PART II of IV
LES NOIRS QUI VENDAIENT D'AUTRES NOIRS: Le Cas Du Cameroun
Cameroon, along with today-modern Nigeria and Niger, was the World Biggest Supplying Zone for African Slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade.
An irate Camerounian could not contain himself from shouting:
"D’ou viennent-ils et pour qui se prennent-ils tous Ces Descendants Des “Cannibales” et “Vendeurs des Etres Humains” du territoire Camerounais qui prennent le Cameroun Comme L’Heritage De Leurs Grands-Parents" -- Richard Mbouma.
Cameroon Was the World Biggest Supplying Zone for African Slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade. In the weak period of the 1780s, the distribution of exports along the coast was approximately as follows:
- From the Senegambia and Sierra Leone.
About 4,000 slaves a year (8 percent of the total from western Africa as a whole).
- From Liberia and the Ivory Coast.
About 4,000 ( 8 percent) again.
- From the Gold Coast.
About 10,000 (19 percent).
- From the Slave Coast and the Benin region.
About 12,500 (23 percent).
- From the Niger Delta (including today's Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon) and Cameroons.
About 22,000 ( 42 percent).
---- David Eltis.
In sum and substance, the Cameroon Coast, along with Nigeria and Niger, Was the World Biggest and "Most Burgeoning Hell" for Africa's Slaves for Centuries - specifically, from the 16th century well into the early part of 20 th century.
The early portuguese visitors to the Cameroon coast opened up the area to the slave trade. The commerce in human booty (cameroonian slaves from other tribes who were captured and sold by the Douala, Bulu, Bassa, and Bakwery ethnic groups), began to flourish after 1530, when the burgeoning plantations in the New World found imported African labor increasingly necessary.
For the next several centuries, Portuguese, Spanish, British, and others competed for a share in the Cameroon slave market. Under the tight control and authorization of Douala Chiefs who imposed and collected fees for the rights to engage in any commerce including the purchase of human slaves, European traders established semi-permanent posts along the coast, mainly at the mouth of the Wouri, were the Douala acted as middlemen in the slave trade.
- Cameroon served as a very important supply zone for the export of African slave to the New World after the Portuguese exploration on the Cameroon coast.
- As Cameroon slaves were mostly sold to the Fernando Po collection center, the island of Fernando Po was one of the main collection points for slaves taken along the Bight of Benin.
The Douala were the predominant slave-trading midddlemen in these transactions.
- The majority of slaves traded from the Cameroon coast came from inland invasions as well as from the neighboring Batagan, Bassa, and Bulu.
- Another major source area for slaves was Bamenda grasslands where the Bakwery (indigenous ethnic group in Cameroon) played a predominant role in capturing and selling slaves. Slaves from this area were exported via the Cross River to Calabar.
---- (Mark Delancy and Mbella Mokeba).
In Cameroon, most of the slaves came from the western highlands and the sloping coastal plain running west from the Wouri estuary.
"Four groups -- Tikari, Douala-Bimbia, Banyangi and Bakossi, Bamileke -- accounted for 62 percent of the people carried out of the River and from Bimbia in these years. The Tikari, and Bamileke were the highlands people who lost more of their members to the Atlantic slave trade than other surrounding communities.
It is immediately apparent that the provenance of the slave trade was highly concentrated. Most of these peoples lived in a relatively small area of present day Western Cameroon located roughly in the south western 'bulge' of the country, immediately adjacent to the present border with Nigeria, part forest, part grassland.
On average, each captive's homeland was just under 106 miles from the departure point. The vessels tended to carry fewer males and more children than those leaving other regions ." ---- (Nwokeji and Eltis).
In 1807, the British declared their own slave trade illegal and began policing the Gulf of Guinea in an attempt to completely suppress the slave trade.
In 1827, Great Britain, with Spanish permission, establish a small settlement in Fernando Po island in order to better police the Cameroon coast in the efforts to suppress the ubiquitous sales of human beings by the indigenous Douala and Bassa.
Note: Fernando Po island was named so after a Portuguese explorer who visited the area in 1472. First Portuguese settlers on the island developed sugar plantations and traded in slave, gold, and ivory with the coastal natives. In 1777, Spain acquired Fernando Po from Portugal.
As a result of the:
- (a) British officials who enforced the suppression of slave trade.
- (b) the missionary activities in teaching the wickedness of capturing, enslaving or selling human beings to slavery.
-and (c) the successive abolition of slavery by various European governments.
"This inhuman commerce gradually subsided as the commerce in ivory and palm oil became lucrative" -- ( Victor T. Le Vine and Roger P. Hye).
As the history of Cameroon has it, the Douala most likely were the first to come in contact with Europeans in the precolonial period.
The Douala eventually controlled, monopolized, and played a very successful middleman role in the slave trade (capturing, buying, and selling other human beings slaves to European slave traders) from the interior to across the Atlantic.
-The Douala were far more efficient and succesful (as they became very wealthy from the very lucrative business of selling slaves)in slave trade business than the "Bassa-Bakoko", "Bakwery", and the "Bulu (Boulu)" ethnic groups who were also major role players in the slave trade in the Cameroon coast.
-The reputation of Douala in the slave trade throughout the west coast and Europe led the early European slave traders to consider the Douala as vigorous, enterprising, prosperous, and excellent collaborators.
Bulu (or Boulu):
-The Bulu or Boulu - speakers were very prominent among the coastal tribes that played major roles as middlemen in the European slave trade in the 17 and 18 centuries.
-Germans forcebly suppressed the Bulu's capturing and selling slave activities.
In the 1890's, The Bulu engaged an armed rebellion against the German penetration into the interior of Cameroon to suppress and eradicate the their slave trade activities. The Bulu were defeated with significant loss of life.
-The Bulu have a history of ethnic antagonism against the neighboring Bassa-Bakoko as well as outburst rioting, assaulting, and destroying the market stalls of the immigrant Bamileke.
- A 1972 survey estimated that there were about 150, 000 Bulu/Boulu (they constitute a minority among the Beti group) in southern and central Cameroon.
-In spite of their small number, they have achieved leadership roles via the personnalities of Charles Assele (former East Cameroon Prime Minister) and current President Paul Biya ( Le Vine and Hye).
-A cameroon coastal people related to the Douala in West Cameroon, acted as major middlemen in the Cameroon slave trade with the Europeans during the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Bakwerians are a cluster that includes the Kpe, Moboko, Isuwu, and Wovea groupings.
- Cannabilism (the consumption of human flesh) was ubiquitous among Bakwerians.
-Missionnaries and Germans had a great deal of difficulty suppressing cannibalism, enslavement and slave trade activities of the Bakwerians ---- ( Le Vine and Hye).
Bassa - Bakoko:
-A numerous ethnic unit of the northernwestern and coastal Bantu that was engaged in subsistence agriculture, supplemented by ocean and river fishing before the arrival of European traders) also later on acted as middlemen and collectors in the trade with Europeans for slaves.
-Between 1892 and 1895, the Bassa staged armed rebellions against German inland penetration , but they were defeated. As a punishment for their persistence in the slave trade activities, the German used Bassa men as laborers on the Douala-Yaounde railway construction.
- American Presbyterian missionaries are credited for converting most of the Bassa to Christianity.
- Furthermore, the Basel (Basler) Mission Society and the American Presbyterian missionaries are also credited for promoting the educational advancement and developing radicalism and individualism among the Bassa after 1916 --- (M. Delancy and M. Mokeba).
The Douala interpreted their growing contacts with Europeans as a mandate for identifying themselves against interior people in terms diametrically opposed to European liberal values:
- The Cameroonians not in direct contact with the ocean were generically Bakom, to mean slaves, even when (as was usually the case) not literally enslaved; the Douala themselves were free to exercise a monopoly over a widening trade zone in which there was no possibility of any but defensive competition.
Even when the trade in ivory and palm oil on the Cameroon coast gradually replaced the slave trade, King Lobe Bell and King Ngando Akwa of the Douala group still owned villages of slaves up all the way into the Mungo region.
The Douala themselves neither cultivated nor harvested any of the local palm trees. The closest they come to direct control of such production was to establish satellite villages of slaves in relative close and accessible inland locations.
-As early as 1841, both Kings Lobe Bell and Ngando Akwa owned villages of slaves of this kind.
By 1884, according to one report, there were fifteen settlements, 9 belonging to King Akwa and six to King Bell.
-Although officially abolished, the slave trade was still flourishing in the Cameroons very much so in the 20th century. By means of capturing and trading, people were brought to to the coastal area from far inland and kept or sold as slave. In fact, there were numerous cases of parents selling their children, mostly young girls, for a bag of salt.
Occasionally, the slaves were settled in separate villages at some distance from the residences of the free people. It was also common practice to sell slaves to:
A) Tribes that practiced and indulged in cannibalism.
B) Witch doctors, sorcerers, magicians, conjurers, and exorcists to be used in human sacrifices during festivals of ancestral or land cults.
--(Werner Keller, Jorg Schnellbach, and Jean Brutsch).
For centuries and as a result of the slave trade, the Douala were just about the only financially well-off and educated ethnic group in the region that is referred today as Cameroon.
-The Douala used the advantages gained from coastal slave trade to provide their children with exceptional levels of European education. The middleman role of the Douala in the Cameroon slave trade provides an historical model for the situation of all modern Africa's elite.
---(Ralph Austen and Jonathan Derrick).
The Cameroon coast was one of the world biggest and worst slave trade area in the history of slavery in Africa. The key to the suppression of the Cameroon slave trade was the
intensification of British efforts.
1. The first and most effective of these measures was the stopping of Portuguese and Spanish ships equipped for the illegal trade, whether or not they had slaves aboard.
2. In the second step, British Royal Navy officers were ordered to present coastal African rulers north of the equator with standardized treaties banning local slave trade and promissing orderly and open conditions for other local commerce.
"In spite of offers of compensatory payments by England to African rulers who have no problem at all selling their own kind to slavery, the Bristish met fierce resistance in many of the active slave-exporting areas," according to Austen and Derrick.
Had it not been for:
1 - The British intervention in suppressing enslavement and slave trade in Cameroon and other parts of Africa by way of coercion and force.
2 - The tireless and selfless missionaries who taught cannibal Cameroonian tribes the difference between human and animal flesh as well as the evilness of capturing human beings for enslavement and slave trade.
The Cameroon tribal rulers , who joyfully praticed and gainfully engaged in the most vile and abject activities in the history of humand kind, would still be happily conducting their inhuman business.
In setting out to suppress the Atlantic slave trade, the British Navy was endeavoring a very great matter. The abolitionists had not realized how naval power could be thwarted. They did not expect Cameroonian Chiefs to be so reluctant to forego their profits.
Foreign Secretaries who negotiated the treaties, the ambassadors and consuls who carried out the ceaseless battle against diplomatic evasiveness, spent a great part of their time in striving to set the Navy free to do its work.
What freedom the Navy was given, it used so successfully that in later years, many a slaving captain ran his ship aground and took his crew to the bush at the mere sight of a British cruiser.
"Whenever the Navy was allowed to fight slavers, to burn barraccoons built by Cameroonian's Chiefs, to blockage rivers, to make treaties and enforce them, it carried out its duties with patience and diplomacy.
Had the British been given full freedom of action, the story of the Atlantic slave trade would have been shorter, and the hopes of the abolitionist would have been amply fulfilled."
----(W. E. Ward).
In April 29, 1852:
The last Anglo-Douala Treaty To Abolish The Export of Cameroon Slaves To Foreign Countries Was signed.
-The previous treaties (in June 10, 1840 and May 7, 1841) signed by the British and the Douala Kings, AKWA and BELL, to end slave trade along Cameroon coast were consistantly violated by these kings who would not give up the lucrative business of selling human beings.
-The treaty was to be enforced by the Kings and Chiefs of Cameroon, who were mostly the Douala coastal leaders. The English were to expel any Europeans who settled and made a living out of the slave trade in the territory of Cameroon.
The Anglo-Douala Treaty granted the most favored-nations status in open commercial trade to England to appease these Cameroonian chiefs who vehemently opposed the suppression of the slave trade by England and were much displeased at the lost of the very lucrative inhuman commerce.
The April 1852 Anglo-Douala Treaty signatories were the British resident agent, missionary and military officials for England, and King AKWA and King BELL along with their subordinating chiefs for the Douala.
---(Delancy and Mokeba).
NEXT: PART III of IV
NOIRS QUI VENDAIENT D'AUTRES NOIRS: Abolition de la traite au Cameroon_PART III