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REMEMBERING ALBERT MUKONG: MUKONG: The Prisoner As Political Pamphleteer 

By Francis Wache

Albert Womah Mukong spent most of his adult life in jails. In fact, one of his most prominent books is entitled – aptly- Prisoner Without A Crime. Paradoxically, Mukong ended up suffering from the hands of those he had fought doggedly to unite. They harassed, molested, tortured and incarcerated him. In Prisoner, Mukong revisits the horrendous years he spent in detention camps. Undeterred by the loathsome conditions in jail, Mukong kept a sunny outlook. Mukong’s reminiscences of his days in Ahidjo’s vile dungeons are bloodcurdling.

Yet, Mukong, the indomitable crusader for freedom and liberty, went through such harrowing experiences unscathed. He survived with equanimity. This is how the blurb captures him: "Albert Mukong is without doubts Anglophone Cameroon’s most conspicuous political prisoner. Apart from being a then direct election opponent of JN Foncha, former Prime Minister and Vice President in Cameroon, he participated in talks leading to the Cameroon’s independence at the United Nations in New York.

As Secretary General of the One Kamerun party, he was in direct alliance with, the francophone Cameroon’s UPC- President Ahidjo’s main opposition. He was therefore a constant political detainee. This particular detention which lasted six years carries us as we follow Mukong through the major political prisons and torture chambers, with Ernest Ouandie, Bishop Ndongmo, among others who died."  

When, in 1957, the Union des Populations du Cameroun, UPC, was proscribed from the Southern Cameroons, Mukong, together with Ndeh Ntumazeh, took up the battle cry for the unification of La Republique du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons. Foncha and his acolytes advocated a different cause, the loose association of the two Cameroons. From that moment, every opportunity Mukong got, he penned his thoughts on the reunification matter.

At the launching of My Stewardship in the Cameroon Struggle, Victor ‘The Rambler’ Epie Ngome trenchantly said, [My Stewardship in the Cameroon Struggle] is a chronicle of his [Mukong’s] blunt refusal to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol; his intrepid rejection of a status quo where an unmeritable few bestride the nation like Colossus while the rest of us scuttle and pep about under their huge legs to find ourselves dishonourable graves…"
Referring to the effervescent Mukong as a "maverick iconoclast", Epie Ngome posited that the author of My Stewardship had "dared question aloud what others embrace in the marketplace while grumbling beneath their breath."

In another pamphlet, Support the Southern Cameroons Minority Case… Mukong was blunt in putting across his point. Said he: "Since 1961 no Anglophone has ever been appointed to any strategic ministry such as Armed Forces, Foreign Affairs, Territorial Administration, National Education and Finance…"

"Anglophones, he said, "have been pushed to the periphery with insignificant appointments as assistant ministers, directors, chiefs, etc. etc. etc." What irked Mukong most was the fact that "90 percent of all the administrators in the Southern Cameroons are francophones, perhaps confirming the charges of colonisation and marginalisation. The language barrier in grassroots administration cannot be minimised."

In another pamphlet, Support the Southern Cameroons  Minority Case…, after castigating the majority Francophone leadership for pillaging and plundering Anglophone infrastructures, Mukong calls on them "to come down from heaven and dialogue with the Anglophone leadership on the constitutional review towards respecting the wishes of the Southern Cameroonians as expressed in the results of the February 11th 1961 plebiscite."
Mukong stated – emphatically and unambiguously – that "the return to the federal option of 1961 is a condition sine qua non for the two states to exist…We still hope the francophone leadership will permit this through dialogue."

"The Case for The Southern Cameroons" is a compendium on the Southern Cameroons cause edited by Albert W. Mukong. In it, the veteran politician turned human rights activist showcases the ignominious treatment of Anglophones in Cameroon through such historical documents as Dr John Ngu Foncha’s blistering resignation letter in which he accused the regime for treating Anglophones as second hand scum.

Listen to Foncha: "The Anglophone Cameroonians whom I brought into the union have been ridiculed and referred to as "Les Biafras" "Les enemies dans la maison" "les traîtres" etc. and the constitutional provisions which protected this Anglophone minority have been suppressed, their voices drowned while the rule of the gun has replaced the dialogue which the Anglophones cherished very much.

"The national media has been used by the government through people who never voted for unification to misinform the citizens about Bamenda and deliberate lies have been told over the mass media all in an attempt to isolate the Anglophone Cameroonians who voted for unification and subject them to hatred and more discrimination and harassment from other Cameroonians."

At the historic All Anglophone Conference in April 1993, Mukong drew roof-splitting applause when he presented his paper, Where Things Went Wrong. In his paper, Mukong chronicled the rise and fall of Southern Cameroon, elucidating here, snipping there, and, always, pointing the way forward. After reeling the litany of Anglophone woes, Mukong emphasised that the time for commiserating over the wrongs of the past was over.

Now, he insisted, was the moment to take remedial steps that would restore the halcyon days of Southern Cameroons. The applause was deafening. Mukong will be remembered as a steadfast patriot but, above all, as a prolific pamphleteer. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he has left an enduring legacy through his writings.

Albert Mukong: Ugly Fly In The Oligarchy’s Rich Ointment

By Charly Ndi Chia

In a matter of hours, precisely on Saturday, July 18, 2009, the world’s most respected and venerated ex-prisoner, Nelson Mandela will clock 91 years. This first ever black South African Head of State sacrificed 27 years of his life in jail. He was an ugly, unrepentant fly in the ointment of the government, until the perpetrators of apartheid reluctantly surrendered in the early 90’s.

Sometime in 2004, I was in Robben Island where Mandela spent a better part of his prison term. Very naturally, I visited the detention facility and particularly Cell N0 5, and came face to face with a few items of convenience that this very famous prisoner used during his stay here, they included an enamel bucket with a lid and cup; a mat that had served as Mandela’s bed for 18 years; a blanket and a small shelf with nothing on it.

My mind, then, had wandered over to the extremely ugly detention centres in my own country, in which I had been an unwilling guest in many instances. I remembered how the "Gestapo" would strip me down to my pants, dross, if you will, and have me share tiny territory with many other inmates of every size and character, two buckets, serving as a urinal and latrine respectively. I thought of the mosquitoes that used to feed on me and of course, the biting cold, if the detention centre happened to be in Buea. I could go on and on…

But when the thought of Albert Womah Mukong and the fact that he had effectively undergone many years of both physical and mental torture in the dreaded BMM detention centres that the Cameroon government was operating hit me, I was comforted. Comforted, because, even though I was always made to strip down to dross and sleep on the bare, cold floor, my own visits to these torture centres were, luckily, usually brief.

Mukong died relatively young, ostensibly from the physical torments to which his own government subjected this pint-sized man. True, the government of his country hated him; not that he was an armed rebel, but for the mere fact that he dared to think and express himself freely. He was considered a conscience terrorist of sorts, whose ideas and utterances could rattle the skeleton infested cupboards of the rulership.

Mandela, on the other hand, was, in the long run, appreciated and accorded a leadership role by his "born again" and repentant persecutors. He is still alive and many, including his former persecutors, now hang on to every utterance from the man they once referred to as a terrorist. Today, the racist gasbags refer to him as an enigma, apparently on account of the fact that he so easily forgave them and championed reconciliation.

But not so Mukong, who died without realizing his dream of a just and egalitarian Cameroonian nation. Mukong had sought to elevate human rights to an article of faith. He ignited in a cross section of Cameroonians such jealousy of their human rights that even the crass and thriving dictatorship in place found difficult to truncate.

Around 1978, when newspaper publishing was equated with madness, Mukong, fresh from prison, founded a newspaper called "Herald". This was in Victoria, now called Limbe. And whereas the few existing newspapers at the time conveniently published mostly human interest stories, Mukong went ahead, daring President Ahmadou Ahidjo with fiery write-ups on the polity. Only he could dare write that what Cameroonians expected of President Ahidjo was a government based on the rule of law; an elected government that was a product of a people’s choice; a democratic government that championed the people’s fundamental human rights.

In the thick of political battle in the early 90’s, many politicians failed to convince the nation that they were true vanguards of democracy. They failed to lead the masses in the defence of democracy. Rather, they used the masses as cannon fodder and fled the country, only returning when the smoke of battle had settled. Some of them are serving Ministers of the regime as we write.

Mukong was a great patriot, a first rate democracy activist; a crusader for justice and an epitome of courage. Mukong served his country as the conscience of the common man … for free, with patriotic zeal and to the best of his ability. In most of his writings and utterances, Mukong construed of government policy as one that should seek to protect the masses of the people. But the reality he lived till he died five years ago was that government displayed an attitude of arrogance, instead of one of service that is envisaged in the social contract between the government and the governed.

Five years after Mukong died fighting, those he sacrificed for, are, willy-nilly, held back by a perception of their government as a compromised supervisor of a gorging of the national cake, in ways that guarantee the triumph of greed over need. Surely, there has been no greater obstacle to Cameroonians’ well-being and economic prosperity than this factor. Today, five years after, Mukong lies in his grave, knowing, one would guess, that his vision of his country, is still rendered futile by an irritating oligarchy that certainly doesn’t think that there is life after power.

Despite his demise, Mukong still remains that ugly fly in the rich ointment of the thieving oligarchy he died fighting. And one would imagine also, that in spite of its seeming comfort, this oligarchy is experiencing the mental torment of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, after he murdered sleep. Cheers, and let’s keep suffering and smiling!

ALBERT WOMAH MUKONG: A Family Endearment

By Lumumba Togho Mukong

It is five good years today when we lost one so endeared to us – that is to me and the many who called him dad, daddy or pa, grandpa. Yes, he was truly a father to many children; those biologically his and those who came to know him and lived with him.

Too many people know him as a politician, a human rights activist; writer or journalist. Living as it were for people down trodden and depraved politically, socially and economically. Yes, he was all these and more to others. He was also a family man. Daddy was loving and caring; so we miss him every day and in many circumstances. To the family, he was a father, Christian leader, teacher, encourager and promoter of liberty of association in the family.

His children came to know him much only after 1976, I think the reason is obvious to many – the long six years of the Ahidjo incarceration. From this point, we were with him for 28 years, also in and out of the Biya days in one dungeon or the other. But in these short periods of 28 years we had a wonderful father. He was a father who really cared for his children. He was a provider, but will always remind us that the only provider is God.

As mentioned earlier, he was a father who had many children in his abode at any one time. He treated all his children equally and you couldn’t tell who was a cousin to me or a boy/girl living with us from the village. I learnt from him that humans have the same needs, require the same respect and today I don’t know how to call any relation as cousin – for Pa told us we were all brothers and sisters.

My grand father was a catechist of the Roman Catholic Church. My father was schooled in a Catholic system. No doubt he was a staunch Catholic. In Catholicism he was looking for God through Christ Jesus. And those who knew him, he went to Olumba Olumba – thinking there he will find Christ easily. In his characteristic courage manner, he returned to his Church of origin till his graceful departure to meet his Creator.

As a Christian, Pa taught us that Christianity is a practical day-to-day thing. In this light, we did not only learn to have morning and evening family devotions, and attend Church fellowships; but to give a helping hand to others. This was a man with hardly any stable income but made it a regular practice to feed sick people in hospitals who had no careers. In the days when TB was searing and the patients lived in isolation wards, Albert Mukong and his family fed the many desperate ones by providing food every Sunday after Church service. This visit was encouraging to them.

Pa, the teacher, was with his children almost all evenings to check the school work and teach new things. In his teacher role, he did not end at the academic side, but taught us how to be hard working in life. He loved education and all his children went to school as far as their abilities could lead them. I can still see him teaching my little girl, Mbone, the times table and telling her that this is the foundation of Mathematics.

I remain encouraged today because there was an encourager at my young age. This one short piece he gave me, in his handwriting, though I cannot remember exactly the wordings but it ran something like this – "If by others’ thought you are asked to do something wrong, say no no no". I think he got it from the Sasse College days.

This encouraging daddy kept us going even during the hard periods after 1976. I went to Britain in 1988, encouraged through a sad good bye to my father in a prison cell. I and all his children were encouraged because we knew he was standing for the truth – I think he used that little word no no no, when he was pushed to act out of conviction.

My father was strongly political and religious (a real Catholic), and many would expect us to be in the same camp with him all the time. No. He rather encouraged free debates on such issues he held dearly. Today, I am of the SDF out of my volition and sister in CPDM. Pa accepted us as we saw our case so long as we did it for unselfish reasons but to serve Cameroon. I know all I do politically is to serve Cameroon.

Even with his strong Catholic background and his practice, he allowed us to choose where to worship. His main encouragement was that his children should sought and live Christ in their lives. So, at his death, I came with my Baptist Christian friends, my sister came with her Pentecostal family and the Catholics came in their numbers and the various groups to christianly bide him farewell. Pa, your tenacity and dedicatedness to things that were true and just continue to inspire us.

Albert Mukong Speaks

On War
War is not only expensive in terms of money and material but more so in terms of man-power and human lives.

On Peace
The Cameroonian people are in general peace-loving and can make lots of sacrifices for peace. The people of the former Southern Cameroons under the British Mandate were brought up in the traditions of law and the respect for human dignity. Our traditional spirit of political tolerance and respect for the other person’s opinion was manifested in the colonial days when we enjoyed multi-party politics.

On Southern Cameroons
We Cameroonians of the former Southern Cameroons, cannot understand our status within the context of things today and we are wondering what is becoming of them. We are now a mere annexure or a conquered territory of the Republic of Cameroon?

Mr. John Ngu Foncha who was the Prime Minister of the State and his KNDP were not for unification as it turned out to be. They advocated a separate Independent State, which would later negotiate Unification with the Republic of Cameroon.

On The Foumban Accord
We know and it is true that even the so-called Federal Constitution otherwise known as the Foumban Accord was an imposition of the French. The Anglophone Delegation to Foumban in 1961 came back home in the belief that there would be another final meeting to look at the Constitution before adoption.

On His Arrest
It was about 5 o’clock in the morning when they came to take me away. It was a Tuesday, 6 October, 1970. They surrounded my mat house residence in Kumba Town.

On His Educational Career
I was educated at St. Patrick’s School, Babanki Tungo and St. Anthony’s School, Njinikom all in the North West Province. I attended St. Joseph’s College Sasse Buea then got registered in Ibadan for an honors Physics course which I abandoned after failing the part one examination in 1961.

On Ancestors
Our immediate ancestors were not so vicious and brutal. Indeed they cultivated to a much higher degree development of the inner man.

On Christianity
What we have received as Christians is very far from what Christ himself taught and surely Jesus is much scandalized and agonized by what his Western standard bearers are hawking round the world.
Excerpts from the books "The Case for the Southern Cameroons" and "Prisoner without a Crime"

Compiled by Mwalimu George Ngwane