Aboriginal Peoples: Interview with Her Majesty Bebey Elame, Chief of Akwa Bonejang Township

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Aboriginal Peoples: Interview with Her Majesty Bebey Elame, Chief of Akwa Bonejang Township

As a prelude to the International Day of Indigenous Peoples (IDP) held on August 09, 2019, the association KELLAFRIQUE engaged in the sustainable development of villages; Villages also including indigenous populations approached Her Majesty Bebey Elame, traditional chief of the Bonejang Township of Akwa on Monday, August 5, 2019 with the aim of:

  • discover and promote through digital technology the cultural values of the indigenous peoples of the communities of the AKWA Canton of the village of BONEJANG in the Littoral.
  • To record the history of the communities of the Canton AKWA through the village BONEJANG in the Littoral;
  • Describe the food practices and cultural events specific to the communities of the BONEJANG village;
  • Explain the vision of traditional authorities and the involvement of administrative authorities in the institutional framework and well-being of indigenous peoples;

To make itself the team of KELLAFRIQUE Douala deported to the home of His Majesty, who was accompanied by his Private Secretary (SP) Mr. Edimo Mpindi Paul Richard and his Secretary General (SG) Mpondo Ngando.

1.Are you aware of the existence of legal standards for the protection of indigenous peoples?

In principle, the legal existence of standards for the protection of indigenous peoples exists in our people, I am talking first of all about the SAWA people in particular and the BONEJANG village. We are in principle one of the villages that is known in the canton AKWA, but from we have lost part of our village that was occupied by the Autonomous Port of Douala that was called the OMPC before; therefore we have lost several hectares of land i.e. on the side of the Wouri River. Because we had our river there, we fished and fished and so on, and today it no longer exists.

2.Can you give us a brief presentation of the BONEJANG village?

Bonejang is a large village emerging from BONELEKE, we are the descendants of the Mpondo clan who was the plenipotentiary signatory of the Germano-Duala treaty, we will say the birth certificate of Cameroon, it is our grandfather His Majesty Dika Mpondo it is necessary to specify it, because when we are told signatories we were told a lot about Duala Manga Bell but the first people to have signed it was Dika Mpondo it was the small precision that I wanted to add. The BONEJANG village in short is a large village that is located between other villages among many others. It does not only extend here, BONEJANG was divided in two, several years ago but today I will say three: BONEJANG 1 where we are here, BONEJANG 2 which is located at the Ngodi cemetery and BONEJANG 3 which is at the North Akwa level at BONANGANDO. Basically that’s a little bit like that. Now around us, we have different chiefdoms around us. We have on our left as I sit, we have the village BONATI and on the right the village BONELANG and in front of us we have BONELANKUN which is in BONEKOUAMOUANG and behind us we have the river Wouri.

3.Where exactly does the Bonejang people come from?

Then the village BONEJANG comes from the name of a lady called Edjangue. Edjangue who was Eleke’s little sister who is BONELEKE, so when we look at the family tree we have BONELEKE, we have BONENLEMBE and then comes BONEJANG from where we say “eleke di sadi” that means Eleke’s little sister. Uh BONEJANG once we arrived we found a big family here where the BONEBAKALA who were the first people to be in this community and then we had elders who were the BONENDALE, BONENKIYE, BONEMADENGUE, BONENDJENGUELE and so another home that came out of the lot that is BONAPETO so it is assembly of six homes from six families. (Her Majesty’s words)

We are the descendants of Dika Mpondo from BONELEKE. We are called “EdjanguE” and “ElekE SADI” which is BONEJANG. Edjangue was Dika Mpondo’s second wife who saw that at the level of BONELEKE there is more space is where she withdrew on this side and when she arrives on this side she finds Bonapeto and Bakala who are already settled on the high school side we called Mbongoma and Bakala, (which has become a great reference high school and within two weeks from now it will no longer be called Akwa High School, it will be called Akwa Bilingual High School). When Edjangue arrives then, she settles down with her children and Edjangue has had 4 children from Boneleke it is Ineme ngando who is the first son then Kinan Ngando who is the second son, then Edjenguele Ngando and Madengue, Peto we fished him out because Peto came from Bonadouma we call them Bonabona and found himself in our Wouri river where he fished out by lady Peto who was one of the concubines of our grandfather who therefore recovered Peto and Peto became his child and Peto resided in Kane on the Bonadibong side. So that’s the genealogy of the BONEJANG people in a nutshell. (About SP)

4.What are the specificities and values of the BONEJANG people?

You know when we talk about the SAWA people in general, we generally have the same specificities and concerning BONEJANG particularly we are a different people, when I say apart from everything we do in BONEJANG the others copy. We have an adage what we found “when God passes it is Edjangué who follows” “loba nto minké edjangue” so it is our rallying cry. So with regard to this question, that’s all I can tell you.

5.What are the prohibitions (cultural and food) specific to the BONEJANG people?

Before we had fields where our ancestors cultivated and others where we cultivated a little of all the macabo, manioc and so on and we also had our river where we fished fish and others. As far as cultural prohibitions are concerned, I don’t think BONEJANG has a culture specific to the Sawa people; we have a little bit of everything in the village there are no prohibitions specific to culture. Otherwise we have the Ambassude, the Essewe all about culture (SP talk)

We know and must understand that we, the Sawa people, have a rather passive culture when I say passive, that is, we are ready to receive and collect everyone. We are ready to let everything go. We have the culture and habit of being calm, calm people who can bring people together. Moreover, this is an opportunity for me to tell you that we Sawa had just held a great celebration this weekend, which is the caravan of traditional and customary authorities for peace and living together. If you look closely at what happened, this is the very first time I want to tell you. I no longer speak for BONEJANG, I no longer speak for Akwa Canton, I speak for the Sawa people in general, this is the very first time that all the chiefs of the Coast have met. It is a great culture I would not want culture to be particular for BONEJANG I would like culture to be generalized we have the capacity and the possibility and we are so, we are very open and we love peace. (About His Majesty).

6.How is dowry, traditional marriage and widowhood going in BONEJANG village?

Now that’s a very good question, it’s my pleasure to tell you that in a village, in a township, in a community, in a community, it’s all up to us the chief is not in charge of taking care of any kind of thing. So the chief is above the heads of families, community leaders or elders, so it is up to the elders to make these kinds of rites, these kinds of customs and to take care of them, all they can do is faithfully report to the chief (chief the widowhood our wife went well, our sister’s dowry went well) but the chief has the right to look at it because he is first a son of this canton, this village or this community before being the chief. It is an integral part of all activities but does not participate but assists. So we had to make this little clarification, it is not up to the chief but to explain to you; each family has its own way of organizing these rites, these traditions that concern traditional marriage, widowhood. So you will find in some families where you ask for a bottle of whisky and in another one you ask for five bottles of whisky so it is not a lateral formality for everyone, so each family has its own specificity.

7.How do you manage disputes?

It is the leader, but it is still up to the leader to make arrangements, among which we had to redirect responsibilities, you know, traditional chiefdoms have become like governments, the leader is somehow assimilated to the president of the republic. When there is a dispute or when the dispute comes and it is a native of the village, we receive it and we analyze and listen first and when I finish listening I pass the problem back to its leader because the hierarchy would rather have its leader bring me the problem. He jumps to the chief’s house, the chief listens and passes on to the elders who now have the obligation to decide to take the necessary steps and return the problem to me so that I can give a solution or solve the problem and provide a copy of the solution.

Second phase, or I take action and decide and implement and forward the decision to the elders. Because there have been situations in which the notable in question and the person complaining are not in perfect harmony so the chief becomes at that time arbitrator and is obliged to make arrangements in relation to it. (About His Majesty)

8.Are these provisions very often applied?

Yes, because nowadays we are no longer just traditional chiefs, the administration has given us another cap that is an administrative assistant. Everything we do we have the possibility to call the police, now even though the intervention is good or bad it is first executed. First of all, we need what we need to maintain order. Now, on the other hand, when it comes to conflicts in the field, there has been no follow-up at the chiefdom level, the administrative authority is now called upon to convene the entire commission that is coming and meeting and, if possible, even to make visits to the field to try to manage them. But much more in the case of infidelities, it is a talk, a dialogue that we are obliged to initiate because they are not civil criminal cases, so these are mistakes that the world can make, we accept them like that and try to dialogue with the main person concerned. (Majesty)

9.What mechanisms are in place for sustainable development?

With regard to mechanisms for sustainable development, there are already awareness-raising campaigns for men to gather around the association called “dieu la kamer” and also there are women who gather within the association called “edjan edjan” to see what actions can be jointly taken to improve the living conditions of the indigenous people and then the occupants of the village BONEJANG. This means that very often there are small contributions within both entities when there is a need for men within their group and women within their group are called upon to face the problems that arise also in certain circumstances we solicit companies that are all around us to face a possible problem that arises and also we have our elites who contribute enormously when a situation arises when it is necessary to solve a problem so this is in a word the mechanism that is very often used to face the needs for the development of the village BONEJANG. ( Comment SG)

10.Do you think that the people of BONEJANG benefit from the village’s resources?

It is a two-pronged question. To some extent, BONEJANG’s populations already benefit from the support of its elites. In this sense, when an entity would like to bring out a new loincloth, there are the elites who come in support, when there is an event concerning the BONEJANG village, for example, there are the elites and associations who intervene. And in another aspect I could say that the populations of BONEJANG do not benefit enough from the resources. Because I take a tangible case, the village is practically in the city by travelling from this point to the bottom towards Orange, for example, you will realize that there are populations and companies that live side by side and when I see in some districts in some villages the chiefs very often the companies that are established in their territory pay a symbolic sum at the end of the month and more of that the indigenous people whose young people enjoy certain privileges within the companies that are established in BONEJANG. But this is still a battle to be fought and the leader tried to do it during a raid once within Orange, MTN and UTROC; I can say it is a big company but to see we hardly employ the young people of our locality or put SOCADA which has become KAMI today which employs I believe one or two natives of the village BONEJANG so it is a fight that we are fighting, so in terms of resources it is not yet felt at the level of companies or more at least at the level of financing. ( Comment SG)

11.How are His Majesty’s days in the leadership going?

Really the question is quite complex because nowadays our villages have become cities we are already in the heart of the cities so the people around us are companies they are foreigners we accept them so we must not do otherwise we are all Cameroonians.

I’m not going to get up and walk with the loincloth all over the village. The leader must seek to earn a living before he can count on one, two or three elites, so in this sense the leader has two companies ( in quotation marks) that are fortunately running at full capacity by the grace of God. Apart from that, we must also receive the population, we must also listen to the problems of the population, especially when we say that we are leaders, we must be local leaders. You must always be attentive and close to your community in order to be able to know and understand the problems of the people who live in the community. Finally, I receive every day. I have the days I receive on Tuesdays and Thursdays and outside these days except in exceptional cases if we also add to that the administration that invites us, that calls us on time, against time and expressly. When I say so, it is because we do not have a detailed plan of the various ceremonies that take place in our city of Douala.

12.What can public authorities contribute to BONEJANG’s daily life?

The only word I will say is support, support, support and support because I remember when the village of BONEJANG received the sub-prefect of Douala, the first Mr Oumbe Tchakui Jean-Marie, he really promised to receive us all the time that there would be a problem, to be at our disposal, to give us all the help we can, so when we have the sub-prefect of our district who gives us this support, all those who are above him, whether it be the prefect, the governor, the ministers or the head of state, are always there to support the traditional authorities and when we talk about traditional authorities we obviously also talk about BONEJANG. So really all the Sawa communities and all the chiefdoms of Cameroon, especially in BONEJANG, are waiting for the support of the public authorities and their availability.

Interview by VICKY DIN Orensie