By Dibussi Tande
(Originally published in Joyce Ashuntantang and Dibussi Tande. (eds.). 2008. Their champagne party will end!: poems in honor of Bate Besong. Cameroon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG.)
They say you died in enemy territory
They say you died on the wrong side of THE BRIDGE
But what better place to die
- On the other side of the bridge -
Than in the Sanaga Maritime -
The sacred land of the Ngog Lituba*
The springboard of Cameroun nationalism
The heartland of the Cameroun resistance;
Purified with the blood of thousands of patriots
Who said NO! to the imperialists and neo-colonialists?
You met your maker at Misole II
Down the road from Boumnyebel -
Birth place of Ruben Um Nyobe
The venerated Mpodol
The immortal soul of the gwet bi kundè
who is entombed in hallowed ground
in Eseka – still farther down road…
Surely his spirit watched over you
At that fateful moment
Gently guiding you towards your seat
On the pantheon of departed heroes
Where you rightly belong
The sleepy hamlet of Misole II
Is now etched in our collective consciousness
Not as a symbol of death and despair
Not as a symbol of dreams unfulfilled
But as a reminder of battles past
Of battles lost - of battles won
Of battles yet to come;
And a rallying cry
To the Obasinjom Warriors
Who shall restore this land
To its erstwhile glory
Gwet bi kundè: War of Independence in the language of the Bassa ethnic group of Cameroon.
Misole II: The little hamlet in Bassa land where Bate Besong and his colleagues died.
Mpodol: “The Prophet”, as the Bassa referred to Ruben Um Nyobe, founder of the Camerounian nationalist party, the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) which launched an armed insurrection against French colonialists in the 1950s.
Ngog Lituba: The sacred and mythical Rock Cave considered the natural and spiritual sanctuary of the Bassa people.