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Obituary: Prince Douala Manga Bell Passes On

The paramount ruler of Canton Bell, Prince Rene Douala Manga Bell, is no more. Prince Manga Bell, considered the most powerful Sawa Chief, died on November 6.

Throughout that fateful day, Sawa traditional authorities and elite in Douala maintained sealed lips about the ‘disappearance’ of the chief. They were reportedly waiting on the highest traditional institution in the Sawa land, Ngondo, to eventually make public the news. Reporters were thus kept away from the Canton Bell Palace, which is located close to Parc des Princes at Bali, Douala.

Though the exact cause of the death of Prince Manga Bell was not immediately known, the octogenarian had reportedly been in poor health and out of public view for some time now. In the past several years, Parc des Princes had always hosted the cultural exhibition, Miss Ngondo competition, and the traditional wrestling competition of the annual Ngondo festival.

Reporters were surprised that, at a press conference in Douala on November 1, the President of Ngondo, HRH Din Dika Akwa, announced that the events of this year’s Ngondo festival will instead hold at the Mbappe Lepe Stadium. No reason was given for this change of venue. It now appears that it was because of the deterioration in the health situation of Prince Bell that the current bureau of Ngondo resolved to change the venue, since Parc des Prince is close to the palace.

Born on February 22, 1927, Prince Rene Bell was the grandson to the celebrated King Rudolphe Douala Manga Bell, who was killed by hanging at Bonanjo, Douala, by the then German colonial masters in 1914, following a standoff over land. Prince Rene Bell later moved to France, and reportedly fought with the French army in Vienna from 1950-53. A prolific writer, Prince Rene Bell published many essays. He was also went into journalism, and worked in France for a number of years as a collaborator with a TV/Radio house.

Prince Rene Bell took over the throne of Canton Bell in 1966 at the age of 39, following the passing away of his uncle, Prince Alexandre Doumbe Bell, son of the late King Rudolphe Douala Manga Bell. He ruled for 46 years, and had become one of the oldest traditional rulers in the entire country, dying at the age of 85. Since the killing of King Rudolphe Douala Manga Bell, the two successive Chiefs of Canton

Bell, Alexandre Bell and Rene Bell, maintained their title of prince, as they did not adopt the title of king. It is not clear as to whether there was any reason for this. Meanwhile, Prince Rene Douala Manga Bell was President of Ngondo for a number of times, and he last held the post from 2008-2010.

It was during his leadership in 2008 that Ngondo staged a historic public protest march in Douala in a fight over a piece of land with the Government and the Douala City Council. President Biya made an appeasement by giving Ngondo a 5.000-metre square piece of land, on which the institution plans to construct its headquarters. It should also be noted that Canton Bell has several prominent elite, among who is the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Laurent Esso.

Joe Dinga Pefok | 11/12/2012 | The PostOnline

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