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Royalty and Politics

Tuesday 2 June 2009, author(s)-editor(s) Fo Angwafo

The Story of My Life

Royalty and Politics is the fascinating autobiographical account of a life rich in controversy, leadership, service, achievement and innovation. Born 1925 into the prominent and influential royal family of Mankon in the Bamenda Grassfields of Cameroon, Solomon Anyeghamotü Ndefru least expected becoming king, only to find himself the chosen one following the death of his father in 1959. As Fo Angwafo III of Mankon, one of the most educated ‘traditional rulers’ at the dawn of independence, he succeeded into Parliament first as an independent, and subsequently as a member of the Cameroon National Union. He has served as First National Vice-President of Paul Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement since 1990.

In this unique, analytical and insightful reflection 50 years into his reign, Fo Angwafo III discusses growing up in colonial times; his surprise appointment as king; the 1961 Cameroon Plebiscite and his initiation into politics; being king and politician; coping with the hostility of the modern power elite towards his active involvement in politics; churches, schools and politics; life as an agriculturist; and investments in tending the Kingdom of Mankon. He argues that the best way of consolidating traditions is to make them modern, and that modernity can only make sense to the extent that it is firmly grounded in traditions. In many ways he feels his life encapsulates this negotiation and reconciliation of continuity and change.

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ISBN 9789956558315 | 148 pages | 216 x 140 mm | B/W Illustrations | 2009 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

6 Book Reviews

  • Royalty and Politics 19 June 2009 19:17, author(s)-editor(s) Professor Nicodemus Fru Awasom, PhD

    Dear All, My question to you: Who has not yet read : ROYALTY AND POLITICS: THE STORY OF MY LIFE and what are you waiting for?

    1.His Royal Highness, Fon Angwafo 111, our Father, has done it in a big and an unprecedented way. He has done what all his contemporaries have failed to do-to leave behind to posterity an account of their stewardship. My question is: who shall afford not to support that endeavour?

    2.It has not been common in Cameroon to have autobiographical works. Politicians come and go-Ahidjo, Muna, Johm Ngu Foncha, Endeley and you name them. These politicians left in their wake only rumours about what they did or what really happened or could have happened. The Foumban 1961 Constitutional Conference, which currently occupies the central stage of political discourses in Anglophone Cameroon, remains a topic of speculation and what people cynically say about it is "the long necks" and "the wine" Ahidjo generously treated the Anglophone delegation to. None of the statesmen who attended the Foumban Constitutional Conference has told us his own part of the story.

    3. Fon Angwafo stands tall and proud to write an account of his stewardship to the Mankon people and the Cameroon nation as a whole. Very few Mankonians know of the Fon’s strenuous political manoeuvrings with Ahidjo and his dreadful secret police to safe the kingdom of Mankon from extermination under the false rumours being peddled in the early 1960s by our political rivals and enemies that Mankon was a breeding ground and safe haven for UPC insurrectionists. If there is anything for which history will record Angwafo’s achievements, it was his ability,through tact and intelligence, to save his people from wanton destruction by the tyrannical Ahidjo regime. Please, read the Fon’s story. You will not regret it.

    I am urging each and every one of you to buy the Fon’s recent book release titled: Royalty and Politics. I have already bought three copies: one for my wife, one for my daughter and one for myself. How many have you bought? Please, lets make history with our Fon.

    Professor Nicodemus Fru Awasom, PhD

    • Royalty and Politics 22 October 2009 14:33, author(s)-editor(s) Musongong Ntse Luke (Nkiante-lah)

      My deepest regards to Professor Awasom, Indeed Fon SAN Angwafor III has exposed what I wish to considered a transparent account of his role in Cameroon’s nation building. He boldly identifies his stombling blocs in the likes of some personalities and institutions. What stroke me most is the role of the Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists in the political shaping of our nation. The Fon laments that his position as landlord to these missionary institutions to whome he gladly offered Mankon land to use for the propagation of their missionary desires ceased to exist. Fortunately,he still believes this issue can be reverted in his lifetime. Actually, Royalty and Politics. The Story of my Life, is worth reading by anyone. Unfortunately, I became some how disappointed with the quality of the pictures that tells part of the story. The publishers would have gone above the standard in terms of quality the pictures. Musongong Ntse Luke (Ph.D Student in History, University of Buea, Cameroon)

  • Royalty and Politics 4 December 2009 15:18, author(s)-editor(s) T. Bah Tanwi,IV, MD

    Fon Angwafo has produced a rare behind-the-scenes peek at the profoundly secretive, convoluted world of Cameroon politics from the position of an involved Monarch. Politics in Cameroon is essentially identical to politics in virtually all of Africa - intensely secretive with enough intrigue and mischief to make Niccolo Machiavelli envious.

    Virtually all highest echelon members of the political class leave behind no revealing documentation in writing about their public lives except for occasional boiler plate pap. By Cameroon standards, Fon Angwafo has gone much further. There is a great deal we would like to see the Fon flush out; many of us are salivating for more and more. I am certain beyond any reasonable doubt that The Fon has released less than a miniscule fraction of one percent of what he knows. How I wish some of the Founding Fathers (who preceded The Fon into politics) such as N.N. Mbile, John Ngu Foncha, E.M.L Endeley, Augustin Ngom Jua as well as the veteran colossal political leader and statesman S.T. Muna (all of whom The Fon mentions in his book), had given us as much of a peek in writing prior to their passing.

    I have the highest recommendation for The Fon’s book

    T. Bah Tanwi,IV, MD

  • BOOK REVIEW: Autobiography of Fon Angwafor III S.A.N of Mankon 10 January 2010 21:40, author(s)-editor(s) Sam-Nuvala Fonkem

    The story of my life is told by a prince "born on leopard skin" who rose from very humble beginnings to become one of the most highly educated members of his tribe in the pre-independence days and an enlightened monarch of the Mankon people, whose welfare and progress became his overriding and paramount preoccupation.

    It is the story of a big-hearted man who would be clocking 85 years come May 2010 and who has had the singular experience of celebrating the golden jubilee of his accession to the throne; a royal stool he had least expected to sit on when he recalls the hardships he suffered to acquire the financial and basic requisites of modern education.

    The responsibility for getting a Western education was placed not on the Fon but on the maternal family of the prince as was the case in most royal families in those days, particularly because princes were hardly encouraged to attend the white man’s school where they were subjected to all sorts of indignities including corporal punishment. So only the sons of commoners were sent to schools. As he had no viable maternal uncle or relatives to sponsor his education, he relied on personal effort, tending tomato and cabbage gardens and helping his father manage a food supply contract he had with the Bamenda Prison.

    The story of Fon Angwafor III is the story of a traditional ruler who did not only have to reconcile tradition and modernity, but also monarchical rule and modern democratic governance. His decision to run for a parliamentary seat in 1962 earned him the wrath of career politicians including the late John Ngu Foncha, leader of the KNDP of which Angwafor was a prominent member because they felt that traditional leaders should not meddle in politics.

    The young Fon was not to be deterred. He felt Mankon people had been sidelined in politics and modern administration for too long and a parliamentary position would enable him advance the interests of his tribe. After consultation with his people, he ran as an independent candidate and won against four candidates fielded by other political parties. Since then, the Fon had always represented the Mankon constituency in parliament under the various political dispensations Cameroon has undergone until 1988, when he claims to have resigned from politics.

    While the "Story of My Life" is a moving narrative of a farm-loving prince with a peculiar brand of humour marked by a not-so-cordial relationship with the Anglophone political class (with the glaring exception of the late S.T. Muna), one gets the impression that the 70 pages of narrative were grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the leadership space occupied by Fon Angwafor in the past half century.

    The publisher and editors adopted the brilliant idea to have the Fon come across in his own words but unfortunately left the reader hungering for more as they failed to provide an exploratory road map for the Fon’s journey down memory lane. So many unanswered questions, loose ends and complete blanks for the autobiography of a man who is privileged to have lived this long to tell his story.

    His relationship with the President of the Republic, Paul Biya, whom he assists at the leadership of the ruling CPDM party, is not adequately covered. How come he says he resigned from politics in 1988 only to step into Foncha’s shoes in 1990 as Vice President of the CPDM, when Foncha resigned? Could it be said that his resignation in 1988 was prompted by President Biya’s ban on 1st class Fons from running for parliamentary office? Seventy pages of the 140-page book are devoted to lots of poorly engraved and miniaturized and uncaptioned photos.

    While Langaa should be commended for venturing into the uncommon genre of biographies, I would humbly suggest that a more fleshed out edition be embarked on or a professional biographer be encouraged to take up the challenge of doing an in-depth job, using ’The Story Of My Life’ as a springboard to delve into the instructive and eventful life of a living legend who is not only a down-to-earth character, but also a Mountain of a Man who might have had the effect of making even men of average height feel like Lilliputians.

    Source: www.postnewsline.com

  • Royalty and Politics 14 June 2010 20:14, author(s)-editor(s) Kathryn Toure

    “I am what my father was not, but I clearly couldn’t have been without what my father was.”

    At the age of 84, the 20th Fon or King of Mankon – in north western Cameroon – relates in 70 pages his life from colonial times to tending the palace and treats us to another 70 pages of “My life in photos” – from the young prince to awards and recognitions. From the telling, the listener learns what it takes to lead, build community, and shape the future. Threads of thinking on land, culture, agriculture and education run throughout the text, leading to lessons in rooting, opening, and growing.

    The story begins with Anye, who went to primary school under missionaries and took the civil service exam with an option in agriculture, before addressing broader questions of community and national development. Anye worked as a record keeper “travelling to all the farms in and around Buea... I was in the office keeping records, and out in the farms seeing the plots, and seeing the people...” (p. 10). Once he received his Senior Cambridge Secondary School certificate and was to be transferred to the School of Agricultural Techniques in Ibadan, Nigeria, his co-workers said, “Why you no been tell we say na so you know the book?” (p. 10). In 1951, he attended the Ibadan School of Agriculture, and – imbibed with a love for the land and for self-reliance – just as he had grown tomatoes and cabbages when in primary school, he did numerous small jobs to earn money to buy books and cover other expenses.

    One would think that the one having been away from home for so long might be forgotten when it comes to local governance. But the big surprise came when Anye went home to solicit the name for his third child and was asked to be king. Despite his desire to return to his work, he had no choice, in the hands of his mothers. At the age of 34, he was confirmed Fo Mankon and began his journey from Solomon Anye to Fo Angwafo III. The elders appreciated their new king, steeped in tradition and the ways of the land and also exposed to ideas from school, visiting scholars who traveled to Mankon, and people from various backgrounds who settled and did business in Mankon. His abilities to marry the best of multiple worlds appealed to the elders.

    Having just been initiated into royalty, it did not take long for Fo Angwafo III to venture into politics, where he served for 25 years. He was elected into the Cameroon House of Assembly and later the National Assembly, serving until retirement in 1988. Criticised for assuming incompatible roles, Fo Angwafo “refused to subscribe to the dichotomy between Fon and politician” (p. 29) and led a life in which he traveled between and linked traditional authority and the modern state.

    In his turn, he criticised those who rushed rather than thinking development through and insisted that “[w]e should study our traditional institutions side-by-side with the imported system we are trying to implement” (p. 40). He argues that chiefs would have been relegated to tokenism and auxiliaries of the administration had they not taken things into their hands. And he implores other chiefs to negotiate and evolve their positions so as to be relevant to modern political processes. He asks, “If chieftaincy was that incompatible with modern politics and bureaucratic state power, why then should they so desperately need recognition through traditional titles?”, and gives the example of the title of “Fon of Fons” conferred upon President Paul Biya (p. 41).

    The place of education and of land in this autobiography, as mentioned earlier, is prominent. According to Fo Angwafo:

    [E]ducation is the key to any meaningful achievement... Although education necessarily comes with new values, I believe that a thorough grounding in our own ways best prepares us to adapt the values we adopt through education... Only by producing something does the degree become a meaningful achievement... Our education must reinforce rather than diminish our humanity and community spirit. It must yield togetherness, not individualism. (pp. 52, 63 and 65)

    Land also is “central to everything” (p. 59). Fons are known for catering for education and the interest of the community by having donated land for the first schools in Cameroon. Royal lands were given in trust, to be harnessed, not owned. Fo Mankon explains the need, even in evolving to a system of land ownership, to ensure that land be used for community empowerment. This may be achieved for example by ensuring that Fons as cultural authorities continue to serve on school boards. The “ability to negotiate as a collectivity is tied to a certain authority over land” (p. 54), which should not be relinquished. Land should not be given up but handed over as a cultural resource to be judiciously used in the interest of the collectivity.

    Fo Angwafo III is seeking to put science and research at the doorstep of Mankon’s children and grandchildren through a university and to “enrich our culture though encounters with others” (p. 68). In running the kingdom, he decided to keep Mankon culture across and crossing borders and far from home close to home and to facilitate “feeding from and into developments at home” (p. 60) through written memorandum and two visits to the United States in the 21st century.

    What will become of kings – chiefs or Fons? What of the worlds of Palace and Parliament? Are they separable, incompatible, overlapping, intertwined, intertwine-able? Do Fons have a role in collective approaches to claiming national power and resources? What will be their role in supporting movements toward larger scale communities and unions, knowing that “big unions can only function to the extent that they are well grounded in the various localities which constitute them?” (p.44). Answers will be found in reading and foreseeing, in adopting and adapting, in dialoguing and making choices about the shape of things to come. The future is to be found as much in the rear-view mirror as is in the encounters in the journeys of life, so we learn from Anye, Fo Angwafo III of Mankon.

    by Fo Angwafo III and published by Langaa, 2009; reviewed by Kathryn Toure in 2010

  • Royalty and Politics 14 June 2010 20:16, author(s)-editor(s) Kathryn Toure

    « Je suis ce que mon père n’était pas, mais je ne pouvais évidemment pas être sans ce que mon père a été. »

    A l’âge de 84 ans, le 20ième Fon ou roi de Mankon – dans le nord ouest du Cameroun – relate, en 70 pages, sa vie de l’époque coloniale aux habitudes du palais et nous régale avec 70 pages de « Ma vie en photos » – de la jeunesse du Prince aux prix et distinctions. Dans ce récit, le lecteur apprend ce qu’il faut pour diriger, former une communauté, et façonner l’avenir. La terre, la culture, l’agriculture et l’éducation sont abordées tout au long du texte, conduisant à des leçons d’enracinement et d’ouverture.

    L’histoire commence avec Anye, qui fréquente l’école des missionnaires et passe l’examen de la fonction publique, avec une option en l’agriculture, avant d’aborder des questions plus larges de développement communautaire et national. Anye travaille comme agent comptable « voyageant dans les exploitations agricoles dans et autour de Buea... J’étais dans le bureau de la tenue de registres, et dans les fermes, regardant les champs et voyant les gens... » (p. 10). Une fois obtenu son certificat de Cambridge Senior Secondary School et sur le point d’intégrer l’École des techniques agricoles à Ibadan, au Nigeria, ses collègues lui disent : «Pourquoi tu ne nous as pas dit que tu connais le livre? » (p. 10). En 1951, il fréquente l’Ecole d’agriculture d’Ibadan, et – animé d’un amour pour la terre et pour l’autosuffisance – de la même manière qu’il a cultivé des tomates et des choux quand il était à l’école primaire, il fait de nombreux petits métiers pour gagner de l’argent afin d’acheter des livres et de couvrir d’autres dépenses.

    On pourrait penser que celui qui a été loin de chez lui pendant si longtemps pourrait être oublié quand il s’agit de la gouvernance locale. Mais la grosse surprise vient quand Anye rentre chez lui pour solliciter, comme veut la coutume, le nom de son enfant A ce moment on lui demande de devenir roi. Malgré son désir de retourner à son travail, il n’a pas le choix, il est entre les mains de ses mères. À l’âge de 34 ans, il est confirmé Fo Mankon, et commence le voyage qui le mène de Salomon Anye à Fo Angwafo III. Les anciens apprécient leur nouveau roi, ancré dans la tradition et les techniques agricoles mais aussi ouvert aux idées acquises à l’école, aux chercheurs qui voyagent au Mankon, et aux gens d’horizons différents installés et faisant des affaires au Mankon. Ses capacités à allier le meilleur des mondes multiples rencontrent l’approbation des vieux.

    Ayant tout juste été initié à la royauté, il ne faut pas longtemps à Fo Angwafo III pour se lancer dans la politique, où il sert pendant 25 ans. Il est élu à la Chambre de l’Assemblée du Cameroun et plus tard à l’Assemblée nationale, où il travaille jusqu’à sa retraite en 1988. Critiqué pour avoir assumé des rôles incompatibles, Fo Angwafo refuse « de souscrire à la dichotomie entre Fon et homme politique » (p. 29) et mène une vie durant laquelle il navigue entre l’autorité traditionnelle et l’État moderne avec le souci de les relier.

    A son tour, il critique ceux qui se précipitent plutôt que de réfléchir au développement et insiste sur le fait que « nous devrions étudier nos institutions traditionnelles en même temps que le système importé que nous essayons de mettre en œuvre » (p. 40). Il fait valoir que les chefs auraient été relégués au rang symbolique et perçus comme simples auxiliaires de l’administration s’ils n’avaient pas pris les choses en main. Fo Angwafo III implore les chefs de continuer à négocier et de faire évoluer leurs positions de manière à être en phase avec à la vie politique moderne. Il demande, « Si la chefferie était autant incompatible avec la politique moderne et le pouvoir d’Etat bureaucratique, alors pourquoi devraient-ils avoir si désespérément besoin d’une reconnaissance au travers de titres traditionnels? », et donne l’exemple du titre de « Fon des Fons » conféré au Président Paul Biya (p. 41).

    La place de l’éducation et de la terre dans cette autobiographie, comme mentionné plus haut, est importante. Selon Fo Angwafo :

    « L’éducation est la clé de toute réalisation significative... Bien que l’éducation vienne nécessairement avec de nouvelles valeurs, je crois qu’un solide enracinement dans nos coutumes nous prépare le mieux à adapter les valeurs que nous adoptons à travers l’éducation... C’est seulement en produisant quelque chose que le diplôme devient une réalisation significative... Notre éducation doit renforcer plutôt que diminuer notre humanité et l’esprit communautaire. Elle doit susciter le rassemblement, pas l’individualisme. » (pp. 52, 63 et 65)

    La terre est aussi « au centre de tout » (p. 59). Les Fons sont connus pour leur soutien à l’éducation et leur intérêt pour la communauté au travers de dons de terrains pour les premières écoles au Cameroun. Les terrains royaux ont été donnés en confiance, en vue de leur utilisation, mais pas pour être acquis. Fo Mankon explique la nécessité, même dans l’évolution vers un système de propriété foncière, de garantir que les terres soient utilisées pour le bien-être et la promotion des communautés. Ceci peut être réalisé par exemple en veillant à ce que les Fons en tant qu’autorités culturelles continuent à siéger aux conseils des écoles. La « capacité de négocier en tant que collectivité est liée à une certaine autorité sur la terre » (p. 54). Il ne faudrait pas y renoncer. La terre ne doit pas être abandonnée, mais transmise comme ressource culturelle pour être utilisée judicieusement dans l’intérêt de la collectivité.

    Fo Angwafo III cherche à mettre la science et la recherche à la portée des enfants et petits-enfants de Mankon à travers une université et à « enrichir notre culture à travers les rencontres avec d’autres » (p. 68). En régnant sur le royaume, il a décidé de maintenir la culture du Mankon à travers et au delà des frontières, à la fois éloignée et proche. A travers une correspondance écrite et deux visites aux États-Unis au 21ième siècle, il a nourri la communication et le contact en vue de faciliter « un enrichissement à partir de Mankon et pour son développement de Mankon » (p. 60).

    Que vont devenir les rois – chefs ou Fons ? Et le Palais, et le Parlement ? Sont-ils séparables et incompatibles ? Se chevauchent-ils, sont-ils enlacés, et enlace-ables ? Les Fons ont-ils un rôle dans les approches collectives pour revendiquer le pouvoir et les ressources nationales ? Quel sera leur rôle dans le soutien des mouvements vers des collectivités de plus grande envergure, sachant que « les grandes unions ne peuvent fonctionner que dans la mesure où elles sont bien ancrées dans les différentes localités qui les composent? » (p. 44). Les réponses se trouvent dans la lecture et la prévision, en adoptant et en adaptant, en dialoguant et en faisant des choix sur la forme des choses à venir. L’avenir se découvre aussi bien en regardant dans le rétroviseur que dans les rencontres des voyages de la vie ; c’est ce que nous apprenons d’Anye, de Fo Angwafo III de Mankon.

    Compte-rendu de lecture de Kathryn Touré, 2010, de l’autobiographie de Fo Angwafo III, publié par Langaa, 2009