March 2, 1960: massacres in Cameroon, who is to be held responsible?
March 2, 1960: massacres in Cameroon, who is to be held responsible?
March 2, 1960: massacres in Cameroon, genocide perpetrated in Bamileke country
At the dawn of independence, thousands of Cameroonians were massacred under the auspices of the “françafric mafia” of De Gaulle and Foccart, among the Bamilikés, but also in other regions of Cameroon.
On March 2, 1960, under the direction of the French army, Cameroonian troops razed the town of Yogandima, massacring nearly 8,000 unarmed civilians.
But these appalling massacres are not at all an isolated fact, because for 10 years, the French colonial administration has faced resistance from the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) born in the 1940s. If the UPC is present throughout Cameroon, its influence is very strong in Bamileke country. What is very striking is their cohesion in their refusal to bend to the grid, to the discipline of the colonial machinery, to forced labor. This occupied people showed tremendous ingenuity which is even reflected in the language of resistance, where the signifier thus serves a secondary meaning of a political order.
It is a broad anti-imperialist front which, for example, organizes the boycott of the elections. They are veritable human clusters, unarmed but hostile, blocking the passage of army trucks and clinging to cars. Rarely has an insurrection been so popular. Their rage is all the greater as the guerrillas, operating almost with their bare hands – but on several fronts – achieve occasional successes. The colonizer made every effort to subdue these “rebels” and banned the UPC in 1955. The French High Commissioner Pierre Messmer, future Minister of De Gaulle, organized bloody punitive expeditions as well as the assassination of many leaders of the ‘UPC, like its secretary general and founder, Ruben Um Nyobé, in his native village on September 13, 1958.
At independence, on January 1, 1960, Jacques Foccart installed a puppet government in Cameroon, chaired by his friend Ahmadou Ahidjo. He is a reliable man, in favor of whom the colonial power had long been putting “packets of ballots in the ballot box”. On the very day of this “fictitious independence”, the young state signed a military assistance agreement with France. Two military advisers came to supervise President Ahidjo: Colonel Noiret and Captain Leroy. Former Minister of the Armed Forces Pierre Guillaumat confirms: “Foccart played a decisive role in this affair. He subdued the Bamileke revolt with Ahidjo and the special services” . In passing, note the ethnic presentation of a political revolt…
Charles de Gaulle then dispatched five battalions of infantry, commanded by General Max Briand, veteran of the wars in Indochina and Algeria, nicknamed “the Viking”, to which were added a squadron of armored vehicles, as well as a squadron of helicopters and T26 fighter bombers.
A Bamiléké residing at the time in Dschang and who had to circulate in this mountainous region, where the resistance fighters of the UPC were hiding, recounted:
“The French soldiers rounded up Bamilekes in town, then released them in the middle of the countryside, telling them to to join their brothers in the maquis. A few days later, of course, they found them wandering: they made guerrillas whom they captured without difficulty or killed on the spot.
I said to Colonel Griblin, commander of the Dschang group, “can’t wait for peace to return”. He replied: “Of course, you Cameroonians will be happy. But, we, the French soldiers, what will become of us? Fortunately, there is the Congo.”
The army gives no quarter. The corpses are exposed in the villages, as well as the heads of prisoners who have been decapitated. Between February and March 1960, one hundred and fifty-six Bamileke villages were burned and razed. A meticulous assessment of the destruction of public property will be carried out: 116 classes, 3 hospitals, 46 dispensaries, 12 agricultural stations, 40 bridges will be destroyed. No one has recorded the private homes destroyed or the crops burned. No one has been able to count the tens of thousands of civilians who were massacred. We will never know.
Jeannette Kamtchueng testifies, of her memories of a little girl:
“In the evening, the convoys of soldiers return filled with heads which are dumped and displayed at the crossroads which will become the crossroads of the maquisards, until my departure from Cameroon, in 1976, and even perhaps until today. It is in the heart of Bafoussam, about thirty meters from my parents’ house that all this is on display. This is also where the executions take place. After a certain pause, due to the famine and in the absence of any help, the populations returned to the kingdoms without houses and without cultures. Others went to the camps created by the occupier, without water, without access to wood, and terrorized by the soldiers.
On his return, dad was only a witness sent back by God, to bear witness to what colonial horror is, tropical Hitlerism. He spoke to himself, he defended himself, did not go out. His body was present, but his person, his spirit, his personality remained in the death camps. Some, especially the occupier himself, have dared put forward the figure of 400,000 dead. Over what period? Are people who died in the Mungo region counted? Many died there. Others were tattooed and sent back to the West where massacres and overcrowding in camps raged. Have we counted those who died in the concentration camps, those in the extermination camps (BBm, Yoko), all the military camps in the West? And Bangou, who was so formidable, and who was talked about so much? After the war, the area was almost empty; in 1992, my mother told me that the West is almost as populated as before the extermination. My mother-in-law lost her 8 brothers. What is the period chosen? The period of the bombings and the napalm spill or the period of Terror? »
Just talking about this period to a Bamileke causes fear. Of this terrible repression, the French press, completely muzzled and blinded by the Algerian crisis, will not say a word. It is impossible to find documents on these massacres in Cameroon: the government of Ahidjo, in the pay of France, carefully concealed everything. And this great premeditated, planned crime of France, which it has managed to stifle until today, continued for several years: it was finally perhaps 400,000 Bamileke who were massacred, or perhaps more.. .“In fact, the Bamileke experienced genocide between 1955 and 1965. The figures range between eight hundred thousand and one million deaths in the Hauts-Plateaux region and in other cities such as Douala, Yaoundé, Sangmélima, Ebolowa, Nkongsamba says Jacques Kago Lélé . The French secret services even succeeded in poisoning the leader of the UPC, Felix Moumié, on October 2, 1960, in Geneva.
The Africa service of the Sdece (French secret services) gives birth to and educates a Cameroonian subsidiary, the Sédoc: under the direction of Jean Fochivé, it will quickly be renowned for its sinister “efficiency”. It tortures with a vengeance. On the police side, a formidable French professional, Georges Conan, demonstrates his talents, including that of multiplying confessions and denunciations.
A few examples of torture:
La Balançoire: the patients, all handcuffed with their hands behind their backs and completely naked, in a dimly lit room, are in turn tied, head down, by the two big toes, with strings of iron that is squeezed with pliers, and the thighs widely apart. We then print a long swinging movement, on a trajectory of 8 to 10 meters. At each end, a policeman or a soldier, armed with a one-meter long rigid chicotte, strikes first the buttocks, then the stomach, aiming especially at the sexual parts, then the face, the mouth, the eyes. The blood spurts onto the walls and spreads everywhere. If the man is passed out, they revive him with a bucket of water in the face. The man is dying when you untie him. And we move on to the next…
Around three o’clock in the morning, a military truck takes the corpses to the cemetery. A team of prisoners buries them, naked and bloody, in a big hole. If one of the unfortunates is still breathing, they are buried alive…
The cement tray: the prisoners, naked, are chained squatting in cement trays with ice water up to their nostrils, for days and days . A perfected system of electric wires makes it possible to pass current discharges in the water of the tanks. A certain number of times during the night, one of the jailers, “for fun”, switches on the ignition. We then hear the howls of the damned, which freeze with terror the inhabitants far and wide. The unfortunate, in their cement bins, go mad!…
“Yes, I affirm that this has been happening for years, in particular at the torture and extermination camp of Manengouba (Nkongsamba)”
“They massacred 300 to 400,000 people. A real genocide. They practically wiped out the breed. Spears against automatic weapons. The Bamileke had no chance. The villages had been razed, a bit like Attila,” says helicopter pilot Max Bardet. I learned with these sentences the literally unprecedented massacre of a Cameroonian population at the turn of the sixties, says François-Xavier Verschave again. I set out to find out more. It was not easy, as the terror over there still produces its effect. It’s not over. The Bamileke people
are still very traumatized today. When will France recognize its guilt?