On an official visit to Cameroon, the French president did not acknowledge the atrocities committed on Cameroonians by the French army during the struggle for independence.
A group of Cameroonian political parties on Monday called on Macron to recognise the “crimes” France committed during the colonial era.A French diplomat said providing access to military and diplomatic archives would allow historians to complete their work on Cameroon, after which political action could be taken.
Questioned on the issue by Cameroonian journalist Gorges Alain Boyomo, Emmanuel Macron , French President answered by announcing the establishment of a commission composed of French and Cameroonian historians to shed light on “this common past“.
“I am committed to opening our archives in full to a group of joint historians who will allow us to shed light on this past: the involvement of France and the role of the Cameroonian authorities of the time before and after independence,” said Emmanuel Macron during the press conference that followed his tête-à-tête with Paul Biya on 26 July 2022.
As reported by Africa New, history has it that, French colonial authorities brutally repressed armed Cameroonian nationalists before the country’s independence in 1960. Tens of thousands of supporters of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC) party, including independence leader Ruben Um Nyobe, were killed by the French army.
The Cameroonian army under the country’s first post-independence leader Ahmadou Ahidjo also slayed UPC fighters. Former president Francois Hollande in 2015 conceded that France’s colonial past in Cameroon brought “tragic” moments and said he was open to opening the archives.
Emmanuel Macron, president of the former colonial power acknowledges however that “historians have looked into this past“. The latter do not make mystery of the exactions and killings of the French army on the leaders and activists of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon, who claimed the independence of the country. As if he doubted it, Emmanuel Macron wants the commission to identify the various responsibilities during this troubled period.
In any case, the leaders of the Patriotic Alliance, who are campaigning for the recognition of the “historical dispute” between France and Cameroon, are already delighted with this announcement by Emmanuel Macron. “The archives must be opened to document every bad move that France has made in Cameroon. We are not inventing anything. This work has already been done in Algeria and Rwanda,” said Dikoumé Mbonjo, the second vice-president of this organization very close to the UPC.
While waiting for the publication of the list of historians who will be charged by Paris and Yaounde to carry out this work, Emmanuel Macron said that the commission must work on the basis of an appropriate schedule. And finally, he hopes that some artists will be associated with this work of memory.
On an official visit to Cameroon in July 2015, the former French president had promised to declassify the archives of France to better shed light on this period. “We are, as I have done everywhere, open so that the history books can be opened, the archives too,” François Hollande had indicated.
After this promise, it took the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs four years to complete the work of inventorying, classifying and declassifying the archives. They have been open to the public since 2019, according to the Quai d’Orsay. This makes some people say that President Macron has simply kicked down an open door.