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    This weblog is based on DIBUSSI TANDE's personal views on people, places, issues and events in Cameroon, Africa and the world - Citizen Journalism at its finest!

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« Is South Africa Living Up to Its Responsibility as Africa's Leader? An Online Debate | Main | April 18, 1980: Bob Marley Celebrating Zimbabwe »

April 15, 2007

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Celestin

Thanks for another thought-provoking article. Someone once argued that African oral tradition may be the reason behind the absence of written narratives, although that argument is weakened by what happens in neighbouring Nigeria which is noted for a strong oral tradition.

Note also that Cardinal Tumi has just published a memoir on his tumultous relationship with the Ahidjo and Biya regimes titled "The political regimes of Ahmadou Ahidjo and Paul Biya, and Christian Tumi, Priest". (Macacos - Maison Catholique de la Communication Sociale).

Ma Mary

Andze Tsoungui's career of massive bloodletting, if truthfully written would have made very interesting reading. Now he is a bunkmate in hell with Hitler, de Gaulle, Pol Pot, Mao, Idi Amin and other killers.

Smith Elie

This is simply a master piece as you have always produced. However, I suspect, you have either forgotten or omitted to mention the memoir of Ndeh Winston Ntumazah. His memoir is also an eye opener on the UPC and France's role in Cameroon and he seems to be the only surviving founding member of the UPC.

The title of his memoir is: "Ndeh Ntumazah: A conversational autobiography". It was published in July 2001 in Bamenda by Patron Publishing House. I had reviewed and published it in a France based pan-African French language satirical newspaper called Gri-gri International and also in my blog.

Rogers Tabe Egbe Orock

The Politics of Collective Memory in Cameroon

Dear Dibussi,
Once again you have raised an interesting issue for discussion: the poverty of collective memomery and the politics involved in its absence. I wish to make a few observatory and hopefully salient comments below.
First, we must note that 'collective memory' is an important repository and marker of state-society relations, that exposes the logic of identifying what is worth remembering for the posterity of future generations and that which is deemed worthless. Among many such forms could be cited national monuments, official archives designed for specific concerns as for example war, and most notably participant observatory accounts of protagonists connected to important historical events marking a group. And so we understand why historians think memory is usually measured by the yardstick of the Nation (memory is said to be “collective” because it is national). What this observation wishes to make explicit is the fact that there is a person or group that makes a conscious decision to select what is worth retaining or what should be 'forgotten'. It is only when we bear this in mind that we proceed to attempt an understand of why there is a poverty of 'memoirs', which is what you choose to focus on.
The second note worth taking is the nature of the people you bemoan have failed to leave memory for the posterity of Cameroon. Free from any political or ideological inclinations, I dare venture that in as much as our past and present leaders are very much products of the politics and economics of their time (narrow, sectarian, nepotistic, self-serving and self-aggrandising and quite simply too corrupt to be honourable), these leaders have assessed their individual contributions to the present 'collective trauma' that torments Cameroonians. As a result, whether by ommission or commission, their choice or inability to pass-on accounts of their roles in the making of a nation simultaneously conceals and reveals one fact with certainty: a conscious recognition of their treachery while acting within the state apparatus vis-a-vis the people.
Third and last observation I will draw our attention to is the fact that whether we have this selected memory from the transiting elite or not, Cameroonians surely have one memory that haunts them as a people (in the failure of being a nation): a strong memory of collective trauma that unsettles all ordianry citizenry, when these are constantly jolted in to a present reality of lack, precarity,exclusion.
Thus, there is for sure a strong sense of collective memory which the citizens hold of the tenure of both first and third generation political elites ( for me the difference between the generations is still to be establised) and neither failure to produce memoirs or production of selected fragments of such tenures could erase this memory of betrayal in cameroonians.

Rogers Tabe Egbe Orock
Graduate student
Dept. Social Anthropology

Madiba

Dear Dibussi,we shouldn't also forget women in the propagation of our collective memory.I think women also have a stake in bringing to the limelight the part played by their husbands at various episodes of our history.While placing the responsibility on journalists,writers and scholars to assist these public figures in documenting their their memories,I think the spouses of these people and close relatives have a stake in writing their memoirs.This may partly be due to the fact that the passage of time may have eroded pertinent details.
However,we have a notable exception in the person of Marthe Moumie in her book:"Victime du Colonialisme Français".Where she vividly describes her life in the UPC struggle and the assassination of her husband Dr Felix Roland Moumie in Switzerland.


Nga Adolph,
Leuven(Belgim).

Bongwa

Hello Mr. Rogers,

I beg to differ with the view that politicians don't write their memoirs because they are ashamed of their ignominous or their paltry contribution to national political life. What exactly did EML Endeley or Jua have to be ashamed of? If General Pierre Semengue can proudly write about his role in crushing the UPC insurgency, or if AUgustin Koddock who was kicked out of the UPC in the late 50s for unpatriotic acts can commission two biogrpahies highlighting his "immense contributions" to national life, then what more of Foncha and Muna?

I also disagree with you that Cameroonians have any sort of collective memory. They might share a common or collective reality today (the poverty, lack of opportunities, rampant corruption, etc.) but this does not translate into collective memory. Collective memory is when the German people, for example, move towards a common analysis of the past which confirms that their country was in fact responsible for the holocaust. In Cameroon we can't even agree if the vanguard nationalist were heroes or common criminals, we can't even agree on the concept of nationhood. These divisions stem from the simple fact that we have a "collective amnesia" over our history and historical figures. Cameroonians don't have a collective memory.

finally, I find it weird that you don't see the generational difference between Cameroonian politicians; Ahidjo, Foncha and Endeley, are not from the same generation as Inoni, Fame Ndongo and Pierre Mokoko. Just as the Anyangwes, Elads and Munzus are not from the same generation as the Cho Ayabas and the Akwangas....

emilio

Tande,writing history is the domain of historians and not politicians.True they can write their memoires and sing their praises all they want for example N N Mbile did a good job with his book.Historians like Ngoh and Njuema have have done some comendable job on Cameroon history but there is a lot more work to be done.The university of Buea should at least begin the process of archiving the history of cameroon by encouraging students to write a minimum a research paper before they graduate on Cameroon history.These students can interview these politicians and who can provide them with a whole wealth of information. I say this from personal experience.These people are ready to talk if questions are asked.I wish i was a historian but i am not but i have left Buea Mountain club on several occasions at one and two o'clock in the morning listening to cameroon history from Chief Endeley,Mola Njoh Litumbe,Oliver Inglis and few others.My challenge therefore is to those intrested in writing the history of Cameroon to seek these people out and talk to them with a note pad or tape recorder for it will definately be worthwhile.

Ayala

Emilio,

Those things are called "memoirs" and "autobiographies" for a reason; they are not "history" per se, but are the personal narratives of actors who took part in events - personal narratives that add to the "formal" history that you are talking about. Example: The historian will say in December 1991, political parties, civil society actors and the government met at the tripartite summit in Yaounde to end the Ghost town. The historian will usually give a public view of what transpired. However, Fru Ndi, Bello Bouba, Njoh Litumbe, Ekontang Elad and other key actors will write in their memoirs about the behind-the-scenes intrigues, the negotiation, the compromises and betrayals. Both add up to give a full story of the event. Of course, there will be embelishments here and there. That will be for historians to figure that out eventually. But those embelishments are worth the trouble.

Whatever the case, the prime responsibility for memoirs rests with the actors.

Ayala

Emilio,

Those things are called "memoirs" and "autobiographies" for a reason; they are not "history" per se, but are the personal narratives of actors who took part in events - personal narratives that add to the "formal" history that you are talking about. Example: The historian will say in December 1991, political parties, civil society actors and the government met at the tripartite summit in Yaounde to end the Ghost town. The historian will usually give a public view of what transpired. However, Fru Ndi, Bello Bouba, Njoh Litumbe, Ekontang Elad and other key actors will write in their memoirs about the behind-the-scenes intrigues, the negotiation, the compromises and betrayals. Both add up to give a full story of the event. Of course, there will be embelishments here and there. That will be for historians to figure that out eventually. But those embelishments are worth the trouble.

Whatever the case, the prime responsibility for memoirs rests with the actors.

Aaron Agien Nyangkwe

Dear Tande

Yours was a wonderful piece.
Autobiography is a personal rendition, of ones stewardship for a given period. It means describing yourself as you will find it reflected the mirror or your stewardship in such a way that it reflects what others know about you. The other people who know you will be the first to debunk your work and bring you to ridicule should it contain things that ar not real. That is why most autobiographies have to do with the heroic past of the authors.
So if all these people never wrote anything, it is just because of the shame they had for their stewardship. Marshall Petain did not publish his memoirs because there was nothing heroic in his stewardship. One could not expect some one like the late S.T. Muna, for example, to publish his meomoir without stating how, with out elections, he replaced John Ngu Foncha in the Federal Republic of Cameroon set up?. Pa Ndeh Ntumazah discussed this in his memoirs. Imagine the late Muna telling a fire eating Cameroon Report, of radio Cameroon, crew one Sunday morning that "I am not here to sign my death warrant", in response to a qustion relating to his stewardship.
I agree with an earlier blogger that our political class stinks in moral decadence that ends up mostly in the grave. YOU EXPECT AN ARMED ROBBBR TO WRITE. AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HIS STEWARDSHIP? That can be a very big joke. Not even in a free thinking society like the U.S

Chica Fabulous

Dear listmates:

I guess short of asking the same sentiments echoed above what is the purpose of wanting to delve into the minds of men who have in my opinion accomplished nothing with the exception of Cardinal Tumi. Some of these men literally rolled over allowed Ahidjo and Biya to continue with their egregious conduct. What lessons do we want to learn from these men through their writings. Be careful what you ask for. No milestones were achieved by the majority of those scallped shells.
On a more interesting note is the author of this article MR. DIBUSSI single or attached. He is HOTTTTT assuming that's the actual photo above.

Chica Fabulous

I almost forget with regards to my personal question about your marital status I would rather you respond on this blog than I email you personally that way if you fib then others with access to your privy data can respond.

Awung Mbecha

Has someone been to what passes for the national archives in Buea? The problem of documentation is actually a canker in our flesh.

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