- Title: Cameroon activist campaigns against colonial monuments
- Date: 7th July 2020
- Summary: DOUALA, CAMEROON (JULY 3, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (French) ANTI-COLONIAL ACTIVIST ANDRE BLAISE ESSAMA, SAYING: "Yes we must remove them (statues of colonial figures) and put them in a museum. Not because we don't want to live this story, not because we don't want to make this history known, but because public squares are for celebrations. We celebrate in public squares. We don't do sado-masochism, or the Stockholm syndrome, when one adores his executioners. It cannot be a good thing for an African to continue to perpetuate the Stockholm syndrome" ESSAMA STANDING ON STATUE TO COMMEMORATE FRENCH SOLDIERS ESSAMA POINTING TO THE WRITING NEXT TO THE STATUE WHICH HE COVERED WITH A BLUE BAG ESSAMA TRYING TO DISMANTLE A WREATH FROM THE STATUE ESSAMA AT HOME LOOKING AT HIS PHONE FOR VIDEOS OF HIMSELF DURING DIFFERENT ANTI COLONIAL ACTIVITIES ESSAMA'S PHONE WITH VIDEO OF HIM LASHING THE STATUE COMMEMORATING FRENCH SOLDIERS ANOTHER VIDEO ON ESSAMA'S PHONE SHOWING HIM LASHING THE STATUE OF GENERAL LECLERC (SOUNDBITE) (French) ANTI-COLONIAL ACTIVIST ANDRE BLAISE ESSAMA, SAYING: "You fight, you die. You don't fight, you die. Africa needs her children, ready to sacrifice themselves like their defending heroes. It is out of the question to be afraid of prison, because you are (already) in prison by using the Franc CFA (joint currency for West African nations pegged to the euro and where a portion of state money is held by the French treasury). What is the point of being afraid when we know it is in Africa's interest to use her raw materials, to no longer be dictated by what I call imperialism. It is a source of great pride for me to have or to achieve this freedom. Right now I consider myself a prisoner. The proof is that every year I go to prison. I have the key to my cell, I have the key to my prison, and I am proud that I stand in dignity." BACK OF ESSAMA ON HIS BICYCLE RIDING ON GENERAL DE GAULLE AVENUE ESSAMA CYCLING AND WAIVING AT PEOPLE ESSAMA STOPS CYCLING TO GREET VICTORY NYIE, ARTIST, IN THE STREET ESSAMA AND NYIE TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (French) VICTOR NYIE, ARTIST, SAYING: "Well, colonial monuments, I don't think they have their place because, you have boulevard General De Gaulle, but General de Gaulle who is he? Where is he? Where was he and where did he live? Why should we give a boulevard to someone who was not here? So I don't know what it's for. For me it has no place" (SOUNDBITE) (French) ESSAMA POINTING AT STREET NAME RUE FOCH, NAMED AFTER FRENCH GENERAL FERDINAND FOCH SAYING: "General Foch did nothing for Cameroon. I am going to pull down this plaque in the name of our ancestors" ESSAMA PULLING AT THE PLAQUE ON THE WALL ESSAMA HOLDING THE PLAQUE HE HAS RIPPED FROM THE WALL SAYING: In the name of our meriting ancestors" (French) ESSAMA PUTS THE PLAQUE ON THE FLOOR ESSAMA'S FOOT ON THE PLAQUE
- Embargoed: 21st July 2020 11:04
- Keywords: Anti colonial movement colonial statues
- Location: DOUALA, CAMEROON
- City: DOUALA, CAMEROON
- Country: Cameroon
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA003CLT74NR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Cameroonian activist Andre Blaise Essama wants all the statues in his city of Douala to celebrate the greatness of his country like football hero Mbappe Leppe, which he commissioned, and store those that honour the colonial past away from public spaces.
Whilst lovingly dusting the statue of Cameroon's soccer legend Essama rallies passers-by to his victory call.
"National monuments are important. They impact national memories and evoke national pride," Essama said, "it will determine how citizens move forward."
For nearly a decade Essama has carried out dramatic floggings, toppling and beheading of statues honouring the colonial era. It has earned him arrests, fines and jail time for vandalism and destruction of public edifices.
One monument has drawn his ire over the years, a statue celebrating the heroism of French World War Two General Philippe Leclerc, who was sent by Charles de Gaulle to French Equatorial Africa colony, to rally local leaders and conscripts to help free France occupied by Nazi Germany.
He said he had removed General Leclerc's head seven times and buried them in his village. Each time the head has been replaced and a wrought iron fence was built in 2015 to protect the monument, but that has not stopped Essama.
He said the French General's place is in a museum, not because he does not want Leclerc's story to be told, but because the name and those of other French colonial administrators, should not be celebrated in Cameroon's public spaces.
"Public squares are for celebrations. We celebrate in public squares. We don't do sado-masochism, or the Stockholm syndrome, when one adores his executioners. It cannot be a good thing for an African to continue to perpetuate the Stockholm syndrome," he said.
The statue of Leclerc, leaning on a cane in front of a commemorative mural retracing his journey was inaugurated in 1948. It stands in front of the central post office, downtown the administrative district of Cameroon's commercial capital Douala, which is dotted with colonial vestiges.
Opposite the monument is a square named after Leclerc. In the square is another monument, in memory French and allied soldiers and sailors from World War One.
In one video of Essama he is seen flogging the commemoration statue. After trying to remove the wreath from the statue police told him to move away. He was not arrested on this occasion.
The main avenue from the square, one of the longest Douala, is named after General de Gaulle.
"General de Gaulle who is he? Where is he? Where was he and where did he live? Why should we give a boulevard to someone who was not here? So I don't know what it's for. For me it has no place," said artist Victor Nyie.
Essama's action is gradually gaining support. He has created an association that included several artists who have sculpted over 30 statues and other works of art, celebrating Cameroon heroes.
Cameroon was a German colony until it was split between Britain and France after World War One. Under United Nations trusteeship, the French administered area gained independence in 1960 while the southern British Cameroons voted to join French Cameroon in a federation in 1961.
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