In a reflection titled ‘Why Was Baba Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara Assassinated?’, I made the point that:
“One of the things that the French have perfected over the years, has been their ability to conceal their imperialist crimes, especially the ones they carried out in Afrika.
The French have also been able to project themselves as a people whose main preoccupation is sophistication in the areas of literature, arts and cuisine.
As a result of this deceptive projection, many Afrikans don’t find it easy to associate the French with such repugnance as unprovoked and gratuitous violence in the form of invasion, genocide, mass murder, mass rape and pillaging of the resources of native nations.
However, the historical record ( the one that the French want concealed) shows that, the French are among the most violent, blood-thirsty and anti- black nations on earth.”
One of the hidden stories that bear testimony to the unbrindled brutality and anti-blackness of the French is that of the Cameroonian liberation fighter, Baba Ruben Um Nyobe.
This month marks the 110th anniversary of the assassination of this forgotten freedom fighter. Baba Um Nyobe was born on the 10 April, 1913, in Cameroon in Song Mpeck.
At the time of his birth, Cameroon was still under German occupation and divided between the European colonising countries of Germany, France and Britain.
Um Nyobe came from a family in Bassa where Agriculture was the main production in the village. His father was a farmer and indigenous priest.
Um Nyobe got the name Ruben after he was baptised, before that, he was simply known as Um Nyobe. He got his basic education from the Presbyterian schools in the part of Cameroon that was occupied by France.
He was part of the minority of indigenous people who had access to this level of education. He also spoke French, bassa, bulu, and douala. When he was much older, he trained as a teacher and later developed an interest in international law.
At the age of 26, he acquired bachelors degree in law at a university in Edea. After acquiring his degree, he married his wife, Martha.
After his university studies in 1944, he stayed in the city of Edea to pursue his passion in law. He also worked as a registrar of the Edea Court of Law.
This deepened his understanding of and interest in French colonialism. It further inspired him to found the Union of Confederated Trade Unions (UCTU) in 1945.
Through the UCTU, Um Nyobe fought for workers’ rights and the independence of Cameroon from France. In 1948, he became leader of a new movement, the Cameroon People’s Union or UPC.
Part of the UPC’s agenda was to unite French and British Cameroon. All this transformed Um Nyobe into an influential national and international voice, but also a leader who posed a threat to European imperialism in Afrika (especially French imperialism).
He was also a fierce opponent of tribalism. He even went as far as to denounce French imperialism at the United Nations head quarters and boldly declared Cameroon’s independence.
Um Nyobe’s growing stature and influence led to him and his fellow liberation fighters becoming targets of the French security apparatus.
On the 13 September, 1958, Um Nyobe and his comrades in the UPC, were ambushed, captured and executed by French soldiers, not far from his native
The surviving UPCs leaders fled into exile. After murdering Um Nyobe, the French soldiers dragged his body for over 40 kilometres in the street and then publicly displayed his badly disfigured body.
This is something that all European colonising nations did (for centuries), to the bodies of the leaders of those they colonised, including decapitating them and displaying their heads publicly.
As if this was not enough, before being buried the French encased his body in cement.Then on top of this, they made it illegal for the people of Cameroon to use his name and destroyed his papers, photographs, and speeches.
The length to which the French went to kill and erase Um Nyobe shows not only their inherent proclivity for violence, but also the depth of their anti-blackness.
After his death, he was replaced by Félix-Roland Moumié, who was assassinated by an agent of the SDECE (the French secret service).
The bloodcurdling detail of Baba Um Nyobe’s assassination resembles that of the assassinations of Baba Patrice Lumumba, Baba Maurice Mpolo, Baba Joseph Okito and Baba Thomas Sankara.
At the time of his assassination, Baba Um Nyobe was 45. September this year will mark the 65th anniversary of his assassination. We must make sure that the name of Baba Ruben Um Nyobe is never forgotten.
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