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Meet a Cameroonian Activist who Beheads Colonial Statues

Activist Andre Blaise Essama has been battling to purge Cameroon of monuments celebrating its French colonial past and replace them with local heroes long before protests swept the world after the death of George Floyd. Essama has flogged, beheaded and toppled statues honouring the French colonial era, earning himself arrests, fines and jail time for vandalism. Over the years, one monument has drawn his particular ire – a statue of French World War II general Philippe Leclerc who was sent by Charles de Gaulle to the colony to rally local leaders and conscripts to help free France from Nazi occupation. “I have removed General Leclerc’s head seven times. I buried them in my village,” says Essama. The authorities replaced the head each time. A wrought iron fence was built in 2015 to protect the monument but that has not stopped Essama. The French general’s place is in a museum, he said. He does not want Leclerc and other colonial administrators to be erased from history but believes they should not be celebrated in Cameroon’s public spaces.