Bakweri People are the People Found on the slopes of Mt. Fako in the Southwest Region of Cameroon
Total population: 500.000 (2020)
Regions with significant populations
Religion: Predominantly Christian and/or ancestor worshippers
Related ethnic groups
Bakole, Bamboko, Duala, Isubu, Limba, Mungo, Wovea and other Bantu peoples
The Bakweri (Mokpe) are a Bantu ethnic group of the Republic of Cameroon. They are closely related to Cameroon’s coastal peoples (the Sawa), particularly the Duala and Isubu.
HISTORY OF THE BAKWERI PEOPLE
The genealogy of the chief’s family of Buea indicates four generations between Eyeh Njie who arrived Gbea about 1770 and Kuva Likenye who died in 1894.
The founding of new villages in the Mokpe expansion shows that one man, with a few relatives and friends could move to a place and the new settlement will be named after their leader. The prefix “wo” or the word ‘Wonya’ meaning children of or descendants of was commonly used to enable the people traces their origin.
According to Bakweri oral traditions that they originated from Egypt, and migrated to the Congo. They later migrated to the present Cameroon with the father Mbedi alongside their sibling called Ewale (The present Duala tribe) among others to the area southwest of Mount Cameroon. The Bakweri likely migrated to their present home east of the mountain in the mid-18th century, from the Mongo River they gradually spread to the coast, and the various creeks that empty into it right up to the foothills. In the process, they founded numerous villages, usually when individual families groups split off.  a rival Bakweri tradition says they descend from Mokuri or Mokule, a brother of the Duala’s forebear Ewale, who migrated to the Mount Cameroon area for hunting. The Bakweri are primarily concentrated in Cameroon’s Southwest Region. They live in over 100 villages  east and southeast of Mount Cameroon with Buea their main population centre. Bakweri settlements largely lie in the mountain’s foothills and continue up its slopes as high as 4,000 metres.  They have further villages along the Mungo River and the creeks that feed into it. The town of Limbe is another major Bakweri City that harbors other ethnic groups like the Duala, Bassa and others.
See the Cameroonian Tribe That Successfully Launched An Attack Against German Colonial Masters
The Bakweri (Mokpe) are ancient fierce fighters, traditionally spiritual, customs-abiding and agriculturalist Mokwe-speaking people of Bantu origins who live on the steep but fertile slopes of the Cameroon Mountain (Mt Fako) in the Republic of Cameroon.
Historically the Bakweri are territorial people and fierce fighters who have always defended their rights, land and culture against the successive colonizing powers of Germany a…
BAKWERI ARMED RESISTANCE TO GERMAN COLONIALISM, 1891 – 1894
By Dibussi Tande Contrary to widely-held beliefs that the Bakweri made no effort whatsoever to resist the spoliation of their lands by the Germans, they did in fact mount a fierce anti-German campaign, particularly around the slopes of Mount Fako, and successfully inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Germans at Buea in 1891; the first ever German military loss on the African continent, which led to a complete reappraisal of German colonial/military policy on the continent, and, unfortunately, laid the basis for the brutal campaign to annihilate the Bakweri. The Bakweri were one of the few groups in all of German Africa that were thoroughly and systematically suppressed by the Germans. That they even survived to tell the story is a testimony to their resilience and tenacity in the face of adversity. The story of Bakweri military resistance against the Germans is also the story of Chief KUV’A LIKENYE of Buea, whose epic clashes with German troops remain one of the most glorious (but largely unknown) chapters in Cameroonian history.
THE BAKWERI RESISTANCE CAMPAIGN OF 1891-1985
From the time they landed on the Fako coast, and especially after they came in contact with the Bakweri of the interior, the Germans had nothing but grudging respect for the Bakweri, particularly the fierce and fearless warriors of the villages around Buea, whom the future German Governor of Kamerun, Von Puttkamer, praised in 1886 for their “powerful well-built bodies, their courage and their skill in hunting…” Another German, Dr. Preuss, who would later become infamous for his appalling brutality towards the Bakweri, described them in yet another report as being “rough (rauhen) and bold (dreisten Benehmen)” in their dealings with the White man. These were fierce mountain warriors who were not afraid against invaders, as the Germans would learn the hard way in Buea in 1890s as they tried to penetrate into the Bakweri heartland.
THE FIRST BAKWERI-GERMAN WAR OF 1891 The war of 1891 has its origins in the desire of the German colonial government to occupy the area around Mount Fako, which it believed should have happened at least a decade earlier when Kamerun became a German colony/protectorate. It was also an attempt to crush Kuva Likenye, the mountain king who, according to the 1891 Report of Acting German Governor Von Schuckman “frequently disturbed the peace of the mountain, and had instigated an uprising among the mountain tribes… the Buea people even threatened to attack Victoria” in a bid to reclaim their lands. In November 5, 1891 a German expeditionary force led by Karl Freiher Gravenreuth (who had brutally crushed a revolt of the Abo people (Douala) in February of that same year) and Lieutenant Von Stetten, was dispatched to tame the mountain people by what the acting German Governor described as “… a demonstration of our existing power.” The contingent also included Dahomean, Togolese and Kru (Sierra Leonean) soldiers who had disembarked a few days earlier at the Victoria port from the H.M Cruiser Habitch (pictured below). When Chief Kuva Likenye of Buea learned of the imminent attack by the German force, he was unimpressed by it all. Instead, he prepared his forces to send a clear message once and for all that the mountain people rejected all form of German control in their area. A seasoned contingent of local fighters, among them 400 marks men, was put on alert.
The German and Bakweri forces would have a memorable clash at the Minonge ravine, now Spanned by the bridge between the Buea station roundabout and the Buea Mountain Hotel. In spite of superior German forces, the forces of Kuva Likenye held their ground, and foiled the German advance into Buea. The German Commander, Granvenreuth, was killed and Lieutenant Stetten wounded as they desperately tried to dislodge the Bakweri forces from the ravine. With their Commander dead, and the Bakweri guns continuously pounding enemy position, the German expeditionary force panicked. Routed and in total disarray, the force fled across the Mountain to the Mboko coast and back to Victoria, with the Bakweri in hot pursuit. Although Western historians insist that the only German lost in the confrontation was Gravenreuth, Bakweri legend has it that six Germans actually lost their lives in the expedition, and that their skulls now reside in a secret shrine in the village of Wondongo, Buea. For the next three years, the Bakweri would hold the Germans at bay, preventing any serious implantation in the Bakweri heartland. According to Edwin Ardener in his seminal work, Kingdom on Mount Cameroon, the waste of Gravenreuth’s expedition had serious repercussions. It should have been used to go far into the interior to counteract French movements. In March 1894, Germany signed an agreement with France that fixed the eastern boundary of Kamerun far more narrowly than once had been hoped for. The official memorandum on the treaty contained a withering catalogue of the ineffectiveness of German colonial expeditions compared to those of the French. The home negotiators had, as a result, no serious territorial claims in north and east to offer. The Zingraff and Granvenreuth expeditions were singled out as failures in this respect.
Thanks to their defeat of the German-led forces, the Bakweri had slowed down the advance of the Germans into the Cameroonian interior,
Even if only temporarily. 1894:
THE GERMAN REVENGE
The Germans never forgot this defeat in the hands of what they wrongly considered an ill-trained ragtag army. In the next couple of years, they would implement policies aimed at isolating Kuva Likenye, and cutting off his sources of arms. By 1994, they had largely succeeded in their policy of attrition, and in December 1994, a newly constituted, betterprepared and heavily armed German force, the Schutztruppe, led by Von Stetten launched an attack on Buea. In spite of a heroic resistance, the Bakweri were no match to this superior German force. As one historian puts it: “The German Pygmy had become a Giant.” Outmanned and outgunned, Chief Kuva retreated to the village of Ewonda, and sent agents to Momongo to buy arms. The arms never came. In the end, Kuva realized that further resistance to the German imperial army was futile, and that the Bakweri were simply being annihilated by forces they could no longer contain or overcome. According to P.M. Kale in his 1939 study of the Bakweri, … for fear of Bakweriland being annihilated, brave Kuva called his people together, and with the words of a leader bade them to leave Buea for a while… this land, he told them, had been ‘their ancestors’ for generations, and it would be theirs forever, and so no fear should be entertained as to their coming back again
Buea and Wokpae were his grave remains hidden and unmarked to this day. All across Bakweri territory the following song of praise could be heard: Lo! The hands that waved the spear and loaded the gun Lo! The dreadful voice that roared and scattered the multitude, the hero remains immortal. In April 1895, a brutal Peace Treaty was imposed on the Bakweri, and signed on their behalf by Chief Endeley, brother of the Late Kuva. They were dispossessed of their former territory around present-day Buea station, and forcefully herded into what the Germans described as “formerly ownerless land” in lower Buea. A huge fine was imposed upon them, and Bakweri slave labor was later used to build the German Government station, established on their original site that became Buea, the capital of German kamerun in 1902.
This second German expedition marked the beginning of the systematic German campaign to dehumanize and wipe out the Bakweri, seize their lands for plantation agriculture, and lock them up in the so-called Native Reserves. Like the Zulus after the defeat of Chaka, like Native Americans after the failure of their resistance against European settlers, the Bakweri had, by the end of the 1890s, been completely subjugated and their once vibrant culture in complete disarray. The roots of the social and cultural ills that would plague them for most of the 20th century can be traced back to this policy. THE IMPACT OF THE BAKWERI ANTI-GERMAN CAMPAIGN That the Bakweri armed resistance failed was not because of cowardice. Far from it! It was simply the case of a poorly armed African ethnic group not being able to hold its own against superior European military power. As Ardener has stressed, the Bakweri anti-German campaign “was a small-scale political movement, but one which was aided by the strategic possibilities of the Mountain, was for a brief period actually equal in scale to the amount of German power that could be deployed from Victoria.” In his analysis of the great warrior Kuva Likenye, Ardener writes: Kuva’s case is of more than local interest. This remote and ideologically merely intuitive tribesman held up the march of events, by an unexpected veto on the foreign economic exploitation of the mountain. The veto only ended with his death. During its existence, it revealed serious weaknesses in German Colonial administrative and military practice… the resistance of the mountain people provided one of the important shocks of the early colonial system in Kamerun. As a resistance movement, it was before its time…
Passive resistance, by refusing to do manual labor on their captured lands even when forced. Many died of diseases and cruelties in the concentration camps into which they had been driven. The Germans had a simple solution for this Bakweri strike. They imported other Africans to do the work, hence the age old contempt by the Bakweri for immigrant Africans who were hated for cooperating with the enemy. Of course, Bakweri passive resistance would later be misinterpreted as a sign of laziness, a stereotype that has, unfortunately, become embedded in the national psyche. To conclude, one thing is certain; if the Germans had coveted any other ethnic group’s lands to the degree that they coveted the Bakweri lands, they would have done just as thorough a job of decimating the lands’ owners. 115 years after the valiant people of Buea, led by their fearless leader Kuva Likenye, stood up to the German army, another generation of Bakweri have taken up the mantle to once again fight for the protection of their ancestral lands. Led by the Bakweri Land Claims Committee (BLCC), the people of Fako division are taking their case for land compensation and restitution to the Cameroonian people and the international community. They are insisting that at a time when the Cameroon government is determined to sell off the Cameroon Development Corporation (which controls practically all of the German expropriated lands), the hundred-year old claims of the Bakweri, which began to be expressed in an organized and coherent manner after the Second World War, be taken into account. Will the Cameroon government listen to the cries from the slopes of Mount Fako, and will Cameroonian people rally around the Bakweri to rectify this blot on the Cameroonian national landscape?
Kale, P.M. A brief History of the Bakweri. Lagos; Salvation Army, 1939. “Kuv’a Likenye and the Bakweri Armed Resistance to the Germans: 1891-4” Fako International, Vo. 2, No. 1, Jan 1995.
BIMBIA SLAVE TRADE
This is the slave trade village of Bimbia, an emerging and flourishing ecotourism site along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, near the city of Limbe.
You will discover vast historic heritages such as the first Baptist church in Cameroon, founded in 1843 by Joseph Merrick, the Alfred Saker monument, before joining the slaves’ quarters where you will discover the first and the second “doors of no return”, the oil mill where the slave labor was used to produce palm oil for shipping abroad and the tattooing room where the slaves were marked according to the marks of their buyers.
DISCOVER MOUNT CAMEROON.
Mount Cameroon is an active volcano in the South West region of Cameroon next to the city of Buea near the Gulf of Guinea. Mount Cameroon is also known as Cameroon Mountain or Fako or by its indigenous name HVAKO. Wikipedia
Elevation: 4,040 m
Last eruption: February 3, 2012
Mount Cameroon volcano has erupted several times in the 20th Century with documented eruptions in 1909, 1922, 1954, 1959, 1982, 1999 and 2000. Evidence of historic volcanism is represented by several older lava flows and lahar deposits around the flanks of the volcano.
Mount Cameroon, also known Mount Fako is an active volcano which last erupted in 2000. … It is a beautiful mountain to climb as you pass through numerous different “ecological zones”, including farmland, tropical rainforest, savannah, and volcanic landscape on your way to the summit.
The Paramount Chief of Buea
The Paramount Chief Of Buea Robert Esuka Endeley, we should note, is the son of Dr. Emmanuel Mbella Lifafa Endeley. Reports hold that when Chief Gervacius Endeley died, Dr. Emmanuel Mbella Lifafa Endeley was chosen to succeed him. But the former Prime Minister of former British Southern Cameroons was not psychologically prepared to take the mantle of leadership. As such, he declined from his royal responsibilities, suggesting that the throne should be handed over to his younger brother, Justice SML Endeley.
After SML Endeley quitted the scene, the children of EML Endeley took it upon themselves to revert the throne to their family. And with the recent designation of the new paramount chief, many have expressed the desires that peace will reign in the rural family.
Late Paramount Chief of Buea.
Emmanuel Mbella Lifafa Endeley
THE BAKWERI TRADITIONAL WRESTLING
They take pride in celebrating their cultural heritage during events such as Pala Pala, the Race of Hope (one which involves performing secret rituals to bless the mountain), the Malle dance and canoe race which is mostly conducted in the coastal areas of the region. Pala-pala is one of their most popular sporting event which has over the years been both recreational and a uniting factor among neighboring villages. This activity is as old as the Bakweri tribe itself. It encompasses all the qualities the Bakweri have inherited from their ancestors: physical endurance, agility, fierce fighting techniques and a great sense of competition. Wrestling is known as “Wesuwa” and is taken very seriously by the entire community. In the past, it used to be an important way of determining leadership among villages; it even resulted in a war between two villages in 1891, when people from Ghango burnt down the Molonde village in revenge after the death of their best wrestlers.
Today, it is a friendly competition drawing a huge crowd from all over the region, usually every Sunday for eight weeks in February and March. Every village gathers their best wrestlers in a major contest to see who has the best fighters with athletes showing off their fighting prowess. Each village is the host of the wrestling for one day. Even contemporary Young wrestlers who inherited the gene from their forefathers get into the field as it is an outright showcase of bravery and a measure of strength. Historically, Bakweri Traditional Wrestling (pala-pala) started years ago as a result of an argument that erupted between two friends. Their quest to test each other’s strength led to an open challenge where both decided to get into a wrestling bout. In the process, the one who succeeded to put the others back to the ground was declared a winner. This was how pala-pala began with those rules constituting an integral part of the game.
Till date, many other Bakweri cultural activities which started informally are now crowd pulling events among the Bakweri people. A match between two villages starts when all the contestants wearing skimpy sarongs meet in the middle of the large expanse of grass which forms the wrestling pitch. The wrestlers tease each other by making threat gestures and challenge into a nail-biting fight. A contestant wins the bout by throwing his opponent on his back or by or forcing him flat on this stomach. To set the atmosphere, drummers on an elevated stage beat intricate rhythms on large log drums throughout the match while the crowds roar and shout encouragement to the wrestlers. The setting is magnificent; the villages are surrounded by dense and lush vegetation with Mount Cameroon towering in the background over the wrestling field and glimpses of the ocean can be seen on the horizon.
The contest culminates with the announcement of the year’s champion wrestler, who is then carried among the spectators with loud acclamations accompanied by traditional songs and dances performed by cheerleaders and elder tribeswomen. Officials charged with organizing “pala pala” say the sport is an all-embracing activity, open to every man or woman strong enough to wrestle, provided they adhere to the rules and regulations. The sport has grown over the years with foreigners from Europe who have participated, beating local wrestlers in some instances. Its popularity has equally grown even among the women who had considered it an activity reserved for men. As a result, female wrestlers like Ndollo Rebecca have come to the lamplight. The latter has taken the flag of the Southwest Region and Cameroon to distant places representing it in many competitions. In fact, Apollo who started amateur wrestling now takes it as an active profession. For males, a good number of Bakweri traditional wrestlers have triggered the crowd and created much impact in their milieu, some of which have traveled to the land of no return. One like Moni from Limbe is said to have terrorized the entire Southwest Region with his skill. His presence in a wrestling pitch brought complete panic to his opponent who would fall prey to his waiting muscles. Others like Moki from Bokwai, Leowa and Mbella Nganda were all barons whose fighting skills were worth commending. Usually their matches pulled the highest number of people in and out of the region. The sport has grown to develop five different categories: junior wrestlers (5-10years), cadets (10-17years) and the senior category comprised of the muscular men meanwhile the women also have a junior and senior category.
Speaking to Legideon Magazine, the President of Fako Division Wrestling Bureau, Mr. Ewome Joseph Njie, credited wrestling as an enviable cultural activity considering the crowd it pulls on each occasion. The event brings together elites, chiefs and lovers of culture under one canopy to watch villagers make bouts on others. Till date, its uniting power cannot be underestimated. Traditional wrestling playgrounds during tournaments even serve as a platform for business people and traders who earn a lot from the ready market the sport gathers. A wrestling official affirmed that many men have had their wives on wrestling pitches. Research proves that in the Bakweri culture, many women turn to fall in love with muscular men and during wrestling tournaments, it is common to find young girls hovering around a champion.
Commenting on the rhythms during wrestling tournaments, Mr. Ewome said that wrestling is considered more of a battle than just a game, reason why most of its songs are battle songs. “Even the message is a call for battle to the wrestler. Usually, the village that tunes the song first is sending a warning signal to its opponents saying their wrestler is ready. In all, every war or wrestling song has a meaning”. As the game of wrestling remains an interesting and an all-embracing activity, there is the need for the exercise to remain healthy and safe for all concerned. Interestingly, we found out that Traditional Wrestling differs from the modern-day wrestling. Unlike modern day wrestling which is done on soft decorated platforms, Pala Pala is conducted on a hard surface and there is the possibility of injury at any time. “If you are going to wrestle then you have a back to fall with and you must be prepared to fall. Local pitches are used for wrestling so the Wrestler does not cajole his opponent” added Mr. Ewome. Organizers of the event have however taken some measures to mitigate health complications like broken body parts that come as a result of wrestling on these hard surfaces. This brought about a new rule where a wrestler is declared a winner if he succeeds to bundle his opponent up to the shoulder level without throwing him to the ground.
Mr. Ewome however, regretted that most of the traditional sporting activities of the Bakweri like the famous “Iwvati” sport have gone extinct. He holds the opinion that these cultural sporting activities are worth promoting and is encouraging lovers of sports to venture into the sporting activity especially as it is a strength-proven action. He further decried young people who fight on the streets and beer parlors, urging them to come to the wrestling pitch and show their power.
LIMBE CANOE RACE
The Annual Clash of Five Coastal Villages
One the Limbe’s biggest annual cultural events and a major touristic attraction is the Canoe Race. Sponsored by Guinness Company in the 80s, by Njalla Quan Sports Academy in 2000s and today by the Limbe Festival of Arts and Culture, the Limbe Canoe Race has always been a show of force and mastery of the sea waves by five major coastal villages – Wovia, Bimbia, Botaland, Mondoli and Batoke.
These villages prepare their teams so hard throughout the year. On the D-Day, so great is the suspense that it is extremely difficult to predict the winner. From the start/finish point at the Downbeach SeaFront area, crowds of spectators watch the race in the sea. While the paddles glitter in the seawaves, some old wise men could even be seen on the beach apparently invoking victory gods for their villages. Meanwhile, various cultural and sports events are performed on the beach while waiting for the first canoes. Excitement builds up when the first canoes approach the shore. The victorious canoe’s team receives cheers from the crowd and embraces from their fellow villagers waiting at the beach.
The Bakweri Elephant Dance of Southern Cameroon
Not many non Bakweri have the opportunity of witnessing their ceremonies, and it is rarely indeed that the participants will allow photographs to be taken.
This is the season when the annual dances of the society (Njoku Male) are held. Members, in the higher grades at least, claim the power to own elephant ‘doubles’ into which they can change at will. There are four grades in Male known as Love, Venjuka, Tamba and Vekpa which have an ascending scale of entrance fees, and which are open to men only.
A member with an elephant double is thought to be able to trample on the farms of his enemies in elephant form, and to transport himself (and any friends he may link arms with) at tremendous speeds from place to place. Such a member must however take the risk that if his elephant double is killed by a hunter he too will suddenly die. The society came from Womboko on the other side of the Cameroon Mountain. It was there that the belief in the power to change into an elephant (njoku) seems to have been grafted on to the widespread Male society, which, without this belief, is found all over the inland Kumba Division. A number of Bakweri villages have the society. The most well known is Wokpaongo near Buea, but less accessible villages such as Mafanja, Wova and Gbasa can sometimes show more of the traditional features of the society.
First there is a general dance of the members of the society dressed in head and waist cloths, with their bodies smeared with red mud and decked with vegetation of various kinds. This dance is known as Veambe and the participants, some of whom are quite young children, wind in and out of the village to the rhythm of the drums. This is said to represent the movement of the elephant herd through the forest, but some of the members almost seem to be dressed to resemble the forest itself. Most of the old meaning of this dance is lost and young members view it as an opportunity for bizarre fancy dress.
This is the Bakweri Alphabet Chat.
The language is developed in the reading, writing and speaking.
The Forfront teacher of the Makweri Language is Mola Samuel Kinge who is a trained literacy personel,translator and consultant.
Samuel Kinge has trained hundreds and he is teaching thousands on how to read, write and speak the language
Some Captivating lessons in the mokpe language.
How to greet in Bakweri:
-Elele ya gbamù-good morning
-ŋmerze mo gbamù-good afternoon.
-Ngombe ya gbamù-good evening
— Ò wurzeli- are you well.
Lìvayà la gbamù- welcomes (Bakweri Botaland).
-Na ma jà- I have come.
-I ma jà- We have come
-Hwa ma ja-they have come.
-E ma jà- you people have come.
-E jè-you people should come.
È rzì jàa- you people should not come.
Counting in mokpe:
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà yɔ̀kɔ-eleven(11)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà hwehwàkɛ-twelf(12)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà hweyawò-thirthen(13)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà hwenìi- fourtten(14)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà hweta-fiften(15)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà mòtohwa-sixteen(16)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà lìrzàmba-seventen(17)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà hwàmbì-eighteen(18)
-Lìyomɛ̀ nà lùùwa-nineteen(19)
Presented to you by Mola Samuel Kingɛ