On March 15, 1966 at 10:30 am, comrade Osende Afana, Secretary General of the bureau of the Steering Committee of the UPC gloriously fell at the battlefront, his heart cowardly pierced by bullets of the imperial armed forces and their Kamerunian lackeys… French imperialism, along with its sinister manservant Ahidjo, has perpetrated a horrible crime against the Kamerunian people…. Editorial of l’Etudiant d’Afrique noire
The Death of Moumie and the UPC Split
Following the assassination of UPC President Felix Moumie in Geneva, Switzerland in November 1960, cracks began to appear in the hitherto solid edifice of the UPC in exile. This ultimately led to a split within the party.
It is generally accepted that the split was simply an offshoot of that between the Soviet Union and China. Donald Buskey writes, for example, that:
“The pro-Soviet group formed in 1961 was called Commité revolutionaire de l'UPC, or Revolutionary Committee of the UPC, led by Ernest Ouandie, second Vice President of the UPC. It also had close ties with the French communist party. The pro-Chinese faction called the Comité directeur de l"UPC, or Directing Committee of the UPC, led by Osende Afana, and headquartered in Brazzaville.” (Page 114).
The UPC split was, however, only indirectly linked to differences between the Chinese and Soviet factions. It was triggered by the power struggle which erupted after the sudden death of Felix Moumie. With the return of second Vice President Ernest Ouandie to Cameroon to lead the UPC rebelliion, the leader of the UPC in exile was its first Vice President Abel Kingue. Kingue's authority was contested by "young Turks" such as Woungly Massaga who had abandoned his doctorate in Mathematics in France a few years earlier to join the UPC.
That power struggle reached its peak following the assassination attempt on Nkwame Nkrumah in the town of Kulungugu in August 1962. A few weeks after the assassination plot, a bomb exploded at the residence of Ndeh Ntumazah (President of the One Kamerun party, Southern Cameroons offshoot of the UPC) shortly after a UPC meeting. In the confusion that ensued, scores of UPC exiles in Ghana were rounded up and jailed. It was while most of the UPC leadership was locked up in jail that the Revolutionary Committee was created.
Ntumazah and Abel Kingue later insisted that the mass arrest was the handiwork of the dissidents of the revolutionary committee led by Massaga. [See 1963 document written by Kingue and Ndeh Ntumazah titled La vérité sur le comité révolutionnaire, and Mongo Beti’s 1981 clarification interview with Ntumazah published in Peuples Noirs Peuples Africains no. 25 (1982), pp. 48-66.] Howevet, in his famous memoirs Prisoner Without a Crime (Second Edition), Albert Mukong, who spent 14 months in jail following these incidents, claims that Ghanian security forces who were unhappy with Nkrumah’s continued support of African Liberation Movements were behind the massive arrest of Cameroonian exiles.
When members of the UPC Steering Committee eventually left Ghana, they set up shop in Congo-Brazzaville which shares a border with Cameroun. While in the Congo, this UPC faction collaborated militarily and politically with groups such as the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and Pierre Mulele’s Maoist Parti Solidaire Africain. The goal of exiled groups in Brazzaville was to create a revolutionary framework for politicizing and organizing the masses in view of waging a people's war. As Ludens has pointed out with regards to Pierre Mulele, he believed that it was
“…necessary to politicize the masses, according to a scientific, anti-imperialist, and socialist ideology. It is the only way to liberate a country from imperialism. The masses have to know who is their enemy, what is imperialism, and who are the agents of imperialism. Otherwise, national and social liberation is impossible.”
It was on this basis that Mulele, who studied guerrilla warfare in China, launched a peasant uprising in Eastern Congo – the first ever in Africa - which lasted from 1963 to 1968 (the Kabila movement that ultimately ousted the Mobutu regime in Zaire in 1997 – and in which famed Marxist Che Guevera briefly participated in 1965 - was a remnant of the Mulela insurrection). In 1968, Mobutu lured Mulela back to Kinshasa with promise of Amnesty and then brutally murdered him… Mulele’s insurgency was the blueprint for many revolutionary groups, including Osende’s faction of the UPC.
According to the Yearbook on International Communist Affairs:
“A new phase in the history of the UPC began in 1964 under the leadership of Osende Afana, who was elected Secretary-General of the "Provisional Committee of the UPC." The first plenary session of the Provisional Committee, in May 1965, adopted a 10-point program based on Marxism-Leninism and on the thoughts of Mao Tse-tung...”
By the following year, the UPC was ready to begin its armed insurrection in Southeastern Cameroon, which it was hoped, would serve as a catalyst for a popular uprising against the Ahidjo regime.
The Eastern Front Opens
On September 1, 1965 UPC guerrillas “personally led by Afana” as Buskey points out (p. 114) attacked Southeast Cameroon from the Congo; Osende Afana’s cherished dream of taking his nemesis Ahmadou Ahidjo head-on had become a reality…
but the child returned
with his luggage and dreams intact
but with hard words
the child returned
to the forest that he had chosen
beforehand in the construction
of the monument to his belief
in the honor of his people
(Patrice Nganang – Elobi)
Unlike the UPC insurgency in the Bamileke region, the rebellion in southeastern Cameroon promised more than it could deliver and the popular uprising never materialized. It was an insurgency carried out in a hostile natural environment and a relatively indifferent population – a recipe for failure, if not disaster. Major General Pierre Semengue, the head of Cameroonian armed forces, writes in his memoirs [Charles Ateba Eyene. Le Général Pierre Semengue - Toute une vie dans les Armées - Editions Clé - Yaoundé 2002] that:
The rebellion of the peasants [i.e., in the Bamileke region] was rustic and pragmatic. That of the intellectuals (Ossendé Afana, Woungly Massaga, Samson Mondjengué) was a pitiful failure, even though they had better weapons than the national army; it did not last up to a month. [My translation].
Woungly Massaga who is very much alive today insist that the General’s statement is mere hyperbole, and points to the fact that as late as 1969 he was still personally carrying out insurgent attacks against government installations in Southeastern Cameroon.
Whatever the case, there is a general agreement that the insurgency ultimately failed. And there is a widespread view, even within UPC circles, that the insurgency was precipitated. This is the view shared by Ndeh Ntumazah who insisted in the 1981 interview with Mongo Beti that it was illconceived to start the insurgency without prior mobilization and organization of the masses, and without solidly implanting the UPC in the region. Ntumazah laments that as a result of this oversight, scores of brilliant and highly-educated UPC officials, many of them PhD holders, lost their lives in the forests of Southeastern Cameroon.
Evidently in launching the guerrilla ware when it did, the UPC had obviously deviated from the successful the Mulele blueprint whereby,
In every village Mulele formed a group of young partisans in order to wage guerrilla warfare. Out of a population of 500,000 in the liberated zone of Kwilu, Mulele enrolled 100,000 young people in the guerrilla army! Moreover, in every village there was a revolutionary committee that directed community life. He started the formation of cadres to lead the revolutionary organization. (Ludens)
On March 15, 1966, some six months after the beginning of the guerrilla campaign, Osende Afana became a casualty of war. There are conflicting versions about events leading up his death, but there seems to be a consensus that he was betrayed, ambushed by Ahidjo’s security forces deep in the equatorial forest, then killed and beheaded:
but the paths refused him their
but the paths refused him
but the animals turned away
but the swamps refused him the
refuge of their reeds
and the jungle was closed to him
(Patrice Nganang – Elobi)
Dr. Castor Osende Afana was 36 years old when he died. It is alleged that no one was allowed to publicly mourn his death and that even his own mother had to go deep into the equatorial forest to cry for he lost son. The outpouring of emotion and anger after Osende Afana’s death was best captured in a virulent editorial of the Paris-based l‘Etudiant d’Afrique noire (no. 46) the radical student journal which he once headed in the 1950s – not only had the UPC lost one of its top officials, Africa had lost one of its most brilliant minds: Here is a an excerpt of that editorial which appears in Jacques Lantier’s l’Afrique déchirée (1967):
An Example of Self-Sacrifice: Osende Afana Falls at the Service of Africa
On March 15, 1966 at 10:30 am, comrade Osende Afana, Secretary General of the bureau of the Steering Committee of the UPC gloriously fell at the battlefront, his heart cowardly pierced by bullets of the imperial armed forces and their Kamerunian lackeys (UPC communiqué)…
Osende Afana, our comrade, our friend, our brother was thus cowardly assassinated by French mercenaries.
Osende Afana, our comrade, a longtime official of our journal l’Etudiant d’Afrique noire, dynamic militant, courageous, and an unapologetic and logical patriot.
Osende, our friend, who, after serving the kamerunian revolution as a student, continued to serve as an official of the UPC; the representative of the UPC to the Afro-Asian group in Cairo for a number of years, he quit this position and became the Secretary General of the bureau of the Steering Committee (P) of the UPC.
French imperialism, along with its sinister manservant Ahidjo, has perpetrated a horrible crime against the Kamerunian people.
1958: Um Nyobe, the great leader of Kamerunian nationalism falls under a hail of bullets by French mercenaries.
1960: Felix Moumie, the Secretary General of the UPC dies in Geneva after being poisoned by the “Red Hand”.
March 1966: Osende Afana.
As a result of this heinous act perpetrated against Africa, French imperialism has shown its true face; that of a relentless enemy of our people. It is not the balderdash about France’s alleged favorable attitude towards the Third World which can mask this glaring fact. Ahidjo, the manservant of French imperialism, hangman of the Kamerunian people, continues in his crimes because he knows he is finished; finished because condemned by the valiant Kamerunian people: Ahidjo is a finished man. Given the level of popular discontent, no sorcerer can save this most reprehensible character that bears prime responsibility for the tragedy that has befallen our country (UPC press release 012-DE-CR-CP-66 of the UPC revolutionary committee) … [My translation]
Osende Afana was a product of a time when African nationalism, anti-imperialism and socialism were natural bedfellows. And his actions and ideology must be understood in that context. With hindsight, he was overly optimistic about the ability of Marxism to resolve Africa’s socio-political and economic problems. But he was not alone in that regard.
However, in spite of his romanticization of Marxism, he was a visionary who understood that the battle for Africa’s soul would ultimately be won – or lost – on the continent itself and nowhere else; not in Paris, London, Moscow or Peking. He also clearly understood that for Africa to be able to hold its own against the West both politically and economically, she had to imperatively resolve what historian Elikia M’bokolo refers to as the “quagmire of underdevelopment”. Which is why he spent his last years not only planning for his revolution but also mulling and devising viable operational frameworks for resolving this quagmire.
Above all else, Osende, Afana, like Patrice Lumumba, was “an honest, consistent, and radical nationalist who fought for his people: this is his real strength.”
'the majority of them... when they returned to Africa shamefully betrayed the noble ideals which they defended... in Paris'. They joined the ranks of the bourgeoisie and adopted the motto FVVA (Femmes, Villas, Voitures, Argent). Only a few militants like Osende Afana practised what they had preached and died for the causes in which they believed: that of revolution."
Sadly for Africa, they don’t come like that anymore …