Far from the glare of the international community which was distracted at the time by the liberation war in Algeria, literarily given a free pass by Western governments obsessed with the “Red Menace” on Africa; and egged on by a Western media which saw terrorism in every UPC declaration and action (sounds familiar??), France unleashed a bloody reign of terror in the French Cameroons from 1956 to 1964 which many have not hesitated to label genocide.
Between 1956 and 1964, the French army led by “Frenchmen with European and Indo-China honours” (The Daily Gleaner, Monday, July 31, 1961), sought to “pacify” rebellious UPC strongholds (first the Sanaga Maritime region in the South, then the Mungo and Bamileke regions in the West). According to The Daily Gleaner, the French used “tough some say brutal methods” to deal with the UPC rebellion. Today, available evidence shows that these methods were so brutal that they amounted to war crimes in many cases.
November 11, 1957 - Three Die In Red Led Cameroons Rioting
PARIS: Three persons have been killed and five injured in Communist led political rioting in the FRENCH West African CAMEROONS Trusteeship. Reports reaching here today said the rioters were agitating for full political indepedence for the CAMEROONS .
The FRENCH army is deadlocked with a small rebel guerrilla force- supported in varying degree by most of non-European population. France has been unable to put down the rebellion... - The Fresno Bee Republican, Monday.
The Pacification of the Sanaga Maritime
December 2, 1957: Premier André-Marie M'bida finds himself confronted with a reign of terror spearheaded by 5,000 hard-core Communist guerrillas... the terrorists burst out of the jungles, burn grass huts, shanghai thousands of natives into the forest, murder those who will not go. Their demands are for immediate independence (France has promised only "eventual" independence)... TIME Magazine.
Following the continued inability of the colonial forces to crush the UPC rebellion, Prime Minister Andre Marie Mbida, on December 9, appealed for French troop reinforcements to “reestablish order” in the region. On that same day the zone de pacification de Sanaga maritime (ZOPAC), or the Sanaga Maritime Pacification Zone, was established with headquarters in Eséka. Military operations in the ZOPAC were placed under the control of Lieutenant-colonel Lamberton, a veteran of Indochina, who was once in charge of the 2nd bureau of French land forces in the Far East.
France Denies Cameroons Move
PARIS, Jan. 6, 1958 (INS) -- The French Defense Ministry branded as "completely grotesque" today published reports that fresh troops were being rushed to the Cameroons to keep the situation from developing into "another Algeria."
The report was so ridiculous, the Ministry said, Jacques Chaban-Delams, Defense Minister assigned to the West African Equatorial territory, would not even deign to comment further.
The Ministery said Chaban-Delmas a month ago ordered 200 infantrymen to the Cameroons from neighboring regions at the request of Cameroons Premier Andre-Marie M'bida.
This was done, the Ministry said, mainly because of the weakness of the forces stationed in the Cameroons totaling 1200 men for the 3,500,000 population.
The Washington Post. Jan 7, 1958, Page A6
According to Anthony Clayton (Frontiersmen: Warfare In Africa Since 1950 (Warfare and History), p. 35,
« The French deployed local Tirailleurs Senegalais detachments and a reinforced gendarmerie garde camerounaise; the campaign's most spectacular event was a parachute drop by two companies of Coloniale parachute infantry on Eseka airport, an operation necessary to secure communications between Douala and Yaounde. »
In his book on French Military History since 1940, Andre Martel writes that during the Indochina campaign French soldiers “challenged the guerilla with counter-guerilla tactics; terrorism with anti-terrorrism; vicious blows with low blows”. In Cameroon, these veterans from Indochina used these same methods with very bloody results.
From the beginning, the goal of the French-led forces was to isolate the UPC paramilitary by creating a buffer between them and the local population, terrorizing the population into severing all contacts with the UPC, and putting a high physical and psychological price for collaborating with the rebels.
According to Time Magazine of Monday, Jul. 27, 1959, “entire villages were moved down to roadside locations surrounded by stockades, French and Cameroonian patrols flushed guerrillas from the emptied hills.” In an issue published some two years earlier [Dec. 2, 1957], Time Magazine had explained that “By regrouping huts near roads, where they can be guarded, [Premier Mbida] hopes to maintain order, proceed with the slow evolution toward real and responsible independence.”
In the stockaded villages a list of occupants of each house was posted on the door, and impromptu roll calls were made usually at night. Individuals who were unaccounted for were considered to have joined the rebels and their families or villages punished accordingly. Similarly, any individual who happened to be in the wrong house was considered a rebel infiltrator and treated as such.
The reign of terror in the Sanaga Maritime lasted for 11 months. On September 3, 1958, Ruben Um Nyobe, the UPC leader was ambushed and killed close to his village of Boumnyebel. Within weeks, the core of the Bassa leadership of the UPC led by Theodore Mayi Matip (who mysteriously survived the ambush on Um Nyobe) came out of the maquis to rally the Ahidjo regime.
On October 19, 1958, barely five weeks after the death of Um Nyobe, Xavier Torre, the new High Commissioner announced that France was ready to grant independence to the French Cameroons on January 1, 1960. This announcement did not however pacify the UPC leadership in exile. As Moumie later explained,
"[The UPC] will never follow a man who has done nothing for his people [i.e., Ahidjo], and who is divorcing their future from that of the rest of Africa by tying them to France. We have been left with no alternative but revolt because our repeated warnings to France and to the U.N. itself have fallen upon deaf ears.
Oakland Tribune, Wednesday, August 05, 1959.
With the Sanaga Maritime effectively pacified, the UPC switched its operations to the Mungo and Bamileke regions in the West of the country.
Aug 31, 1959 - New Violence Kills Five in Cameroons
YAOUNDE, French Cameroons - Five persons have been killed and many huts burned during armed attacks in the Mungo and Bamileke provinces of the French Cameroons since Wednesday night, officials announced today -The Washington Post.
Click here to read a sanitized version French military operations in the Sanaga Maritime between 1957 and 1959 published in La Tribune du CID, the journal of the French Military Academy (Collège Interarmées de Défense).
The Insurgency Begins in the Mungo and Bamileke Regions
1959 was a particularly bloody year as Cameroon headed toward independence as the infernal cycle of violence continued unabatted.
Time Magazine Monday, Jul. 27, 1959 - Violence, once sporadic, has now become frequent. In the port of Douala, biggest city in the Cameroons, terrorists recently attacked a police outpost and a movie theater. With pangas, they stabbed an Air France pilot to death in a bar, butchered a stranded European motorist with machetes on a lonely road, burned three planes on a banana plantation airstrip. In the capital city of Yaoundé, an armed band swooped down on La Renaissance Bar, murdered the French proprietor and his sister. In eight days 14 people died, seven of them Frenchmen.
Each UPC action was followed by severe punitive expedition by the French and their Cameroonian surrogates, which was in turn followed by even more audacious UPC retaliation. As usual, the Western media decried the barbaric action of the terrorists while sanitizing the actions the colonial forces.
Sep 17, 1959 - Some 5000 Quizzed In Killing
DOUALA, French Cameroons, Sept. 16--French Cameroons police have questioned nearly 5000 persons and detained 400 temporarily for identity checks after incidents on Monday night in which nine persons were killed and 10 wounded. The Washington Post of 9. Sep 17, 1959. Page: B4
By the mid 1959, it became common place to publicly execute arrested UPC militants to send home the message that rebellion would not be tolerated – a tradition that continued until 1971.the public.
July 11, 1959 - Five Executed in the French Cameroons
Five alleged terrorists Friday were executed in public in the market place of Bafoussam. It marked the first time the death sentence had been carried out in the French Cameroons. The Lethbridge Herald, Saturday, July 11, 1959.
The cycle of violence (or the « terrorist campaign » to quote the Western press, did not abate as January 1, 1960 drew near :
November 17, 1959 -Sword-Waving Night Raiders Spread Terror
DUALA, Cameroons authorities braced Sunday for a feared new bloodbath by cutlass- wielding night raiders who have killed 90 people since September in this French-mandated African state scheduled for independence on New Year's Day. Intelligence reports received by the French said the raiders, all backers of exiled politician Dr. Felix MOUMIE, were planning to step up their terrorist campaign as part of a program to force a general election under United Nations supervision before independence day. Duala, the seaport, lives in constant fear of fresh knifings and shootings. Four of the dead thus far have been Europeans - Nevada State Journal.
Next: "Genocide": The French Expeditionary Force arrives...