Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Preparing an Exam under Gunshots: My Experience with Inter-tribal War

That day was February 13, 2007; a day my memory has deliberately decided never to divorce with.  It was just two days after we had celebrated Cameroon’s National Youth Day on 11 February in total joy and tranquillity. One day after the Youth Day celebration, some women from our village went to their farms around Ibal-Ansang, Ansang, Adongtang and Ambikui’i. They were suddenly attacked by some armed young men from our neighbouring village, Oku, which has been laying claims over portions of one of most fertile forests in that area since 1892. The reckless young men chased our women, collected their farming tools such as hoes and machetes and set their farm huts (known in Mbesa as mentoa ma gveinse) ablaze. There were a few skirmishes here and there that day, but our women felt somehow unsafe without our men so they decided to return home and keep the latter informed. The young men from the other village also went home and rallied their men and women. Men and women from both villages met at the fighting field early on February 13, and began by exchanging insults which forced tempers in both camps to mount until a man in our opponents’ camp pulled the trigger of the gun whose shot roared across our village that day.
For the next three weeks or so, thunderous gunshots kept yelling across the skies of our village. Locally-made and imported guns alike continued to mess our airs with galaxies of smoke, as we locked horns with our neighbours in fierce, bloody battles. Our adversaries soon discovered that their gunshots were always lousy because they persistently missed their human targets. They then resorted to bringing down our corn farms with well-filed machetes, setting countless houses—both grass-thatched and zinc-roofed houses—ablaze, looting our animals and other valuables such as aluminium roofing sheets, sofas, carved wooden chairs, sewing machines, among others.
In the midst of all this chaos, schools were still operational in our village. My classmates and I were in Form Five that year (fifth grade in secondary school), preparing to write the Cameroon General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O Level). Our classes were disrupted every now and then as some villagers fleeing the escalating intertribal war to neighbouring villages like Akeh and Ajung sometimes ran through our school campus at Government Secondary School (GSS) Mbesa.  I still remember one father, Babe Simon Feyufe alias Takekuf who narrowly escaped bullets from the enemies’ camp, fled out of his Ntimati compound, ran through Asuh and Adom, and found himself right inside our school campus, and could never explain when and how he ran up the Fetatinyim hills below the school campus at Ibal. Mr Chia Philip Yemeh, one of my teachers then, and I helped remove a bullet from the skin of his head! The war kept on heightening as days went by, with many women and children escaping with some of their most valuable belongings to neighbouring villages and safer quarters of Mbesa like Njinagwa. However, in spite of the huge numbers of our people fleeing the conflict, my friends and I in school did not seem to be much affected. One day, while people were escaping other parts of the village through our school football pitch to hide in Njinagwa and Akeh, I peeped through one of the windows of our class and saw Ba’a Manga’a, walking slowly across the field with his third leg, his walking stick. That is when I cried out to my classmates that the war had reached its peak because old Ba’a Manga’a was believed to be a very strong man in terms of traditional medicine who could not run away from whatever form of threat. We had been told as toddlers that when war broke out for the first time between our two tribes in 1982 he did not run. He only hid himself along the banks of one small stream near his compound; then some men from the enemy camp searched, found and inflicted numerous wounds with machetes all over his body. When our people discovered him beside that stream, it was days after the incidence and his wounds were already rotting. So nobody believed he could live again, but he surprised everybody as he healed himself and survived the almost-incurable wounds. So I could not see him fleeing danger and I dare stay!
Three of my classmates, Cornelius Ngum Ngong aka Jagua, Liberty Songang Nshom aka Song and Conrad Guo Nsom, and I decided immediately to escape to Fundong, the headquarters of our division and personally narrate our ordeal to the Senior Divisional Officer (SDO) and the Divisional Delegate for Secondary Education in Boyo Division. All other students and teachers in our school took to their heels, prematurely ending classes.  We passed through my family compound at Njinagwa where we took along some women and kids to hide at Laikom (the Kom Fon’s Palace) on our way down to Fundong. As we took the Laikom direction, others fled to Akeh and Ajung. It took us more than six hours of trekking—climbing and descending hills and walking across the Ijim Mountain Forest and Plain with children fastened on our backs and heavy loads on our heads—to reach Laikom.
When we arrived at Laikom, we met many other Mbesa refugees already lodged at the Guest House of the Palace, mainly old women, nursing mothers and children. There was no mediatisation of our refugee status and conditions, probably because we were victims of an intertribal war, which for some is not a major conflict. But, don’t we know that conflict is conflict? Another reason for the absence of mediatisation is that as soon as the war broke out I called the CRTV severally and in vain. I would call and inform them that there was an on-going and escalating war between our two villages. And they would not send any journalist on the field and would equally not inform the public. Perhaps the CRTV did not want to react because our village does not have big people in government and again because our adversaries initially thought they would give us a crushing defeat in the war. But once they noticed that things were getting sourer and sourer on their side, our adversaries quickly informed the CRTV and it reacted promptly. Before doing so, they had attempted to kill our brothers and sisters who were in Government High School (GHS) Ilak-Oku, since we did not yet have a high in our village by then. Thank God that the Divisional Officer for Oku Subdivision and his gendarmerie company commander came to their rescue and before the end of that year GSS Mbesa was raised by the government to Government High School (GHS) Mbesa!
Given my status as a Mbesa prince, we entered Laikom from a special backdoor where only princes and princesses are allowed to pass when they want to meet the Fon (traditional ruler) of Kom. We narrated everything to the Fon who had begun receiving other Mbesa refugees since morning. And when we brought in all the refugees to him, he became emotionally upset at the sight of trembling old women, nursing mothers and children who have walked all the way through the extensive and dangerous Ijim Mountain Forest. The Fon quickly walked down memory lane, recalling similar situations involving land grabbing from Oku in Mbesa in 1982 and 1988. As the Paramount Fon for Boyo Division, the Fon, His Royal Highness Foyn Vincent Yuh II, cursed the Oku and vowed before us that never again in life should a Boyo (Kom) man have something to do with an Oku man. That Oku has given Mbesa enough of their trouble and it was time to publicly declare them enemies of Boyo Division. He ordered for two cocks to be slaughtered and cooked with some corn fufu for us. He served some of us drinks, especially palm wine and we stayed in his company and continued to lament the deplorable state of affairs back in Mbesa. Arrangements were made for some of the Fon’s many wives to accommodate those refugees who would not have space in the already-full Palace Gest House. My classmates and I spent one night there.
The next day, we took off very early in the morning for Fundong to meet the SDO and the Delegate. We trekked for about two hours and when we reached Fundong, we were told the SDO had gone up to meet with the SDO for Bui Division (where Oku belongs) at Mbesa via Belo the previous day while the Delegate was out of town. What a disappointment for us! We felt cheated by fate! Nevertheless, we understood that the presence of the two SDOs in the village meant things will soon return to normal. Back at Laikom, we further learned that some people had arrived from Mbesa just after we left to announce that the two SDOs have come to Mbesa with some gendarmes and things were somehow calming down. So we took some of the refugees with us and a few belongings and returned to Mbesa to gauge the situation before sending word to others to return too. The following day, nearly every refugee was back in the village, but the heavy presence if gendarmes did not only create an atmosphere of unease but was also unable to keep things totally under control.
Despite the presence of the gendarmes from Boyo and Bui, the conflict persisted and the North West Regional Governor deployed two trucks of gendarmes to Mbesa, and not in Oku, because the Oku come and fight over our land right inside our village. The gendarmes however were overtaken by the bloody nature of the intertribal war and the dexterity with which our people handled guns and were crushing our enemies. Some of our women were even more active in the war than men; a woman would run after and catch an enemy or pull away a wounded or killed one. Some of them were shot at, but only a few bullets would penetrate parts of their bodies. Then they would stop, squeeze out the bullets and continue fighting to the grand surprise of the armed forces who on their part were falling down to avoid stray and targeted bullets from the Oku.  But fortunately for us, no Mbesa person was killed; only a few people sustained heavy injuries. This frightened the gendarmes and surprised the villagers more and more!  
The year 2007 marked the fifth year of my part time photography job which was helping me meet some of my school needs. One day, the Divisional Officer (DO) for Belo Subdivision Patrick Pelopo wanted to visit the battle fields around Ibal-a-Nsang and invited me to come along with him as a photographer. While taking photographs of his tour of the battlefields, we picked some bullets from the enemy camp and the DO identified them as military bullets. He noted that in his book and promised to send his report to hierarchy so that the Oku should explain to the government where they were getting military bullets from. The story however just ended like that and we were not surprised because we know that there are numerous sons and daughters of Oku occupying top military and penitentiary positions in Cameroon, including at the time a regional governor and a minister of state! Given the chronic corruption and tribalism that has eaten deep into the fabrics of national life in Cameroon, it could not surprise anybody that our adversaries were exercising the law of might is right. Some of their people we shot and identified in the war were uniformed people currently in service. This, particularly the strong presence and influence of our enemies in government, also explains why since 1982, our government has not been able to render us justice in the land dispute in question.
Sometime in April there was an exponential increase in the number of daily gunshots in the village. This made it impossible for us to concentrate and study for upcoming our GCE exam in June that year, 2007. This really disturbed and traumatised some us. Some of my friends and I who were residing at Itinikum for daily evening prep classes at the St Agnes Catholic Parish Mission premises gathered in Jagua’s room to ponder our fate and decide what to do in order to continue preparing for the fast-approaching GCE exam. It was a very sad moment of our lives as students, in an examination class for that matter! It was a veritable mourning mood for us! So we decided to immortalise it in a photograph.
With my mates in mourning mood, Credit: Nsah                                   Nsah and Nshom studying at Njinagwa, Credit: Nsah
  Thereafter, I suggested and Jagua and Song agreed that we escape to the calm plains of the Ijim Mountain Forest and find shelter among the cattle Fulani (Bororo) there where we could study well for the exam. Once the three of us agreed on the suggestion, we set off for Ardo Musa’s compound at Ijim on the road to Fundong, passing through my native quarter of Njinagwa. We were on the move again, just like many other people in the village. Given that Ardo Musa had been my father’s friend and later on my own friend, he warmly received us, offered us a spare room in one of his numerous houses where were staying and studying. He also offered us two brand new blankets and instructed his three wives to serve us food whenever we needed to eat. We spent about one week there. Sometimes we studied in our room and sometimes we went out and laid to study on the soft, green, carpet-like, cattle-pasture grass around his compound. From time to time, we would come to the hills above Mbesa and listened to the roaring gunshots from the battlefields. Sometimes, we would come down to Njinagwa to find out if our people were all safe and whether or not the war was getting over.
The armed conflict soon subsided thanks to the continuous deployment of armed gendarme officers.  We left Ijim, came down to the village and resumed our classes just like any other pupil or student and teacher. Makeshift classrooms were rapidly built for the primary school pupils of the Catholic Mission Primary School (CS) at Ntimati because the enemies had burnt down the church and other buildings that were hosting their school until that time. At Government Primary School Fetongle, a new Cameroon national flag was bought because the same enemies had torn the one they met hoisted in the school campus when both teachers and pupils had fled for their dear lives the day the enemies used petrol and matches to set more than 300 Mbesa houses ablaze! Our enemies were lawless troublemakers who did not respect any restricted areas at wartime! Theirs was more or less of guerrilla warfare, with much focus on the looting and destruction of property given that they could not shot any of us to death because that piece of land rightfully belongs to us. Does the Bible not say that, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free?”
By the time we were writing the GCE examination that year, a majority of the armed gendarmes were no longer in the village since the war had considerably subsided. But two gendarme officers were instructed to secure all students writing the GCE in the lone accommodation centre of the village at GSS Mbesa. The presence of these uniformed officers, though to our advantage, also kept some students in a state of uneasiness. Some people naturally fear the gun and people in uniform! On the day we finished writing the exam, in my capacity as our school senior prefect, I was assigned to carry the sealed carton containing the written scripts to our school principal’s private residence, at Fetongle, from where his Toyota land rover would transport the scripts to the GCE Board regional office in Bamenda town. When I carried the carton, I was accompanies by the GCE Board-send Superintendent, our school Principal and some discipline masters and the two gendarme officers. I also decided to immortalize this occasion in photographs.

Two gendarmes and others at GSS Mbesa, Credit: Nsah                          Nsah carrying GCE scripts in middle, Credit: Nsah

I wrote eleven papers in the GCE Ordinary Level that year. When I was registering for the eleven papers in September 2006 I was sure of obtaining eleven ‘A’ grades in the exam. However, once war broke out on February 12, 2007, my hopes started oscillating.  I however remained optimistic and hardworking despite the chaos caused by the war. In spite of our numerous displacements and interruptions of lessons, when the GCE results were proclaimed in August that year, I still did well in the exam; I passed in all my eleven papers, scoring a total of 25/33 points. I hope no one will ask me where the other eight points went to. The obvious answer is in the war. Then how would one expect me to forget such experiences?

Nsah, Ngong and other friends celebrating tGCE success in a palm wine parlour in Santa, Credit: Nsah                                                                   
By February 2016, exactly nine years after the third phase of this war erupted, things had not yet completely returned to normal. After 2007, the Mbesa people took the issue to the Bamenda High Court and till date there has never been a hearing, only adjournments after adjournments! And there have been occasional, light confrontations between the two villages. This got heightened in February 2016 to the extent that about three hundred Mbesa women decided to stage a trekking but peaceful protest from Mbesa to the Regional Governor’s Office in Bamenda. These women, accompanied by our village Fon His Royal Highness Foyn Gilbert Njong III, trekked a distance of close to 100 kilometres in two days, without any sleep, from Mbesa through Belo to Big Banbanki (Kijem-Keku) en route to Bamenda town to meet the Governor. The Fon of Big Babanki, noticed the marching women and out of pity and concern for their security—as they were heading towards uninhabited parts  of his village at night en route to Bamenda via Bambui, pleaded with them to spend a night in his palace. The women hesitated but finally agreed and he ordered enough food to be cooked by his many wives and servants and served to the Mbesa women. He also informed the Governor of the situation and the latter finally came over to Babanki, met and discussed with the women. He listened to their cries for an end to be put to the persistent attacks they have been receiving from their Oku brothers and sisters since 1982 so that peace may reign. The Governor listened to them and promised to visit the disputed area in Mbesa within two weeks. He ordered the SDOs for Boyo and Bui, Dos for Belo and Oku and Paramount Fons for Boyo and Bui to organise peace consultation visits with the Fons of Oku and Mbesa in view of finding lasting solutions to this age old conflict between two brotherly villages. The visits were organised accordingly. Although close to two months afterward, he finally came to Mbesa accompanied by the SDOs and Paramount Fons of Boyo and Bui as well as the DOs of Belo and Oku for an on-the-spot evaluation of the problem. But unfortunately, no agreement was reached in the presence of the Governor whose intention was to demarcate the boundary between these two communities once and for all. The Oku continued to lay claim to Mbesa land, violating all boundary pillars that have been erected between us since 1988. The Governor could not proceed amidst such behaviour. So he left with the two conflicting maps that the two communities had presented to him, promising to come back in the nearest future once he has studied the maps in order to indicate the right boundary. Since then, visits have been intensified between our two Fons, with each of the two Fons now having set foot in the palace of the other after more than 30 years of no visits! We only hope and pray that lasting peace will reign between us in the days ahead!
While we hope that this conflict comes to an eternal end, I would like to conclude here with some of the numerous lessons I have learned from it so far, especially since 2007. War is not good and we should all fight to end war, including terrorism. War affects all aspects our lives: it causes deaths, destroys property, injures people and causes unwanted displacements; it contributes to poor performance in education, among other effects. There are many internal refugees due to intertribal wars in Cameroon and elsewhere whose voices are often neglected as global attention is focused on crises like those of Syria, the Central African Republic and terrorist activities like those of Boko Haram and ISIS (see my publication in Stories for Humanities: FrontieresWalls, 2016). Women and children suffer a lot from armed conflicts and women have a great potential to ending conflicts. The Trekking protest staged by Mbesa women has sparked off many positive actions which are most likely going to bring an end to the Mbesa-Oku land dispute. My personal experience with war has increased my love for humanity as can be seen in my writings and commitment to world humanitarian activities. I have written on why continuous production of arms brings about war, on the Syrian war, on the Mbesa-Oku war, on illegal immigration, to name but these. I am a digital advocate of the World Humanitarian Submit and an online volunteer at World Pulse where I have joined global female leaders in solving global problems such as ending war and hunger. I am also a Focal Point at the World Youth Foundation and a Fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiatives (YALI) Regional Leadership Center (RLC) West Africa Dakar 2016, currently working to legalise my NGO which aims at empowering vulnerable people, promoting innovative education and combating clandestine immigration in Africa. Above all, I want to preach peace wherever I go in the world!
© 05 August 2016, Nsah Mala (Kenneth Toah Nsah)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Christmas Disappointment

A huge crowd of passers−by and neighbours had gathered near the Madagascar Gendarmerie Brigade to see the screaming Hamidou. A stream of blood was flowing out of the yawning wound on Hamidou’s back as he lay helpless on the ground. His neighbor Yaouba who had inflicted the wound on him stood beside him with a machete in his right hand as confused as a man who has lost his lone ten thousand Francs CFA bank note in a gambling deal.
Yaouba looked confused and terrified but not guilty when George Tana the Brigade Commander for Madagascar made his way through the mammoth crowd into the very heart of the macabre scene of that early Wednesday morning.
“What has happened to him?” George Tana asked nobody in particular. His question got lost into the crowd mainly composed of French−speaking Yaoundé city dwellers. The people in the crowd continued to murmur their worries in some broken French—mostly ungrammatical and full of linguistic interferences—and in some Cameroon mother tongues such as Ewondo and Eton. One could hear some of them asking questions like “Mon beau, c’est quoi ҫa?” and getting a million diverse answers. Yet no answer was satisfactory.
“Bon, qu’est−ce que s’est passé avec lui? the gendarme officer quickly corrected himself. He was naturally obliged to conform to the odd linguistic realities of Yaoundé and her environs. French−speaking Cameroonians in such cities as Yaoundé, Douala and Bafoussam behaved as if English was a strange language from another world and, may be, meant to be spoken by monkeys!
“Je n’ai….je n’ai pas….ce n’est pas moi qui…c’est lui même qui m’a donné la….la….la machette, chef”, Yaouba stammered in confusion.
The uniform man shouted his question again and made for Yaouba’s chest to button him up.
Just before the uniform man could land a second blow on Yaouba’s left cheek, the wounded Hamidou decided to save the innocent fellow. In a coarse and shrieking voice, Yaouba told Officer Tana: “Shep, cerr n’est pas luirr. Moi qui lui donner  ҫa pour voir si l’écorce travaille. Prenezrr moi à l’hôpital, si non ze va mourir, shep…”  He spoke broken French—mostly ungrammatical and full of the [r] sound—in  a typical Nordiste tone and yet he was not a Cameroonian. He was a Malian expatriate in Cameroon. He insistently pleaded with the officer to leave his neighbour Yaouba alone. As he spoke, he struggled to move his body in an effort to stand up to his feet and stop the officer from harming Yaouba. The more he struggled, the more the large wound on his back yawned like a tired pregnant woman and spat blood like an angry volcanic mountain spitting lava.  
Everybody at the scene got totally confused including Officer Tana. It was very impossible to guess why Hamidou had given Yaouba a machete to wound him with. Was it a suicide attempt? Was it magic? Was it an occultist ritual? In every mind there, except that of Hamidou and Yaouba, the whole issue remained a good subject of speculation.
It suddenly dawned on Officer Tana that two things were at stake in that situation: to save Hamidou’s life and to investigate into that sad, terrifying matter. Naturally, the former issue weighed heavier than the latter. Then Officer Tana ordered some two young men in the crowd to get a vehicle to transport the victim to hospital. The two young men got closer to the highway linking Carriere and Mokolo. There they stopped a taxi with two passengers on board. After they had explained the situation to the taxi driver, the latter pleaded with his two passengers to hire another taxi and permit him help carry the victim to hospital.    He cleared off the road sufficiently before parking the taxi.
The blood−stained Hamidou was helped into the backseats of the old, yellow taxi and laid flat on his stomach. Officer Tana asked Yaouba to go into the front seat with his machete. The officer squeezed himself up into the same front seat with a big, black ledger held under his left armpit and a black Beifer pen in the breast−pocket of his khaki. The old, yellow, moving house then took off for the Yaoundé Central Hospital driving through the Mokolo Market. The car was put on double traffic lights.
It was about 8:30 am on December 5, 2012, when they took off for the hospital. Luckily for them, the day was a Wednesday, a day on which the Mokolo Market does not open. Consequently, the long and unending queue of bomber−to−bomber cars usually found between Total Madagascar and Mokolo Sapeur was absent. There were no traffic jams that day. The about three−kilometres distance between Madagascar and the Central Hospital that might otherwise be covered in forty five minute to an hour was covered in five minutes only. The Bamoum−born driver of the taxi Njoya Alioum too hit his chest in driving it. He drove like somebody who is late for Heaven and has been informed that only one chance is left for a human being to get in there.
Before 9:oo am that day, Hamidou had already gone through the emergency reception room of the Yaoundé Central Hospital, had been washed, dressed up in the hospital’s patients’ outfit and laid on a bed in the men’s section of the emergency ward.   Dr Martin Fouda and his team had treated the wound with great care and dressed it up. They had administered an anti−tetanus injection to the patient around the wound before bandaging it. The patient was given some tablets which made him sleep deeply for about an hour in order to have enough rest.
When Dr Fouda came out from the patient’s room, he met Officer Tana and Yaouba sitting on a bench under a tree in the yard. He walked up to them and reassured them that the patient’s life was safe, that there was no reason for panicking.
“Doctor, can we talk with the patient now?” Officer Tana asked the doctor just when the latter was turning to go back.
“Well, Sir”, the doctor said, “the patient is asleep right now. But I can assure you that in an hour’s time I’ll take you in to talk with him. Just let him have some rest”. Then he disappeared into the corridor opposite them which leads to his officer.
While the doctor and his team had been busy working on Hamidou, Officer Tana attempted finding out the truth about the matter from Yaouba. Yaouba told him that Hamidou alone could explain what had happened. He however made it known that the two of them were neighbours. He admitted that he was the one who had inflicted the wound on Hamidou and under the latter’s command. After tying a laya—a charm—round his waist, Hamidou had given him a machete and asked him to give him a test−cut…
One hour later, Officer Tana, Yaouba and Dr Fouda made their way into Hamidou’s room. The patient was awake now. The room smelled nothing but tablets and dry paint—it must have been given the fresh brownish coat of paint it wore within the past three months or so. The doctor asked the gendarme officer to use the lone table chair in the room while he and Yaouba took standing postures in front of the patient’s bed. Officer Tana pulled the chair which was near the tail of the bed and placed it close to where Hamidou’s head laid in bed. He placed the big, black ledger on his laps, opened a blank page in it, removed the pen in his breast−pocket, uncorked the pen and quickly wrote down a few things including the date of the day. He asked for the patient’s identity card and the latter had none. He asked the patient who he was and the patient replied that he was Yaya Hamidou, from Mali. When asked what his profession was, Hamidou turned his face away from the officer…Officer Tana took down some notes and turned to Yaouba for his own identification papers to no avail too. Yaouba claimed that his ID card had been left at home given that when Hamidou called him early that morning he didn’t know he was going to get into such trouble. He told the officer that his name was Zakat Yaouba, from Chad. He was a shoe mender by profession.  The officer noted everything down into the black ledger. He turned to Hamidou and asked him to tell them what had happened.  
Hamidou coughed, cleared his throat and yet did not speak. He rather stared absent−mindedly into the white ceiling of the room. In a low but deeply menacing voice, the officer told him that there wasn’t enough time to waste. Still in his usual broken French, Hamidou began narrating the funny and at the same time pathetic story while George Tana was taking down some notes into the black ledger.
Hamidou made rather tantalizing and pathetic revelations, though funny at the same time. According to the revelations, he had been a thief, specialized in pick−pocketing and burglary in the Mokolo Market and its neighbourhoods since the year 2000. He had wandered into Cameroon fifteen years earlier as a shoe mender. After making the rounds of the seven hills of Yaoundé for years under sun and under rain without succeeding to make any substantial amount of money to take back home, he finally settled on the rather easy−going pick−pocketing. He worked in a network with other criminals who included drug dealers and burglars of both Cameroonian and foreign nationalities.
Their activities usually got intensified in the months of November and December for two obvious reasons: the dry season is usually a season of money in Cameroon and the approaching end−of−year feasts of Christmas and New Year always entail gathering enough money to squander in wining and dining with prostituting women on the feasts days. They would snatch away wallets from buyers who come to shop in Mokolo. They would tiptoe behind students returning from schools like Government Bilingual Practicing High School (LBA), Yaoundé, and search their backs for money, text books, cell phones and other valuables. If caught in such acts, they would fall victim to jungle justice—snake beatings and/or lynching…
When December 2012 began, Hamidou thought of this means of getting money. He also thought of its harmful consequences and decided to fortify himself before getting involved in it. But he kept on wondering how and where to get this done. He wondered and wondered and wondered.
Then he remembered Mallam Fake, in the Briquetérie neighbourhood, who was widely known in Yaoundé for his powerful charms: charms for attracting women, charms for protection against witches and wizards, and many other types of charms.  Mallam Fake would certainly have some charm for fortification in his field of business, Hamidou thought. That was in the evening of Monday December 3, 2012.
The following day, as early as 6: oo am, Hamidou was already on his way through the dirt−ridden slums of Briqueterie en route to Mallam Fake’s residence and shrine. He wound himself like a snake along winding footpaths littered with old, wandering plastic papers, empty bottles and tins, human faeces, decaying dead rats, and rotting remnants of food. Here and there he saw stagnant pools of thick, dark−grayish water, breeding countless mosquitoes. From time to time, a colony of houseflies would scatter into the air, leaving behind a rotting dead rat or human excrement, as they perceived Hamidou’s approaching footsteps.
He finally met Mallam Fake in his all−red shrine. The latter was burning incense in order to get set to start receiving his clients for the day. Hamidou explained to the charms expert that he was in need of a charm for protection against cuts, stabs and bullets. The expert first laughed a dry laughter before assuring him that that kind of charm was just no issue as far as he was concerned. For him to make that charm was as easy as eating. It was to cost ten thousand Francs CFA. Hamidou readily and happily paid him the amount. Then the expert set off with work immediately.
It didn’t take the expert up to thirty minutes to build the charm. He assembled some gun powder, a piece of iron (probably from a stainless steel knife), seven needles and seven razor blades. He wrote some lines on a piece of paper in Arabic, pressed up the paper and added it to the available items on the floor. He gathered all the items into a piece of brown leather and stitched it up using a needle he had removed from a nearby bottle of some black liquid—probably castor oil and the burnt powder of some herbs. He attached a long robe to the stitched charm and dropped it on the floor before him. He went into an adjoining room and came out with a small glass bottle containing some yellowish liquid. On the bottle were found the inscriptions “Tout Puissant” in French and “All Powerful” in English. He placed the bottle near the charm on the floor, brought out a young white cock from the adjoining room, suddenly cut off its head and allowed the oozing blood to drop on the charm and bottle. He uttered some incantations in Arabic and instructed Hamidou to collect the magical items from the floor. Hamidou was told that each time he drinks the liquid from that bottle and ties that charm on his waist nothing in the form of a weapon could penetrate him. If a whole army camp fired on him, for example, they would all do so in vain. Neither a knife nor a cutlass could cut through him at that moment. If the charm did not work that way, then Mallam would exchanged his name with a dog, Mallam told him.
Full of excitement, Hamidou thanked him and left immediately with the charm. But Hamidou committed a very serious error: he did not test the charm in Mallam’s presence. He failed to ask Mallam to try cutting him with a machete to test it. He had full confidence in the charm!
Very early in the morning of Wednesday December 5, Hamidou got up from bed and applied the charm. He fetched a machete and got it well filed. He called up Yaouba his neighbour, gave him the machete and asked the latter to cut him with it because it will not penetrate. Yaouba protested doing so and Hamidou then explained to him that he had used a charm meant to prevent cuts, stabs and bullets. And he had full confidence in the charm!
Without a second thought, Yaouba decided to satisfy his neighbour and see real magic at work! He asked Hamidou which part of his body he should do the test on. Hamidou quickly and confidently showed him his back. Yaouba raised the machete high above his head and brought it down on Hamidou’s back, producing the macabre scene of that early Wednesday morning at Madagascar…
Hamidou wasn’t dreaming. He was lying in a hospital bed and recounting this awful story. Officer Tana, Dr Fouda and Yaouba all listened to him in total bewilderment. When he came to the end of the story, he started weeping. And his three listeners, especially the doctor and the gendarme officer, all got confused, dumbfounded and speechless.

(c) January 2013 Nsah Mala

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A Review of Bites of Insanity by Dr Yvonne Ngwa

An accession to a higher rung of the ladder of social criticism, Bites of Insanity portrays its author as a topical writer who beholds and ponders on the contemporary occurrences of his society and of the world at large. In 57 poems, subdivided into 10 different parts, Nsah Mala variously gazes at the negative and the positive in his society. The nascent Mbesa bard lambasts power abuse in a society that could be his but is also a prototype of any African nation; decries the lost glory of the African tradition sacrificed at the altar of ingratiation and materialism; makes a wry commentary on the insalubrities of the capital city of Cameroon; satirises the uninformed Cameroonian’s ignorance that exposes him/her to the lethal blows of malaria (cholera and other diseases); deplores the ambient ecological destruction, man’s moral depravity as well as depicts human frailty in the face of accidents and deaths.
Though virulent in his representation of these ills, the poet has obviously not given up on humankind. Hence, he enjoins society to value relationships; he also celebrates the people who positively impacted his life, and hails successes achieved and creativity. New-Age Muse or End-Time Literary Prophet? Nsah Mala resorts to a rich repertoire of poetic devices, vivid description, wacky terms, dark humour, and scatology—among others—to raise critical issues about modern man’s condition. After Chaining Freedom, this second collection of poems progressively establishes this budding writer.

Yvonne I. NGWA, PhD

Lecturer, ENS Yaoundé

Visit the following link to grap a copy:


I don’t want to be
I just want to be

But assured
That any Resident
Can become President;
That any President
Can become Resident.

I don’t envy
Your Presidency;
I do admire
My Residency.

Like the village town crier,
My mission
Is to envision
Freedom for all and sundry
And to uproot all thorns on path to Presidency.

I don’t want to be
I just want to be

But confident
That all Residents
Are embryo Presidents;
That all Presidents
Are egg-shell Residents.

(Bastos, 29 May 2015)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Republican Parasites (Poem)


In this plantain Republic,
Human parasites and rubbish
Are scattered and spread everywhere
Like wild locusts on green fields.

While we chock in smelly vapours of rotting dirt,
These voracious human parasites are busy sucking
Our banana Republic to anaemic and epileptic levels.
There is no pity in Republican business!

Our national blood is sucked into endless parasitic intestines
As white-agbadaed and black-coated parasitic zombies parade streets,
Preaching country love, exhibiting latest cars, spacious mansions...
Lousily flattering the Boss, they secretly backbite and siphon.

These parasites sprinkle sandy dust on disappearing national cakes
And spread political fog and clouds on eroding national hills
And press thirsty engine saws on whithering national baobabs
And handpick all fresh buds sprouting on quaking national fields.

Land of gory! Land of parasites!
Thou of death and sorrow, our only bar.
Thine demotion, thine be hunger,
And deep embezzlement forever more.

(Mbankolo, February 15, 2015)

Friday, 28 June 2013


My uncle, BabeAmbroseToah, who  was working at CDC Tiku,  told me—or it was guessed at the civil status registry in those days—that I was born in the month of Christmas on the 30th day in nineteen hundred and thirty eight. In those days, our fathers’ memories were mighty libraries that could store as much information as possible, especially facts, figures and dates. But unfortunately enough for me, I barely saw my father. He died when I was just about four years old. Since my father succumbed to death as early as 1942, as I was told too (did I know years and dates by then?), my exact date of birth remained a fertile ground for guess work. But one thing that everybody knew or still knows squarely well about me is my name—Nkainbi Richard Bangsi.
                                             In 1954, sixteen years after my father’s death, I started schooling. I was compelled by circumstances to combine schooling and business in order to provide for my school needs given that my father was no longer there. I was dealing in castor oil. I would buy it in and around Mbesa and export it to British Nigerian markets such as the Onitsha Market. That fetched me fabulous sums of British pounds; pounds because Nigeria and the Southern Cameroons at the time were still administered by Great Britain…
                                             “Richard, you better go to school now.” That was DonatusGwedji advising me. Excuse me, did I say Donatus? No. That is not how I used to call him. I called him “Good Friend” because he was indeed my best and most−trusted friend. Even now, I still call him like that, although I only refer to him now in past tenses. The Lord called him back home before the year 2011.
                                             “I was still thinking about going to school, Good Friend”, I told him while wondering who was going to pay my school fees.
                                             By then Good Friend was in Standard Five in Nkar, in the Nso area. It would appear that he read the verses of disturbance and hesitation on my face like a soothsayer reading cowries on a mysterious mat. Then he explained to me that the colonial authorities in Nigeria had made it clear that education between Infants One and Standard Two was free of charge. That meant that should I start schooling I would only begin to bother about school fees after Standard Two. By that time I would already know how to write my name, at least. I quickly made up my mind to go to school, especially as the idea had come from, or was strongly supported by, a very good friend of mine.
                                             Thank God that the lone school in Mbesa at the time, Catholic School Mbesa, ran from Infants One to Standard Two. I therefore enjoyed free education at the same time with the joy of studying right at home, in my own native village. That gave me the possibility to plan for studies in the senior classes which did not exist in Mbesa. Four years came and passed like a flash of lightning.
                                             Then I left for Djottin, in the Noni area, to enroll in Standard Three on self−sponsorship. I used to earn some money there by doing petty jobs such as clearing farmlands and carrying goods on the head for traders. I still continued the castor oil business while there, but at a minimum level.
                                             When I completed Standard Six, there was nobody to sponsor my studies in secondary school. The needs of secondary education—including fees, books, rents, transport faire to and from the school site, etc.—were far above my limited means now. I gave up all the dreams of going to secondary school. All my attention and aspirations were now shifted towards becoming either a uniform man or a successful and renowned farmer.
                                             I tried in vain on several occasions to be enrolled into the army. And I finally gave up the idea of becoming a soldier. Farming then became an unavoidable path for me to take to the land of success. I then got into farming with my entire mind, soul and strength. That is how I embarked on planting coffee—both the Robusta and Java species—in my compound, in Anyuoeh. I also planted some coffee in my farm at Anda’ang. In all, I planted close to two acres of coffee. And when my coffee wanted or wants to bear, it hits its chest in doing so.  Fully involved in farming the way I did, I have never been ranked among idle fellows in Mbesa. 
                                             In 1969, I decided to find my left missing rib. The search took me down to Njinikom where I found my lovely Theresa Mbu. In strict Roman Catholic tradition, Theresa and I tied the knot of our love on September 17, 1969. That day! I will never ever forget that day. Our wedding was one of the best in Mbesa. It was more than just marvelous, so to speak…
                                             Before the year 1969 ran out, I began my political career. I joined the lone Cameroon National Union (CNU) of Ahidjo in the capacity of Branch Secretary for the Mbesa Branch. Five years later, I became Branch President for that party and stayed in that capacity for long. Later on I became the Subsection President and maintained that position for long too. Presently, I am the Deputy Officer for CPDM Boyo II Section, in Belo.Meanwhile, I keep on playing politics and still occupying many posts of responsibility.
                                             My love for personal development eventually spread like cypress branches into collective development. After all, what does it profit a man if he becomes a millionaire in a poor and inaccessible village?
                                             “They say they need you in the palace on Kfééfèè. Have you heard, Babe Richard?”That was Nawain Susana Jenkuo delivering His Royal Highness Foyn Thomas Toah Njong’s message to me. In Mbesa we address the Fon—Foyn or traditional ruler—as “they” which is an expression of respect. 
                                             In reply I told her: “Yes, I have heard, Nawain Susana. Thank you for bringing the palace message to me. But I hope they need me for something good…”
                                             “Well,” said her, “I suppose it is good, but just go and hear from the palace”.
                                             When I got to the palace, I was told that they have called me to make me the Secretary General of the newly−created Mbesa Traditional Council. I later on occupied the positions of president, vice president and simple member within the same council. Each time I attempted to resign from the council after having served in it for so many years my attempts were foiled. Eventually Foyn Toah got missing—passed away—and Foyn Gilbert K. Njong III was rubbed to replace him. The new ruler too has never allowed me to take leave of that council. I’m however happy, very happy, that I’ve never fought for any post there. All the posts I’ve been holding there have been offered to me.
                                             The development of Mbesa was intricately linked to mine in one way or the other, given the posts I held in that council. That is why I spearheaded the creation of the Mbesa Area Development Association (MADA) between 1963 and 1983. The Mbesa Action Committee (MAC) which was created in 1982 was re−christened Mbesa Area Development Association one year later.  Even before the 1980s, Babe Gwedji Andreas Nshom (alias Ba Malase) and I had already conceived the idea of a development association for our dear village. The first seeds of the association were the Mbesa Social and Development Groups I had created in major quarters of Mbesa before 1982. These groups were formed in the following quarters: Ibal−Ichim, Soalam, Fetongle and Ntoh.
                                             Babe Andreas and I had been sent with some money to DO Geoffrey’s Office in Bamenda in 1963 to negotiate a serious land issue concerning Mbesa and Oku. DO Geoffrey looked into the matter—because we were naturally right in it—, but did not accept the money. We brought back the money and decided with Foyn Toah to use it and construct the Mbesa Inner Palace—the Nsaang. This money had been contributed by all the inhabitants of Mbesa the way Christians contribute offertory in church.  Although the people of Mbesa accused Babe Andreas and me of having embezzled the money, we had brought it back. In fact, Babe Andreas and Foyn Toah had used the money to makeplanks to be used in constructing the Nsaangwithout informing the people of Mbesa. They did this while I was in Limbe at the time. And it was in 1982 that I came back from Limbe, correctedmy friend`s and Foyn`s error and apologized to the people of Mbesaon their behalfbefore proceeding to create the Mbesa Action Committee, MAC. This money was not ours and so we could not use it by any means. The good use of this money in constructing the royal palace taught us the lesson of collectively contributing for the development of our community.  This is how the idea of MADA sprang up and was materialized in 1983. By popular acclamation, I was made pioneer president of MADA.
                                             I served as MADA President General for four years and it was during my reign that MADA realized the Health Centre project. When it was time to hand over the control of the MADA Health Centre to a missionary body, I organized a vote between the Catholics and the Baptists and the Catholics won. That is why that Health Centre is run today as part of the Saint Martin de Pores Catholic Hospital at Njinikom. Thereafter, I was elected MADA treasurer and I held this post for four years too. I was also the Chairman of the Health Centre until it was fully integrated by the Catholics and duly authorized by the state of Cameroon.
                                             In the 1980s, I rose to the highest level in my political career. That was when the Cameroon National Union was transformed into the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) by Paul Biya in the early 80s. I was elected as a CPDM Municipal Councilor for the Fundong Rural Council, in the then Menchum Division, before the creation of Boyo Division. I served in that capacity until when FruNdi’s Social Democratic Front (SDF) won over the love of a greater majority of Mbesa following the events of the early 90s.
                                             When happiness visits you, you must start preparing to receive the sorrow it has come to announce. While I was prospering in politics and making much more money in the 1980s, especially out of my business and farming produce, another sad event added onto my father’s death in my life. This time around, my mother,Nawain Martina NdoasakVitoin, suddenly passed away…
                                             My development tentacles also grew towards the church. Together with people like Babe DonatusGwedjiNgong, Babe Christopher ChimseFinji and others, I worked hard to help the Mbesa Roman Catholic Community to disjoin the Djottin Parish in Noni and to join the Fuli Parish in Kom. Later on, the Archdiocese of Bamenda raised the Mbesa Roman Catholic community to a parish, St Agnes Catholic Parish, Mbesa, in 2002. This was during the reign of late Archbishop Paul Verdzekov of the BamendaArchdiocese. In the same vein, I was the pioneer president of the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission for Mbesa for a period of nine years. Presently, I am an adviser in that very commission.
                                             Seven years after the creation of the parish, the saddest event of my life then occurred. I saw the cold hands of death wrap up my dearest Theresa and put her into the never−satisfied mouth of the earth. She finally surrendered to death after visiting so many hospitals. The story leading up to her death went thus: In 2008, she went to attend a Catholic Women Association meeting at Fuli, Kom, and got sick while there. From Fuli, she went to visit some children of ours who reside in Bamenda and used that occasion to consult in a hospital at Bali. She came back from Bali and the sickness continued thereby making her go for consultation at the Saint Martin de Pores Catholic Hospital, Njinikom, where she wasreferred to the Catholic Hospital in Shisong, Banso. She spent a month in Shisongwhere she underwent a surgical operation. The sickness persisted and she went back to Saint Martin de Pores Hospital where she gave up the ghost on 02 June 2009. She just died like that! However, she left behind twelve children to mourn her and eventually mourn me when my own turn comes to finish my pilgrimage here on earth.  These children, two boys and ten girls, continue to make some traces of joy crisscross the ringlets of old age and sorrow on my forehead. Two of the girls have chosen to serve in the Lord’s vineyard as reverend sisters. The first of them is Bertha Yafi Bangsi, or Reverend Sister Bertha, if you like. And the second of them is Sister Emma ItanghiFebunevi Bangsi.
                                             Will posts of responsibility ever allow me to take a rest? When will I ever go on retirement? May be, only in Heaven, if God does not appoint me there too. You cannot imagine that I’m still serving in that traditional council. The council was recently transformed by the Boyo Senior Divisional Offer into the Mbesa Crown Council. And once more I have been appointeda member of it. After all, I have always felt optimistic and capable of handling all posts assigned to me by whosoever and wherever.
                                             My life, as you can see, has been a busy one. I’ve been working like a waterfall, working for the church, working for the world, working for Mbesa and working for my family and myself. I am, I believe, one of those who are born to serve, and not to be served….
(c) January 2013 Nsah Mala
(I wrote this short story based on an interview I conducted with him (Babe Richard B. Nkainbi) on Monday July 16, 2012.)
Author’s Contacts
Tel: (+237) 7429-1746

                                         BIOGRAPHY FOR BABE NKAINBI RICHARD BANGSI