[Ottawa - Canada] - 13-09-2008 (Sam Noumoff& M. Mba Talla)
As young man, Samuel Noumoff sat at the United Nations, witnessing the petitioners from the Cameroon’s presentations. He came to know and have high regard, respect and affection for The UPC’s leaders for the aspirations and struggle of the Cameroonian people. Today he is Emeritus Professor at McGill University, Montréal(Canada). In Honour of the "Mpôtôl" Ruben Um Nyobé 50th anniversary of assassination by the barbarian and colonialist French he accepts to offer a few words on the tragic anniversary.According to Pr Noumoff, the sole lesson from Um Nyobè sacrifice is that no one can rob a people of its rights if those who live keep the flame."The flame of the memory of the fallen will burn eternally and one day they will be restored to their deserved place of honour."
Pr. Samuel Noumoff : “To deprive a nation of its history is to rob it of its soul. The flame of the memory of the fallen will burn eternally.”
M. Mba Talla: Are you still remembering some of those petitioners? You listened the Um Nyobè intervention which most of the Cameroonian revolutionaries Camerooonians considered as a true political virtuoso of his time, father of Cameroon´s independence?
Professor Samuel Noumoff: It was only Felix who I came to know personally, the other I merely witnessed as they presented their case.
As a political visionary, patriotic fighter, nationalist, he visited the United Nations twice through the contributions of poor peasants of Cameroon to plead the case of his country. Um Nyobè always opposed French colonialism and demanded "a full and immediate independence" while creating a national awareness on that issue. Were you surprised after receiving the message of the brutal assassination of Um Nyobè by the French army on September 13, 1958, near his natal village of Boum Nyébél?
I was tragically not at all surprised by the actions of the French colonial authorities. General DeGaul’s major operative, Mr. Foccard, in the colonies was known for his ruthlessness.
Do you have at that moment the possibility to talk to them? What was our general impression about Um Nyobè and the other petitioners?
The one striking memory is their dignity and pride of the people who they represented.
You also witnessed the contempt which met the petitioners, not only by Amadou Ahidjo, but by the then French UN Ambassadors. What can you say about the attitude of French Ambassador in UN?
The French Ambassador displayed a distant contemptuous attitude, while Ahidjo and his associates would visibly laugh, look at each other, and look at the French and laugh some more. I assumed at the time that this was a division of labour between the French and Ahidjo. It was an attempt at mocking the UPC, hoping that they would loose their temper, which they did not do.
It is that obvious that the attitude of French Ambassador in UN was a concrete sign that the colonialism was not to end with nominal independence?
From the behaviour of Ahidjo and his associates it was clear that the neo-colonialism had begun in the entire AOF, as it was then known, with the exception of Guinea.
You came to know and have high regard, respect and affection for Félix-Roland Moumié as a spokesperson for the aspirations and struggle of the Cameroonian people. From your own perspective, can you tell us more about this man who succeeded Um Nyobè the leader of the UPC and was also assassinated in Geneva in 1960 by French intelligence service?
As I recall the situation the French Intelligence service employed an acquaintance of Moumie to join him at a café at the time he was poisoned. Before his death he diagnosed the poison which had been administered. Felix was a forthright principled and devoted member of the UPC. The tragedy was at the period of the “Cold War” when every genuine nationalist was labelled tool of the «USSR» The UPC fell victim to this propaganda.
You said that some years ago a group of exchange students from the Cameroons arrived at the University of Montreal and you were asked to meet them. When you mentioned that you had the original UN documents dealing with the Cameroons, each one whispered let me come and read them as they are illegal now in the country but don’t tell the others as no one is quite sure who is reporting to the government. Were you surprise to know that during Ahidjo and the present Biya regime Um Nyobè and other UPC leaders have been banished from official Cameroonian discourse and memory. Their names remained a taboo in the official media? How can you qualify this type of political regime?
From my perspective such a regime can only be called a mutation. No regime can permanently expunge its history. The younger generation is always curious about what is denied. They will be the guardians of that legacy. Any Cameroonian who sets foot outside the country will come without doubt to know the truth, and this will ripple slowly but inexorably throughout the consciousness of the people who remain at home.
Responding to calls to rehabilitate UPC exiles in February 25, 1959. Ahidjo declared:"Let me state it loud and clear: The past is what it is. We are on our part determined to look toward the future... Let´s refrain from throwing an armful of wood into a fire which is about to go out … We have forgotten. Why do they want us to remember again?“ Were you surprised that on November 30, 1989, Ahmadou Ahidjo, Cameroon’s first President, died in exile in Dakar, Senegal, far away from the country that he had ruled with an iron and bloody fist for over two decades? Can we say that Ahidjo was repaid in his own Coins?
Ahidjo became his own final victim. He failed to understand that whatever exists in the present, the future is built on the past. By ignoring a critical part of the historic struggle, what he built was an edifice on the sand of the Sahara which is destined to crumble.
You said in your testimony “To deprive a nation of its history is to rob it of its soul?” is not what Cameroon and Africans countries are continue to going through. Do you think that it possible to break the circle of this robbery?
Breaking the chains cannot be measured as an instant in tome. It is a permanent and long enduring battle. Africa has now new options as a major new target of the imperial appetite. The newly announced AFRICA COMMAND of the US military speaks to this as clearly as possible. Africa has rich markets outside of the U.S. and its allies. China and India being the most promising. The wealth will flow, but the central challenge is for the system of distribution to change affording everyone the benefit in an ecological and sustained manner. New leadership with a sense of the past and a commitment to the common good will invariably emerge from the base, as we have seen in many parts of the continent.
On the ceremonies marking the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Ruben Um Nyobè, father of Cameroon´s independence. What lesson young generation can learn from the supreme sacrifice of Um Nyobé, your friend Moumié and his fellow comrades (Osende Afana, Abel Kingue, Ernest Ouandjie etc...)? Can we say that their sacrifice was worthy?
The sacrifice made by the veterans in the struggle for human dignity was not one that they welcomed but that they had to make. It was not by choice that they were murdered, but they all knew it was a possibility, and they gave up their lives willingly for the people’s cause. That is their historic legacy. The sole lesson from their sacrifice is that no one can rob a people of its rights if those who live keep the flame.
Interview by Modeste Mba Talla