Text of Cameroon apology: ‘Powerful and meaningful atonement’

Full text of a letter signed by Cameroon's Fon of Bakou, Ngako Ngalatchui. Other Fons of the Bafang subdivision of Bakou, were to sign the letter as well, but instead signed a different set of French-language documents:

From the 14th through the 19th centuries the largest forced migration in human history, the transatlantic slave trade, robbed the African continent of 12 million human beings, forcing them into a life of servitude in which families were torn apart and individuals were bought and sold as inanimate objects. In the year 1772, the male ancestor of the Glade Hill, Virginia African-American Holland family was abducted from present-day Cameroon. The people of the Grassfields region and surrounding communities were complicit with the horrific slave trade that affected thousands of villagers. Countless individuals were marched to Bimbia from Bakou and Yabassi, onward to the Mungo River, and finally to Nicholl Island. The shores of Bimbia were the last the Holland’s ancestor would see of his homeland.

Through the Holland family's research of historical documents, and through DNA analysis, that ancestor has been traced to present-day Cameroon. The DNA evidence has been conclusive enough to point to certain family names in the Western Region of Cameroon. The families of Ngalemo in Bakou/Baboutcha Fongam and Mbonda/Mbopda, currently in Banka and Bandjoun, are the Holland’s direct cousins. These families share a common ancestor dating back to around 1600 C.E.

The Virginia Hollands endured the brutal institution of American slavery, which differed from the slave system in Africa. Even after the formal end of captivity the family suffered a form of slavery that went by a different name. Sharecropping was another institution of disenfranchisement that took place after emancipation in 1865. The Hollands were part of this post-slavery sharecropping system until 1992! One can only imagine the inhumane treatment that the family had to endure from the time of arrival in the United States in 1772 until recent times.

Bakou was instrumental in brokering slaves to European merchants in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries. The community was known to have captured individuals for barter for middlemen from the coast. The middlemen operated under the instructions of the coastal traders and Europeans, who requested the capture of native Africans for the New World. When bartering was complete, these individuals were forcibly sent to the coast only to meet their final fate – one-way passage to the Americas.

It is obvious in the year 2013 that the past has had an impact on the present here in Cameroon. In order to make amends for our slave trade involvement, which caused the Holland family to endure mental and physical anguish, we would like to make a powerful and meaningful atonement. This statement shall be written in English and French. FeFe was the language that was spoken in 1772 when the Holland’s ancestor and others were taken from the area.

We, the local Fons from the Bafang subdivision of Bakou, Cameroon, would like to formally state that we are sorry and issue an official apology for our involvement and the involvement of our ancestors in the horrible institution of transatlantic slavery. The United States of America, France, and the United Kingdom should issue similar formal apologies for this evil institution that broke up families and caused generational hardships that continue to the present day. Our sincere statement should be read to and displayed for thousands of other families who suffered the same fate as the Hollands of Virginia, USA. So say the undersigned on this day Saturday, 26 October, 2013, in Bakou, Cameroon.

Slave descendant's genetic quest leads to African apology