BY DAVID SADLER
Paris delivers its classified archives to the commission of historians from the two countries responsible for ” turn on the light “ on the role of France in the violent repression that targeted the separatists and then the opposition in Cameroon before and after its independence, historian Karine Ramondy assures AFP.
On July 26, 2022 in Yaoundé, Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Paul Biya wanted historians to look into this bloody part, but almost completely ignored by school textbooks and the general public, of the history of France and Cameroon, from 1945 to 1971.
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The heads of state committed to declassifying archives that remained secret and launched, in March 2023, the Franco-Cameroonian commission “History and memories on the role and commitment of France in Cameroon in the repression against the movements independence and opposition between 1945 and 1971.
Its Research component, made up of fifteen historians, is chaired by Frenchwoman Karine Ramondy. While passing through Yaoundé, she discusses the progress of their work in an interview with AFP. The Cameroonian singer and musician Blick Bassy chairs an artistic and heritage component.
A “repressed subject” in France and Cameroon
During this period – before and after the independence of Cameroon in 1960 – historians and associations from the two countries ensure that “several tens of thousands of Cameroonians” were killed in a real ” war “led first by the French army then jointly with the troops of the first president of the Republic of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo.
“Regarding declassified archives, we have started a certain number of sharing of archives under exemption in France”assures Karine Ramondy, adding: “Like the president [Macron] committed to it, Cameroonian researchers benefit from the conditions of access to classified archives. »
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The report on the Research component must be delivered in December 2024. It is on the basis of its work that Paris and Yaoundé will be able, in the words of Mr. Macron in July 2022, “establish factually” of the “responsibilities” on a “repressed subject” in France as in Cameroon. The French president had promised that he would draw one ” acknowledgement “ of what happened and not a ” repentance “.
“We have already worked a lot, on both sides, together. We have already uploaded many of the digitized archives that we have accessed onto a secure platform. They are French and also come from Cameroon”lists Mme Ramondy. During their stay in Yaoundé, his team went through tons of archives stored in the library of the faculty of letters at the University of Yaoundé I, a center for the training of Cameroonian historians.
Three researchers, two Cameroonians and a Frenchman, examine the two-meter-high wooden shelves on which are carefully stacked countless dissertations and theses from decades of research. The selected works are then digitized. New techniques in this modest documentation center where the majority of students and researchers manually copy what interests them into notebooks.
The Cameroonian Minister of Arts and Culture had “committed to giving us access to the national archives”explains Karine Ramondy. “It’s a little complicated because, for some time now, there has been a move and a review of these archives in progress. We are hopeful that things can be unblocked quickly”continues the historian.
Asked about a possible recognition by France of its responsibilities in war crimes, as well as reparations, she replied that the work of the commission is limited to establishing and documenting facts. “We aim to produce a historical, scientific report (…)it is the mission of this commission to give the presidents a serious historical sum, based on a good number of archives, in order to determine what type of recognition, what gestures France and Cameroon would like.she explains. “You can count on the team to produce the most balanced and serious report possible”promises Karine Ramondy.
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