Cameroonian community gathers for 4th annual Bamileke Genocide Conference and Commemoration
The 4th annual Bamileke Genocide Conference and Commemoration was held to remember the genocide and to connect with Black Americans who have identified Bamileke heritage through DNA testing.
The Central African country fought for its independence from Britain and France in the 1950s and 60s. Conflict between rebels seeking independence and the French and Cameroon militaries led to the death of tens of thousands of Bamileke Cameroonians, an ethnic group that was targeted throughout the conflict.
The death toll is still largely debated, ranging from 60,000 to 400,000 people killed between 1959 and 1964 in the country’s western region, where the Bamileke people live.
Adelaide Madiesse Nguela, one of the event’s coordinators and a descendant of the Bamileke people, said the conference is about “reliving the trials, but not the tragedy.”
“This was a very tragic past but also a story of triumphs,” Madiesse Nguela said. “We get together in order to showcase our culture, to commemorate all of those who were killed because they were fighting for our liberation. To share their stories. To share our story. To find healing together. To educate ourselves.”
Madiesse Nguela said that with each conference, she hopes to further bring this little-discussed history to the forefront so that they may take steps toward healing and accountability.
“Our story has been told by strangers or by the oppressor; we want to tell our own story in our own way and to be known to the world,” Madiesse Nguela said. “We want to make sure that what we went through does not happen again…we must continue to speak and educate.”
Gordon Manker recently found out about his Bamileke ancestry in December 2022 and has connected with its local community of about 250 people.
“It’s been a whirlwind. If you really want to know where you come from, you have to do the AfricanAncestry.com DNA test, because that will change your life,” Maker said. “You can gravitate to language, the foods that they eat, the clothes that they wear, the spirituality that they have, everything that you want to know that's been a part of you for the last 400 years, and it drives you to learn more about yourself.”
Bamileke community members also presented 11 stones to the Jewish community, honoring the 11 killed in the October 27, 2028 synagogue shooting.
Martin Gaynor, a survivor of the shooting, accepted the stones on behalf of the local Jewish community.
“It just touches me very deeply that people who live in our community and our neighbors care enough and are thoughtful enough to reach out and make a connection,” Gaynor said. “Those kinds of connections mean so much. They carry me and they carry all of us together, and it gives me tremendous hope for the future.”
More information on next year’s event will be posted on the event’s website genocidebamileke.com.