In Memoriam, Rudolf Douala Manga Bell

If you are Cameroonian, you know the story of Rudolf Douala Manga Bell. Douala Manga Bell was killed this very day in 1914 by hanging for resisting the German authority.

Rudolf Douala Manga Bell

This is the story. When the German come into Cameroon, the local kings that welcome them into Douala and let them plant their Flag onto the Joss Plateau. They seal an agreement that set the tone for the colonisation of the country: The pact stands on the principle that at no point of their stay, must the Germans contest their traditional authority; however, as soon as they are settled and have obtain the help they needed to navigate inland and subdue the other tribes, the Germans decide that there can only be one authority and it’s theirs. They push the Doualas, a people of fishermen who were living on the seaside, inland regardless of their opposition while continuously overlooking the growing reports of abuse by their officers from local chiefs.
 
It is then that Douala Manga Bell who had enjoyed the privileges of a German education (high school and university) in Europe decides to step in: faced with disdain and indifference from the colonial authority, he went as far as sending emissaries to Europe to hire a lawyer to enforce their rights under that treaty but in vain. At last, he tries to reach out to his pairs to unite in order to boot once and for all the invaders out of Cameroon; Unfortunately for him, one of them, the Sultan Njoya of Foumban betrays him and Rudolf Douala Manga Bell is quickly arrested and  sentenced to death. The official reason for his condemnation is “aggravated treason”: when asked for his last wish, Douala Manga Bell laid a curse on all the Germans occupying his land that they will never know rest until they leave or will all die. A lot of Cameroonians believe that the harsh defeat the German army endured in Cameroon in the early stages of WWII is a direct effect of that curse because by the time WWI is over, the country is ablaze.

This is an old rendition by Charles Ewandje (probably recorded in the 70’s) of Tet’Ekombo an ode to resistance and to the land. The song was written in 1929 in memory of Rudolf Douala Manga Bell.

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