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The Bassa Four Migration Waves To Limbe

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«  […] The first wave of Bassa migrants arrived pre-Victoria Limbe in the 1780s, leaving behind some of its members in Mondoni, Misselele, Tiko, and other small creek enclaves stretching from the west bank of the Mungo River to Ambas Bay. Those who settled Mabeta on the hills overlooking contemporary New Town gradually filtered into areas of pre-Victoria Limbe that would later be known as Church Street, Half Mile, Mile One, and Garden. Although it is not exactly clear what caused this early wave of Bassa migration to the area that Alfred Saker would nearly a century later name Victoria, the migration occurred about the same time that the Duala and Bakweri were moving into the outlying areas of coastal Cameroon. This Bassa migration, like that of the Duala and Bakweri, can be seen as part of a long tradition of Bantu migrations that were arrested in the late nineteenth century by the incidence of European colonization in Africa.

The German Transformation of Victoria

The second wave of Bassa migration to Victoria was directly connected to the plantation economy established there by the Germans on confiscated land between 1884 and 1916. Governor Jasko von Puttkamer was the chief architect of this German policy in Kamerun that had already been implemented in Southwest Africa with resounding success. It consisted of expropriating native lands and handling them over to German commercial companies. Initially rubber was the chief source of wealth for German companies in Kamerun. Cocoa, coffee, and banana cultivation were added in 1895 after Puttkamer saw thriving plantations on the Spanish island of Fernando Po growing these crops. Determined to exploit their newly acquired territory as well as its human resources as best they could, German recruiters were sent to recruit laborers among the Bassa and other groups as far afield as the Bamenda Grassfields. The native laborers formed the menial labor force that cultivated and harvested the commercial produce on the German plantations. As would be expected after the harvest, the demand for porters to transport the crops of the new plantations to the coastal ports increased. Men were taken from their farms and families by the administration to carry these loads on their heads, with the police acting on behalf of the planters. In German Kamerun there occurred a marriage between the colonial state and the German commercial interests, while the natives were placed at the mercy of the colonial German business interest. In this way 10 per cent of the native population was forced into German colonial slavery.

The third wave of Bassa migrants were uproots of the UPC struggle in French Cameroun in the 1950s. These were mainly freedom fighters and their families escaping the carnage unleashed on Bassa villages by the French for daring to oppose French colonial exploitation in Cameroon. For the Bassa who were caught in this struggle, theirs was a harvest of untold misery. Their misery was assuaged by the calm and quiet of their new 'colony' in Isokolo, appropriately named by their tribesmen who inhabited Central Victoria. UPC Bassa refugees did not escape to Isokolo by chance. They could have gone to some other places. But they followed the trail trodden by their forebears who had long ago established a haven there. The Isokolo of the mid-1950s was a forest, covered with huge trees. It was much like the villages this third wave of Bassa migrants left behind in Sanaga Maritime – a very befitting habitat for a people escaping persecution. With memories of the past still vivid and haunting, it is not surprising that many survivors decided never to return to Sanaga Maritime. The fourth and last major wave of Bassa migrants entered Victoria in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This wave consisted of engineers, managers, and industrial workers recruited to work at SONARA, the nation’s oil refining company»

 

[The headline and/or title has been thought up and assigned  by Mathias Victorien Ntep]

From: Basaa Antiquity in Limbe, by Emmanuel Konde, © PyramidHouse (Albany, Georgia) 2010, page 21 through page 22.

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