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World Premiere of the English version: „Cameroon - Autopsy of an Independence“, a documentary about the secret colonial war by France in Cameroon, SAT, 28 July 2012, 19h, Goethe-Centre Windhoek

On Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 7 pm AfricAvenir invites to the Namibian Premiere of the documentary „Cameroon – Autopsy of an Independence“ (Original with English subtitles, France/Cameroon, 2008, 54 min) by Valérie Osouf and Gaelle Le Roy. It is at the same time the World Premiere of the English subtitled version of the film!

Attention: New venue! The screening series „African Perspectives“ has moved its venue. From now on, the series takes place at the Goethe-Centre Windhoek, Fidel Castro Str. 1-5, Windhoek. 

The 54-minute long historical documentary „Cameroon – Autopsy of an Independence“ is a groundbreaking milestone in the remembrance of one of the most brutal episodes of French colonial history, the secret war against the Independence movement and party, the UPC (Union of the Peoples of Cameroon). This secret war cost the lives of ten percent of the Cameroonian population.

In this 2008 film, for the first time, eye witnesses from both sides of the events speak out! For the first time detailed background information to this colonial war is revealed, while the archive material in France was declared a state secret for still 120 years to come. The film was produced by Program 33, in co-production with France 5, TSR, and RTBF.

AfricAvenir, in cooperation with AfryKamera Warsaw and Subtext-Berlin has contributed to the subtitling of the film into German, Polish, and English and hence is able to present this film to an English speaking audience in Namibia. 

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. Watch the film in the Original French version here: http://www.granitfilms.com/en/valerie-osouf/avant-granit/cameroun-autopsie-dune-independance  

People interviewed

  • BERNARD KAMTO – Liaison officer in the underground 
  • ABEL EYINGA – Lawyer/ expert on international law
  • PIERRE MESSMER – former French PREMIERMINISTER (1972-74), former French Governor of Cameroon (1956-58), Minister of Armies (1959-69), Minister of Overseas Territories (1970-71)
  • KANGUE EWANE - Historian
  • GABRIEL PÉRIÈS – Military historian
  • MOUKOKO PRISO – University Professor
  • MARC MICHEL - Historian
  • MARTHE MOUMIÉ – Widow of FELIX MOUMIÉ
  • WOUNGLY MASSAGA – former political and military leader of the UPC
  • ANDRÉ BATJAMA
  • JEAN FOYER – French Minister of Cooperation (1960-1962)
  • MARIE NJOCK NYOBÉ – Widow of RUBEN UM NYOBÉ
  • GAL PIERRE SEMENGUE – former  Chief of General Staff in the Cameroonian Army 
  • OUMAR TELLA – Major in the underground 
  • MATTHIEU NJASSEP – Adjutant under ERNEST OUANDIÉ

About the Director
In preparation of the documentary, director Valérie Osouf has done long and substantial research on the time period leading to Cameroons independence. 
Together with the film directors Alain Gomis ("Aujourd'hui", official selection Berlinale 2012) and Newton Aduaka („Ezra“, Grand Prize FESPACO 2007), Osouf founded the film company Granit Films (http://www.granitfilms.com) and produced and directs several documentaries and feature films. 
Her most recent work was finished in 2012, a documentary called „National Identity“, which deals with the aspect of immigration, prisons and the judicial system in France. See the trailer here: http://www.reelisor.com/p/identite_nationale/  

Media statements
"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 

Further reading on the subject

  • Mongo Beti: Perpétue et l'habitude du malheur, (Perpetua and the Habit of Unhappiness), 1974
  • Mongo Beti: Remember Ruben, 1974
  • Mongo Beti: La Ruine presque cocasse d’un polichinelle. Remember Ruben 2, (The Nearly Comical Ruin of a Puppet), 1979
  • Mongo Beti: Lettre ouverte aux Camerounais, or, La deuxième mort de Ruben Um Nyobé, 1986.

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