this fairy tale the heroes do not live happily ever after…
Moumie’s assassination took place in context characterized internally by unbelievable French brutality against the UPC and it real or imagined sympathizers, and internationally by incredible hostility against the UPC by Western powers which considered the party a boogey man for the communists. That will be the focus of Part III of our narrative.