A tragedy that almost marred the Reunification
By Amindeh Blaise ATABONG
It was on Tuesday August 8, 1961, that plans for reunion between La republique du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons were almost frustrated. This, as 12 Southern Cameroonian workers at the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) Ebubu camp near Tombel were killed (by mistake as it was claimed) by a combined contingent of French and Camerounese forces. The soldiers led by French officers who had illegally crossed into Southern Cameroons and brutally shot to dead the CDC workers, thought the victims were ‘terrorists’ from La Republique du Cameroun.
This tragic incident which till date is remembered as the ‘EBUBU MASSACRE’ took place barely a day after the Yaounde August 2 – 7, 1961 Conference.
Following what had happenend, the reunification option became questionable as requests to revisit the issue of the ‘EBUBU MASSACRE’ spread throughout Southern Cameroons like wildfire . Seeing the gravity of the situation, Ahidjo dispatched to Buea on August 15, 1961, a two-man delegation on a diplomatic fact finding mission.
Cognisant of the fact that defense and security were subjects reserved for Her Majesty’s Government, the delegation met with the Deputy Commissioner for Southern Cameroons, Milne, in the absence of J.O Field who at the time was out of town.
Milne cherished the importance of an investigation because he threatened the handing-over responsibility. In addition, he called on the Ahidjo Government “to accept blame, apologise and pay compensations.”
Ahidjo’s delegation regarded Milne’s proposals as a fluff, and without telling him, they left and privately held talks with Foncha.
Following the meeting with La Republique du Cameroun delegation, Foncha issued a statement saying that there were ongoing investigations and that they had agreed “that whoever is guilty of this cruel murder will be severely punished.”
This was done without the knowledge of Milne and his team.
Later in the day, Foncha visited the bereaved families at EBUBU accompanied by three representatives of La Republique du Cameroun namely: the then Director of European and African Divisions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Rostand MVIE; the technical Adviser to the Minister of Defense, Colonel Blanc; and the representative of La republique de Cameroun in Buea, Mr. Manfred EPO.
Foncha is said to have given 50pouns to be shared among the bereaved families as a consolation gift.
On August 23, 1961, Foncha led a Southern Cameroons delegation to Yaounde for further discussions on the “EBUBU MASSACRE” with another La Republique du Cameroun delegation, led by Prime Minister Charles ASSALE.
The two delegations discussed the “EBUBU MASSACRE” alongside other issues of reunification, especially the organization of the September 30, 1961, and October 1, 1961 ceremonies.
On August 24, 1961, the two premiers jointly issued a communique setting up a commission of inquiry to examine the circumstances of the massacre and to establish the culprits. The findings of the commission of inquiry were never made public even after the reunification and till date.
Dr E.M.L. Endeley described the massacre as, “a shock to the conscience of well-meaning Cameroonians”. In a statement he went on to acknowledge that this “most heart-rending incident” occurred at a time “when all people of goodwill on both sides of the Cameroons were striving hard to resolve the complex problems now facing the leaders of the Cameroons people.”
Analysts hold that it is due to the servile nature of Southern Cameroonians that reunification talks could continue unperturbed despite the killing of innocent Southern Cameroonians