Mboua Massock, 63, is a Pan-African freedom fighter and is best known in Cameroon as the “father of ghost towns”, a nationwide civil disobedience campaign he initiated between 1990-1991 to force the then 9 year old government of president Paul Biya to organise a national conference and introduce democratic reforms.
Since then, Mr Massock has carried out other campaigns including a 40 day hunger strike and various marches across the country. He has been arrested more times than he cares to remember.
He blames foreign countries for under developing Africa through colonialism and now fights to get post independence economic freedom for all African countries. Attempts by the Cameroon government to bribe him to go on exile failed and he is constantly under the scanner of security forces..
Mokun Njouny Nelson has been speaking to Mboua Massock about his activism and his vision for Cameroon and Pan African Unity.
Q Who really is Mr Mboua Massock?
I am Mboua Massock, nationalist and a pan African fighter, I live in Cameroon so I am a Cameroonian. My struggle however transcends Cameroon because it is geared towards total liberation of the African continent from colonialism and imperialism. I have been engaged in this struggle for more than four decades now and have suffered a lot along the way. I however still belief strongly that this struggle is necessary and important. I am continuing this struggle which started close to a century ago with the arrival of our German colonizers. The struggle started with nationalists like Martin Paul Samba and Douala Manga Bell. Both were executed in 1914 because they opposed the German colonizers.
Q Why did you decide to become a political activist?
I decided to continue the struggle because our parents and grandparents did not finish it because they were executed. They wanted total freedom from the yoke of colonialization. They wanted to be masters of their own destiny and their environment. Today that has not happened because our colonial masters gave us independence without giving us the freedom to act independently. Let me give you an example. France retains 50 percent from Cameroons external trading accounts profits. Before that, France retained up to 65 percent from the profits Cameroon makes in its external trade and the amount was only reduced to 50 percent some five years ago. France keeps the money in a special account it calls a “special operational account” and uses the money as it likes.
Q In practical terms, how have you been carrying out the fight?
Presently, I have refused to take part in anything organized by the government. In Cameroon, there is what I can describe as republican silence. The government gives money to any political leader who remains silent or says what they government wants them to say. I can’t accept that because I am part of a resistance movement. As far as I am concerned, a resistance movement only sits with an opponent to negotiate how it will leave power. There are good examples from around the world that I can site. Nelson Mandela only accepted to hold talks with the apartheid government in South African to negotiate its end. Martin Luther King Jr accepted to talk with the then US president Johnson only when he accepted to sign the civil rights charter. The kind of resistance I lead does not negotiate to share power with anybody. Cameroon is not like a national cake you have to share, it is a country that needs to be built from scratch.
Q Talk about the ghost towns operation which you led because I think that was the first time you came to national prominence in Cameroon in 1991?
I decided to launch the ghost town or national civil disobedience campaign because at that time, Cameroonians were not interested in talking about the politics of their own country. This was mainly due to the repressive nature of the government headed by late president Ahmadou Ahidjo after independence in 1960. I could no longer accept this and in 1985, started setting up the structures that will make sure I get Cameroonians interested in talking about the politics of their own country. In 1990-1991, I started the programme of national disobedience. First there had to be national awakening, then people needed to be educated and after that, they had to take action to get back their freedom. I can say we are now at the action phase of that campaign
Q Will you say that you succeeded?
Of course. If you look at the reasons for which we launched the nationwide ghost towns operations, we achieved all my goals. Cameroonians started talking about the politics in their country, the government started listening to what the people were saying.
There were other national campaigns including a moral rebellion. That rebellion was started to make sure people stopped thinking only about their stomachs. I think Cameroonians have their heads in their stomachs. A man whose head is in his stomach cannot think adequately. During my moral rebellion, I went on hunger strike for more than forty days. The idea was to demonstrate that you can live for sometime without necessary eating any food. This was also to show to people that they should not give up their struggle because they could be bribed with a bowl of rice. I wanted people to understand they will not die if they did not eat for a certain period of time because the body had the capacity o survive without for sometime.
Q Lets talk about Mboua Massock the man, You are married with children?
Yes, I am married with children but you must understand that a resistance struggle is very complicated. Always, family members of a resistant fighter always suffer more than he does because he is psychologically prepared for the battle but his family is not. My children have suffered because I am a fighter. This is one of my sons sitting here. I have two older children who are both girls and are twins. I have sons and I have daughters and I also have a wife. We can’t live together as a family because it is very difficult to do so here. This house can be occupied by police and soldiers at any time. You can be interviewing me now and they send troops to come and occupy the house. When I ask what is happening, the troops tell me I am not supposed to leave my house on that day. They say they have instructions to stop me from going out. This happens on very frequently. There is an off licence opposite my house. They will place policemen there and all around my house in uniform.
Q You are permanently under watch?
Yes of course. When I leave my house and return as I did today, I am happy because I could go out and just get arrested.
Q How has your family suffered because of your activism?
My family has suffered a lot because of me. This is my son sitting here. He can confirm that. He can tell you how his name alone gets him into a lot of trouble. My children have problems in school and in many other places because they are the children of Mboua Massock. My wife has problems because she is the wife of Mboua massock. The only luck I have is that there are Cameroonians and some Africans who believe in the kind of battle I am waging and I know a lot of people support my resistance even if they can’t say so publicly.
Q You don’t have a permanent job so how you live, how do you survive?
I was an accountant and decided to abandon my job at Cameroon Airlines to demonstrate to people that my struggle is not to get material wealth. I decided to forget thinking about material wealth because I want to use my head to think. Nobody can lead a struggle while they are looking for money or food.
Q But then your children still have to eat, your wife still has to go to the market
I am a pan Africanist resistance fighter. From time to time, I could cultivate a little farm where I will harvest food and eat. From time to time, a relative might bring food for the family; somebody else could take care of any of my children. I have sacrificed myself to the struggle that I am leading and my family will necessarily suffer as a result. Can you ask Nelson Mandela that when he was in prison for 27 years, how did his family eat? You can’t ask a resistance fighter that question because he has sacrificed his life to the struggle.
Q Do you think your son sitting here is happy with what you are doing?
You will have to ask him that question.
Q Has he ever told you if he is happy or not?
From what I see, he is very involved in the struggle. I think that is because he understands that his grandfather like me now, was very involved in the struggle. He knows we have inherited a certain heritage. He does not avoid me, rather he protects me.
Q Is Mboua Massob a very happy man?
Yes, I am very happy. I am happy because I am leading a struggle that is beneficial to humanity. I am very proud of what I do and so I am a happy man.
Q How far do you intend to go? How long will you continue this fight?
I will continue the struggle till I die. My struggle transcends time.