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AfricAvenir Film Distribution - Cameroon - Autopsy of an Independence

Cameroon – Autopsy of an Independence

Between 1955 and 1970, legitimized by the arena of the „Cold War“ and ignored due to the concurrent „events“ in Algeria and Indochina, a secret war took place in Cameroon. A war that was meant to secure France’s energetic independence. A war which killed 1/10 of the Cameroonian population in the South and the West of the country – several hundred thousand victims! The UPC - „Union des populations du Cameroun“ / „Union of the Populations of Cameroon“, which was founded by Ruben um Nyobe and strives for a immediate and radical independence is eradicated, its leaders assassinated, poisoned and publicly executed. Until today, this war is classified as “State Secret” in France and most archives are inaccessible.

Production Details

Valérie Osouf & Gaëlle Le Roy, 53 min, France, 2008
Format: DVD
Languages: French with German or English Subtitles

Distribution Details

Distribution in Germany, Switzerland and Austria
Contact: info(at)africavenir.org 
Format: DVD
Language: French with German or English Subtitles
Pictures: Can be sent digitally

Full Synopsis

Between 1955 and 1970, legitimized by the arena of the „Cold War“ and ignored due to the concurrent „events“ in Algeria and Indochina, a secret war took place in Cameroon.  

Cameroon, for France an essential strategic base in the Gulf of Guinea, is key for France’s independence in the mining and energy sector. Already in the times of its „Independence“ it was Charles de Gaulle’s aim, to secure Frances oil imports at all costs. He realized fairly early the importance of securing oil fields, which were not yet under Anglo-Saxon control. 

Since this time, France tried by all means to keep control over Cameroon and its oil reserves, even though this meant the elimination of a great part of Cameroons population, and the de facto eradication of Africa’s first francophone party in Cameroon, the UPC (UPC - „Union des populations du Cameroun“, „Union of the Peoples of Cameroons“).

Firstly, led by special forces from France, who were experienced in the war zones of Algeria and Indochina (which later became Vietnam), and later on continued by forces of the then “In-dependent“ Cameroon with massive support by the French army, this secret war is characterized by a distinctive previously unknown brutality. Mass-executions, bombardments, barricading, politics of „burnt soil“, so-called resocialisation camps, and the deployment of Napalm killed 1/10th of Cameroon’s population, more than 100.000 victims, from the South and West of the country.

The repression by the French State since 1948 aimed at the UPC, which was founded in the same year. Bit by bit, the French labelled „anti-terror-war“ is extended against the whole population. Under the rule of the French Governor of Cameroon, Pierre Messmer, who later became Prime Minister of France, a decolonization process is initiated. He imports the counter-revolutionary warfare methods theorized in Indochina and implemented during the Algerian War (1954–62).

A year before Messners posting to Cameroon, in 1955, the UPC is proclaimed forbidden, and on 13 November 1958, just a few month after the first oil discoveries on the coast of Cameroon, the president of the UPC, Ruben Um Nyobé, is brutally murdered. 

On November 4, 1961, his successor as president of the UPC, Felix Moumié, is poisoned in Geneva by William Bechtel, an agent of the Service de Documentation Extérieur et de Contre-Espionage (SDECE), French Secret Services.

20 years of terror follow, the same period which is the zenith of the nebulous ploys of the so called "Françafrique", symbolized and involving companies like Elf, the Palais Élysée, mercenaries and African heads of states. 

On January 15, 1971, lastly, also Ernest Ouandié, the successor of Moumiés as head of the UPC, is executed publicly after a mock trial, in which his lawyers from the French Communist Party are not allowed to attend. 

Until the 1990s, the name Ruben Um Nyobé was not allowed to be mentioned in Cameroon. 

In the documentary „Cameroon – Autopsy of an Independence“ historians, activists, politicians, eye-witnesses and survivors tell their side of the story of the lost struggle for Cameroonian Independence.

Press Reviews

"The true account of Colonialism begins!" Les Inrockuptibles

"The award of this extremely pedagogical film is to choose a historical chapter, which normally is silenced, and on which nearly no archive material are accessible. The directors place emphasis on the power of remembrance as well as on a didactical reassessment of these eventful years." Télérama

"Very informative and thoroughly disclosing  the main events of the Cameroonian Independence: e.g. how Pierre Messmer, in the background, manipulated key figures, while at the same time getting rid of all those, who opposed his version of a France dominated Cameroon. (...) By means of eye-witnesses of both fractions, one discovers many up to now suppressed facts of our history, mostly the use of Napalm in Western Cameroon, the centre of armed resistance (...) A must-see documentary to learn more about one of the most important periods of Cameroonian history!" Nkwayep Mbouguen, Bonaberi.com

"A piece of our history is told on screen (...) The directors deal with the subject in a serious manner, by interviewing eye-witnesses and experts of the subject. Many thanks to these two directors for their excellent work on this silenced topic." Sanaga Pérégrinations 

Director: Valérie Osouf

After studying history, Valérie Osouf moved to Senegal for five years, where she shot the movie „Sans Commentaire – The country that one never arrives in” with Senegalese immigrants who had been deported from France. In Dakar she wrote her master’s thesis in journalism about film distribution in West Africa. At the time she was already working for the newspaper Le Monde and for the radio stations RFI and Sud FM. In her following movies she has focused on the contemporary consequences of colonialism. In 2008, her film „Cameroon – Autopsy of an independence“ dealt with France’s secret colonial war in Cameroon. At the same time, she developed the script for “Guns of Brixton” about the London riots of 1981. In 2009 she co-founded the production company “Granit Films” in France, together with the multi-award winning film makers Newton Aduaka and Alain Gomis. „L’Identité Nationale“ is her first feature length movie.


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