- Title: Cameroon activist campaigns against colonial monuments
- Date: 7th July 2020
- Summary: DOUALA, CAMEROON (JULY 3, 2020) (REUTERS) ACTIVIST ANDRE BLAISE ESSAMA CLEANING A STATUE OF CAMEROONIAN SOCCER PLAYER MBAPPE LEPPE ESSAMA CLEANING MBAPPE LEPPE STATUE ESSAMA CLEANING THE FEET OF MBAPPE LEPPE STATUE ESSAMA HAILING THE NAME OF MBAPPE LEPPE STATUE WHILST SANDING NEXT TO IT CHILDREN ACROSS THE ROAD RESPONDING SHOUTING "OYE!" ESSAMA STANDING NEXT TO STATUE SHOUTING 'OYE' TO THE CHILDREN ACROSS THE STREET PEOPLE ON THE STREET STATUE OF MBAPPE LEPPE (SOUNDBITE) (French) ANTI-COLONIAL ACTIVIST ANDRE BLAISE ESSAMA, SAYING: "(The) National Statues are important in that it will impact national memories, it will bring national pride, it will determine how citizens move forward. When we talk about valiant peoples, a great people, a people who is like, today we talk about Lionel Messi (Argentina footballer) but it is because they themselves have enlarged this Messi. We have Mbappe Leppe in Cameroon but we see him as small. Why do we see them as small when other people can also benefit from the fact that Mbappe Leppe is large" STATUE OF FRENCH GENERAL LECLERC WHICH ESSAMA PUSHED FROM ITS PEDESTAL AND DECAPITATED SEVERAL TIMES STANDING BEHIND A FENCE TO PROTECT IT FROM ATTACKS STATUE SEEN THROUGH THE BARS FACE OF THE STATUE OF LECLERC LECLERC STATUE
- 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: LVA001CLT74NR
- 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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