Just one week after the much heralded national integration, living together and national unity culminated in the celebration of the 46 anniversary of the National Unity Day, it seems the cracks have suddenly began reappearing.
Sawa chiefs of the Bell Canton shocked the public on Saturday morning when they marched on the streets of Bonapriso in Douala to bring down site where works for the construction of a monument in honour of Ruben Um Nyobe had been going on.
The traditional rulers say they are unhappy by the decision of the Douala City Council to erect the monument around « Mobile Njoh Njoh » in Bonapriso, Douala without consulting them.
Armed with shovels, hammers and the strength of their arms, the traditional chiefs ransacked the entire fence built with slats and plywood. They also performed rites on the foundation to implore the wrath of « their gods » on anyone who would continue erecting the stele in those places.
The destructions were going on under the watchful eyes of Jean Yves Eboumbou Manga, paramount ruler of the Bell Canton while daughters of the Sawa clan who had come out in their numbers accompanied them with traditional songs.
« To erect such a monument on our land without consulting us is an insult to our tradition and we are surprised by this act (from the Douala City Councl), » HRH Pierre Nteppe Mahove of Bonapriso village said.
« This is why we wanted to make it clear today that things are not supposed to be done this way. The massive population that turned out today shows we don’t want this monument on our land and it is our right to say so, » he added.
However, the move has left the city torn apart with some accusing the Douala chiefs of tribalism and trying to resurrect a long-standing conflict with the Bassas.
« Whether the monument is in Edea, Douala or Yaounde, it doesn’t change the fact that Um Nyobe fought for Cameroon’s independence and deserves to be honoured. Um Nyobe did not fight against the French to free the Bassas but to free Cameroonians… this is very tribalistic on their part and I don’t support this move, » Ngo’o Nyeck, a Bassa native resident in Douala said.
However, there are others who opine that the city of Douala and particularly Bonapriso is first of all a village to them and customs and traditions of their lands must not be violated.
« We must be respected as a people before anything is done on our land… the Government Delegate (Fritz Ntone Ntone) is a sawa and he knows how it is done here. We have our matyrs like Duala Manga Bell, Ngosso Din who can as well be honoured here, » a Douala native Epée Dikoumé said.
The Douala City Council is yet to react to these events and it is not clear if i twill continue with construction works or transfer the monument to another site.
After their acts on Saturday, the Sawa chiefs backtracked on Sunday with a communique attempting to justify their acts.
According to them, their actions were never intended against the Bassa community but express dissatisfaction at the Douala City Council for acting unilaterally without consulting the various traditional rulers.