Thoughts on Remembrance Day from Cameroon

African soldiers, WWI, Photo from Bibliotheque Nationale de France

As Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.) commemorations take place across Europe and North America, the descendants of African soldiers recruited to fight for the imperial forces during the two World Wars also remember service and sacrifice.  These children and grandchildren continue to honor those who served and died, most without any recognition of their service or military pension.

Remembrance Day without Isaac

By Christopher Fon Achobang

Envoys of the German Embassy, British, Nigerian, South African, and Canadian High Commissions and the local administration of Cameroon, represented by the  SDO of Fako Division met in Victoria, now Limbe, to ‘Remember’ the valiant soldiers who fell fighting for the crown of England in both World Wars. This is an annual event celebrated all over the British Commonwealth.

These High Commissioners of the British Commonwealth and their sympathizers gathered in the Victoria Botanic Garden, Limbe, to look back in honour and pride at the feats of the British Empire on Sunday 11 November 2012, a day later than their counterparts the world over. The German Embassy in Kamerun was equally represented, having had the ‘honour’ of dragging the world into two major wars.

Like most African and colonial combatants who fought in these major wars, Isaac was absent and his family remains forgotten. Isaac Teghengum, serviceman Number 234, from Nyen, Bamenda  Province was discharged in 1943 at Enugu, Nigeria after sustaining injuries during the North African Expedition in Egypt.

He returned home and like many of his counterparts throughout Cameroon lived in oblivion. Feeling dejected and abandoned, he left his family and died, penniless, on the hills of Oshie, where he is buried in an unmarked grave. Isaac was sacrificed by Africa to fight in a war that was not provoked by her. Today, Isaac Teghengum, like the Biblical Isaac has come to represent all the sons and daughters Africa sacrifices every day for the glory of the Arabs, Europeans, Americans and Asians.

While his counterparts in England, Australia, India and Canada have the honour to receive a wreath at the 11th hour of the 11thday of the 11th month, nobody would ever be able to trace the unmarked grave of Isaac.

After decades of neglect and pittance to some surviving victims of the World wars, Africans and Cameroonians who fought for Queen Victoria and King George would never receive a shilling from the crown of England.

Do their war indemnities really get to Cameroon? Or were Cameroon ex-servicemen, fighting under the Union Jack forgotten when the United Kingdom of Great Britain sold Cameroon to France? Nobody will ever answer these questions, yet more and more Africans would be led to the slaughter in other expeditions.

In his symbolic appearance at the Bamenda Congress Hall in 1993, Colonel Pope of the British Commonwealth Ex-servicemen League, made it clear that the attention of the league was towards surviving ex-servicemen, or their sick descendants. As for those not sick like Isaac’s descendants, the British Monarchy is oblivious.

As a descendant of Isaac Teghengum, I was not sick but wanted a scholarship to study in a British university, on merit of my dad’s services to the crown of England. Col. Pope said no! And I took it to be a Papal Edict. When will the British lift the standards of their ex-combatants from the forgotten parts of Cameroon and Africa to match those of French ex-servicemen?

May the Crown of England ‘Remember’ all the Isaacs, lying in unmarked graves on the hills of Africa. May we the descendants of Isaac Teghengum heave a sigh of relief on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, saying, “Alas, we have been ‘Remembered’”.

Fon Christopher Achobang is a social commentator and human rights activist from Cameroon.

One Response to “Thoughts on Remembrance Day from Cameroon”

  1. Achobang has been detained at MbePpngwi Principal Prison since 27/04/2015 because of the important work he is doing for humanity and the environment. He heaven denied bail purportedly because there are serious allegations against him. Petition Cameroon government to urgently release him to go out and continue his important work for humanity and the environment.

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