The Merits of the Federal Republic of Bimbia

Extracted from: Den of Lions Volume II

By Ntemfac Aloysius Nkong Nchwete Ofege.

The Name Issue

Fon Gorji Dinka once said. “Southern Cameroonians have failed to name themselves so every Tom, Dick, Harry and (Janet) can given them a name. It was on the dire need to banish the borrowed name “Cameroon” from this contentious territory that the Fon dug into the history books and came up with the name AMBAZONIA  – the zone beyond Ambas Bay which was itself taken from the word “Amba” a response of the Bota Islanders to the Portuguese sailors when they asked them: What is the name of those flaming mountains? The mountains in question were the Chariot of the Gods. Unfortunately while Ambas Bay exists in the records AMBAZONIA was never codified in International Law. Bimbia is present in early International Law. King William of Bimbia executed the first International Treaties between Southern Cameroons and the International Community

Bimbia was there ages before Southern Cameroons.

Extracts from the Works of Hon PP Nkwenti

Former MP Ndop

DSA History/Geography

University of Yaounde

BIMBIA

HISTORICAL

A: INTRODUCTION:

It is a general consensus among ethnographical researchers, and anthropological historians, particularly the works of Edwin Adener on the coastal Bantus of Cameroon, the “Deutsches Kolonial Lexikon” of the Germans, and “Inventaire Ethnique” by Madame Dugast, that the Kpe-Mboko group of the coastal Bantus of Cameroon constitutes what became known as Bimbia.

The coastal Mboko from Sanje to Mukundange appears to have migrated from the main body of the tribe on the northwestern slope of the Cameroon mountain. In the case of Kpe, she claims the same origins as the Dualas. The Kpe-Mboko group is today confined to the present southern sector of Anglophone Cameroon.

The group consists of Kpe, Isuwu, Wovea, the coastal Mboko in Meme, Kupe – Maninguba and Ndian Divisions of the former Southern Cameroons.

The Kpe occupies about 104 villages, which lie to the east of a line dividing the Cameroon Mountain along its axis. The Kpe extend further inland and are neighbours of the inland Mboko while in the creeks at Ewonji and on the Mungo River at Mondoni, they are neighbours of the Mungo. The Balong bound them to the N.E. The Balong are also along the Mungo River; and on the north between Balong and Mboko; the Kundus and the Rombis bound them.

The Mbokos are made up of the 28 villages lying on the lower side of the Cameroon Mountain from the Kpe. The coastal Mboko from Sanje to Mukundange are confined in small enclaves surrounded on the landward side by the plantation land. The coastal Mboko do not live as high up the mountain as the Kpe.

The Isuwu occupies 3 villages: Wonyabile (Bonabile) Wonyangomba (Bonangoba), and Likolo (Dikolo) on the extreme Southern coast of the Bimbia promontory. The Wovea people occupy the largest Island of the small group in Ambas Bay (Bota Island) and Bota Land. The village of Mondoni on the coast of Bimbia promontory is also related to them.

B. WHAT ACTUALLY WAS BIMBIA?

Bimbia, or BOBIA as was called in the 18th and 19th centuries, is the primitive appellation that was given by early settlers to the coastal area that was generally occupied by the Kpe, Isuwu or Isubu (according to some authors), Wovea, and the coastal and inland Mboko people.

These people were a major littoral Bantu band that settled before the 15th Century A.D on a coastal stretch of land that extended from the swamps of Rio del Rey and Ndian in the far west, through the marshy-land of Bamusso, all in Ndian Division, then south eastwards through Cape Nachtingal and Ambas bay to the Wuri Estuary in Douala. They extended northwards from the 4th to about the 5th degree of latitude around the Rumpi and Muaningouba highlands, latitude 41/2° N and longitude 9°E cut across ancient Bimbia.

Chief Bile, or King William of Bimbia as he was generally called, was the paramount chief of all people of Bimbia. The Isuwu people first appeared on the pages of history only at the time of King William of Bimbia who had come from Bonaberi but who moved Westwards to what became known as Bimbia where his mother’s brother (uncle) lived. During King William’s time, the Isuwu of Bimbia, because of  their more littoral settlement, played a leading role in trade along the coast, second only to that of Duala. In a battle with the Wovea people (Bota Island and Botaland), William solicited the help of the Acting British Consul to the Bight of Benin and Biafra. The Acting Consul supported him to defeat this people and made them recognize him (King William) as King of the stretch of mainland and the islands north of Bimbia.

As early as February 17th 1884,the first treaty officially listed as entered into by an Anglophone coastal Bantu Chief was that signed by King William of Bimbia aided by his compatriots; Prince George, Dick Merchant, and John Bimbia. In this commercial agreement with the British traders, King William accepted that:

“….. the subjects of the Queen of England may  always trade freely with the people of Bimbia in every article they may wish to buy or sell…and the chiefs of Bimbia pledge themselves to show no favour…to other countries which they do not show to those of England.”

The British also signed agreements with the coastal chiefs abolishing human sacrifices. That is why on March 31, 1848, an agreement was signed with the King and chiefs of Bimbia. The agreement read:

“I, King William and all the chiefs of Bimbia, do solemnly promise to do away with the abominable inhuman and unchristian-like custom of sacrificing human lives on account of death of any of the chiefs, or on account of any of their superstitious practices.”

As a step towards modern administration, a treaty was signed also in 1856 by the King, chiefs, and traders establishing a “Court of Equity” in which traders and chiefs were to sit in Bimbia.

Due to unsatisfactory condition in the Island of Fernando Po Alfred Saker decided to move with his followers from there to the mainland opposite which was Bimbia. On June 9, 1858, he reached the mainland and named it “Victoria” in honour of Queen Victoria, the then reigning British Monarch. On August 23, 1858, he signed a treaty with King William of Bimbia who claimed to have unlimited power over the land being arranged for his purchase.

The treaty read:

“….I, William, Chief and the known King of Isubu, and sole and lawful owner of a district contiguous to ISUBU and known as “War Bay” and “Ambas Bay” and Islands belonging thereto, declare, and by this act to make known, that I this day makeover and give  unto Alfred Saker…all my rights and title to the sovereignty and possession of the district therein specified…a coastline beginning at War Bay…

Continuing and embracing FO’O Bay and thence onward to the highlands of Bobia. Second, the interior line of this district shall be from the stream in War bay onward N.E….to join another line N.E. from the highlands beyond Bobia (Bimbia). Third, this district together with all that appertains thereto…I do this day make over and give unto Alfred Saker…and assigns FOREVER for the consideration herewith annexed. And I do hereby acknowledge to have received this day a note of hand and demand for payment of the consideration…”

It would be remembered that the first permanent British settlement as such was in fact a mission station started by Alfred Saker in Douala. Alfred Saker subsequently moved with his flock to the mainland as he purchased land from the King of Bimbia. The land obtained by Alfred Saker at the foot of the Cameroon mountain (FAKO Mt) was about 16km long and 8km wide along Ambas Bay, at the cost of 2.000 pounds sterling worth of goods.

Before the 1860s, trade along the coastal region of the Cameroons was monopolized by the British, mainly because of a series of treaties, which they had signed with the Duala Kings, King William of Bimbia and the chiefs of Bimbia. The Dualas and the Bimbians acted mostly as middlemen.

Before the abolition of the Slave trade, the most profitable trade at the Cameroons and Bimbian coast was none other than the notorious trade on human beings. In Bimbia, the Slave trade enabled King William to enjoy a monopoly over the supply of slave labour to the West African Company. The Duala and the Bimbian middlemen also supplied ivory, palm oil and kernels after the abolition of the Slave trade.

Besides the English, the Germans were also involved in trade with the Bimbians in Bimbia, where John Holt, the British Company, had a trading post. The subsequent decline in British trading activities in Bimbia led John Holt to close the Bimbian Factory in 1873 and sent his agents over to the Cameroons. This is why what was produced in Bimbia then in a small scale was taken either to the Cameroons River or to neighbouring Calabar. German treaty signing in the Cameroons and Bimbia in July 1884 involved sale contracts, negotiated treaties, and treaties of peace. In sale contracts, the local sovereigns transferred their sovereignty to the Germans. Of the 95 treaties that were signed from 1883 to 1907, 08 (including one with Bimbia) were outright sale contracts.

The contract with Bimbia was signed on July 11, 1884 between Eduard Woermann, Schmidt and Shultz, representing the Woermann Firm on one hand, and King William of Bimbia on the other. That is why the hoisting of the German flag at the Cameroons River on July 14, 1884 to mark the final act of claim and annexation of the territory also included Bimbia.

King William accepted that:

“….. the subjects of the Queen of England may  always trade freely with the people of Bimbia in every article they may wish to buy or sell…and the chiefs of Bimbia pledge themselves to show no favour…to other countries which they do not show to those of England.”

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