Rudolf Duala Manga Bell: martyr and hero of Cameroon | King of Duala People

Rudolf Duala Manga Bell -roi-bell-cameroun

Rudolf Duala Manga Bell: martyr and hero of Cameroon | King of Duala People

Marcus Garvey :

 A man without culture is like a tree without a root. »

The Rush to Africa of the Western Colonial Powers

Cameroon, like many African countries, has to face the rush of Portuguese, English, French and German in Africa. They fought fiercely to divide Africa and establish their colonies. Indeed, in 1860, the Germans arrived in Cameroon. They are subdued by the beauty of the landscapes, nature and African flora. They discover a people who live from fishing, agriculture and trade to the River Wouri. A German botanist, Mann studied the flora and took the opportunity to climb Mount Cameroon in 1861.
Four families reigned among the Dualas (Douala): the Akwa kings, the Bell kings, the Prisio and Deido princes. In addition, Douala is composed of different tribes: the Bakweri, the Bakole, the Bamboko, the Isubu (or Isuwu), the Mungi, the Wovea, the Limba (or Malimba). All these families, as well as the people, see people coming from elsewhere, with technology and wealth that they do not know, land on their land. They must face the colonial battle of all these different countries to conquer them.
Perhaps feeling the danger, for fear of losing their lands, in 1879, King Akwa, with the consent of all the chiefs, wrote to Queen Victoria and asked England to ensure Cameroon’s protectorate. On November 6, 1881, the two kings, of the two lines Akwa and Bell, united and wrote another letter, with the same request, to the British Prime Minister. But, the answer is a refusal. With the arrival of the Germans on their territory, the chiefs made the same request to the Germans. The Germans accept the proposal. A “Germano-Douala” treaty was signed on July 11 and 12, 1884, in the estuary of Rio Camaroes (Wouri). Cameroon, following this treaty, is under German protection. Cameroontown becomes Kamerunstadt. Political and economic sovereignty is transferred to the German territories. But, the Duala (Douala), remain the only owners of their land.
The first tensions begin. The leaders of the Bonaberi, on the right bank of the Wuri, Lock Priso, regarded this treaty very badly. He categorically refuses this treaty and does not accept that the German flag be hoisted (19 July 1884) under Cameroonian territory. By way of retaliation, the Germans, better armed, bombard the neighborhoods of Bonaberi and Joss Town.

Beginning of life and reign of King Rudolf Duala Manga Bell

A very rich family heritage
Rudolf Duala Manga Bell is the eldest son of King Auguste Manga Ndoumbé Bell, of the Bell lineage of the Douala people. His father was a great builder and a great merchant. He had developed a great economy of hunting elephants and planting. He also sold agricultural products such as cocoa, palm oil, wood and ivory. Thanks to all this money, he invested in real estate towards Bonanjo. It was one of the greatest fortunes of the country. Rudolf’s father built a sumptuous palace in the center of Douala “the Pagoda”. Today, the “Pagoda” is the biggest tourist attraction of the city.
In 1872, Rudolf Duala Manga Bell was born. He comes into the world with a very strong family heritage, for he is the son and grandson of kings of the Bell lineage. Anxious about his education, he was sent to Germany to continue his studies. He enrolled at Ulm high school, then went to Bonn to study law at the university. He learns and speaks fluent German. It is made “Ein-Jähriger”, it is a certificate that confirms that it has an education above the primary level.

In 1896, he finished his studies in Germany and decided to return home, in the land of his father and ancestors.
In December 1896, he married Engombe Dayas, a Métis of English-Cameroonian origin. She is the daughter of the English captain Thomas Dayas. He becomes a civil servant and learns, with the help of his father, how to manage the affairs of the country, under the German administration.
In 1902, Kamerunstadt becomes Douala (eponymous of Ewale founder of the city) and Buéa becomes the capital of Cameroon. Due to the excessive presence of the German administration, tensions are beginning to appear between the colonial authorities and the Bell families, Akwa and the people of Douala.
Between 1902-1903, Rudolf traveled to Germany, with his father, to complain to the German authorities. King Auguste Manga Ndoumbé, thanks to the help of his educated son, manages to formulate his complaint and the wishes of his people. The Germans understand the claims of the people and the journey is a success. They also benefit from visiting other countries in Europe, such as England.
On September 2, 1908, Rudolf’s father died. He succeeds his father as the supreme leader of the Bell clan, which includes the Bonamandones, Bonapriso, Bonadoumbe, all the owners and inhabitants of the Joss plateau in Douala. On May 2, 1910, he was officially inducted into the kingdom by the chief of the Bonaberi, respecting their traditional customs. The Germans recognize his authority in the city of Douala, the coastal strip, the Wouri basins, the Sanaga and the Nyong, and his relations are rather positive with them.
King_Rudolf Duala Manga Bell_of_Cameroon

His father Auguste Manga Ndumbe leaves him as inheritance:

  • A pension of 8,000 trademarks, cocoa plantations (200 hectares) and timber in the Mungo Valley, property in Douala, and a lucrative position as head of a court of appeal having jurisdiction On the coast of Cameroon. But he also bequeathed debts of about 7,000 trademarks.
  • Thanks to his father and grandfather, Ndumbe Lobe of Bell, Rudolf inherits a strong political position on the other lines of his clan.
  • Its mission is to maintain peace and unity in its clan and with its people.
  • Despite, the many rivalries and tensions that appear little by little. He also fights to keep good relations with neighboring peoples.

The source of the conflict: the “gross Duala” urbanization project

Tensions are becoming more and more intense. The “gross Duala” urbanization project in 1910 of the German governor, Theodore Seitz, is at the origin of all the evils between King Rudolf Manga Bell and his people, with the German authority in place.

But how does this urbanization project consist exactly?
This project consists in creating a colonial city on the river bank, after having expropriated the Duala populations, and to separate it from the African city by a Freie Zone of a width of one kilometer.

  • Step 1) They want to expel the inhabitants of Douala from their place of residence, to set up a colonial city for the Europeans. It will be a sector for the establishment of public services and residences.
  • Step 2) Create new subdivisions (New Bell, New Akwa, New Deido) for these populations. This second sector is for the people of Douala.
  • Step 3) Separation of the local population, with the new city, thanks to the Freie Zone of one kilometer wide.
  • Step 4) They will compensate the indigenous people by paying them.

The real reason: The Germans find that the indigenous populations are dirty and vectors of disease. According to German doctor Zieman, “72% of Duala are infected with malaria or malaria. “Being said, for reasons of hygiene or public utility, they want to expropriate the lands of the Cameroonian people.
This project does not respect the treaty of 12 July 1884:
They prevent the inhabitants of Duala (Douala) from feeding and supporting themselves. It should be noted that the people lived by fishing and agriculture. Land and sea are vital for their survival.
They rob the land of the ancestors of the people, for a derisory price. The proposed sum is 40 Pfennigs per square meter. And even for money, the land of these ancestors is not sold.
According to the treaty of 1884, the rights to settle land problems are not the responsibility of the Reich but of the Duala. “
The protectorate treaty signed at the time did not provide for the expulsion of Cameroonians from their place of residence and that this separation of territories was a form of Apartheid.
When the leaders of the different clans are informed of this project “shameful. “They oppose it fiercely:” Our lands and wealth are our wealth, it is their sale that we live. “
Rudolf Duala Manga Bell, feels betrayed and bruised, for he had a cordial understanding with the Germans. He calls this project “apartheid. He vigorously rebelled against this totally absurd and unjust urbanization project. All the clan leaders united with King Rudolf Manga Bell are united against this project and categorically refuse to move and choose another place of residence. Character, presence, education, speaking German, make King Rudolf Duala Manga Bell, the man of the situation.
The Germans refuse to listen to the claims of the people of Duala (Douala) and declare that they manage the Duala lands as they see fit.
The struggle of a hero: “Words” as a weapon against injustice
King Rudolf explains that the urbanization project is contrary to their values and does not respect the treaty of protectorate signed in 1884.
He explains that they deprive the inhabitants of acting and living freely on their lands.
It starts a war. His weapons are the “words.” He began a campaign to raise awareness, mobilization and information (as in an election), based on letters, petitions and unification.

Different written letters:
Through Rudolf, the leaders sent a letter in March 1912. He continued with a second telegram in January 1913.
They continue their struggle by writing a letter on February 20, 1913. They say that if this continues, they will revoke the “German-Douala” treaty and treat it with another power.
“The plan of expropriation ignores the promise of the treaty that the land cultivated by us and the places of the built cities are the property of the present owners and their successors. “
Here is an excerpt from the petition of February 20, 1913:

  We begin by denying the need to create a European city and a purely indigenous city. The conception that these two arrangements are necessary is not supported by the commercial settlers, the missionaries … The government aside, more precisely a part of its officials, or by all the natives.»

The sanctions fell for Rudolph Manga Bell and he was provisionally dismissed on August 4, 1913, from the civil service office, to replace him by his brother Henri Lobe de Bell. In addition, the German authorities withdrew 3,000 brands.
But nothing stops the courageous king. He writes to the Reichstag, parliamentarians, journalists, missionaries and continues to make petitions to denounce this project of violation and expropriation of the land of the inhabitants of Douala. He leads a political struggle on all fronts.
With the help of the German journalist Hellmut Von Gerlach, he succeeded in obtaining a suspension order from the Reichstag Budget Committee in March. But Wilhelm Solf, the colonial secretary, went behind and succeeded in convincing the Germans to pursue the project of expropriation.
All this does not stop him, King Rudolf Manga Bell takes his pen in weapon and makes petitions while mobilizing his people. He asks permission from the German administration to send an emissary to Germany. But the Germans refused.
Secretly, clandestinely, the king decides to send his emissary Adolf Ngoso Din to Germany to hire a lawyer for Douala and defend their interests. Ngosso Din executed and contacted the opposition circles in parallel to raise awareness of their causes.
But German authority, limited, begins the destruction of the houses for the project of expropriation of the land. In 1913, all clans received a notice by decree to leave the premises.
Desperate, he contacts all the leaders of Yaounde, Dschang, Bali, Yabassi, Fomban, Ngaoundere, Charles Atangana (Karl Atangana) of the peoples Ewondo and Bane, Banyo to mobilize them. Martin Paul Samba decides to seek military support from the French. The king, hands tied, decided to turn with other European governments and leaders of neighboring ethnic countries to have their support.
Unfortunately, the Germans are aware of all these steps. They were convinced that the inhabitants were divided and could not stand united in order to face this project. In anger, they realize they were wrong to over estimate the courage, honor and pride of a people. On May 10, 1914, they arrested King Rudolf Duala Manga Bell and charged him with “high treason. On 15 May 1914, they also arrested his emissary Ngosso Din in Germany and sent him back to Douala on 24 May 1914.
On August 7, 1914, their trial was deliberated. Following a West African attack by the allies in Kamerun, the trial is postponed.

Death and execution of courageous men

To get rid of King Manga Bell and his allies, the German administration condemn them for “high treason” and arrest all the leaders and support entourage of King Manga Bell.
Ngosso Din and King Rudolf Duala Manga Bell were executed by hanging on August 8, 1914, at around 5 pm After a quick, unjust, undefended instruction, Ngosso Din and King Rudolf Duala Manga Bell were executed by hanging on August 8, The reign of the king lasted from 1908 to 1914.
The last words of Rudolf are:
« Unschuldiges Blut hängt ihr auf. Umsonst tötet ihr mich. Aber die Folge davon wird die größte sein. »

Innocent blood depends on it. Freely, you kill me. But the consequence will be the greatest. I beseech you, listen to my last will, that this land will never be bought by the Germans. »


  • Rudolf Douala Manga Bell  (1872 – 1914)
  • Adolf Ngosso Din (1882 -1914)
  • Martin Paul Samba (1874 – 1914)

Last words of Martin Paul Samba, to the German executioners:

 You will never have Cameroon. » 

  • In Grand Batanga, Chief Madola, accused of sending a canoe to contact an enemy ship at sea, is deported and executed in turn.
  • Edited in Kribi.
  • In Northern Cameroon, a few days later, the Lamibé of Kalfu and Mindif and five dignitaries of Maroua are also killed.

Germans wanted to destroy this national movement of the Cameroonian people. This nationalist movement was seen as a danger to them. It was absolutely necessary to eradicate it.
The prayers of the Cameroonian heroes were heard, for the Germans lost the war and were obliged to cede all their colonies. On September 27, 1914, the allies arrived in Douala.
On September 28, 1914, Richard Din Manga Bell and Theodore Lobe Bell, brothers of Rudolf, were successively regents until 1950. They will fight actively to recover their lost lands. In 1950, after 30 years of battles, Rudolf’s son, Alexandre Ndoumb’a Douala, became king from 1950 to 1966.


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