Christian mission agencies and the question of slavery in German Cameroon, 1884-1916
Mission agencies claimed to exhibit enlightenment motifs of progress, liberty, civilization and unity of humanity. This amounted to a paradoxical association between the mission agencies and the anti-slavery campaign in Africa like elsewhere. In German Cameroon, Catholic and Protestant missions engaged in the battle against slavery, while at the same time colluding with the colonial government to perpetuate it in transformed ways. Expectedly, as German missions took measures to surmount slavery, they surprisingly peddled its perpetuation in diverse ways. This paper critiqued the involvement of mission agencies in the campaign against slavery in German Cameroon from 1884 when Germany annexed the territory to 1916 when her imperial rule was forcibly terminated. It opened with an introductory background that contextualizes the mission-slavery question connection. This is followed by an examination of the efforts of the missions in fighting slavery in Cameroon. The paper further discussed missions’ dependence on indigenous converts in carrying out their numerous activities, along with their complicity with the colonial government in enslaving and exploiting Cameroonians in ways that were beneficial to the German colonial enterprise. The paper therefore submitted that German missions’ battle against slavery was bedevilled by the fact that they gave significant importance to the imperial designs of their government, with little commitment to improving the wellbeing of Cameroonians. Little wonder colonial and missionization exploitation which is inseparable from the modern understanding of slavery was at its highest during the German era.
Keywords: German Cameroon, German missions, slavery