Titles and Cult Membership in Nso (Part 7)

If you missed part 1 to 3 you can get them part 1 here , part 2 here, part 3 here , part 4 here , part 5 here and part 6 here:

During the Nso’-Bamoun war of 1885-1889 the Nso’ army (Manjoŋ) ransacked the Foumban Palace and looted both Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì cults occultism (shiv), as well as artifacts and masquerades. After the war the loot was used to enhance especially the Ŋwéròŋ cults of Kinghaayasi and Jwiŋwéròŋ. The reigning Paramount King Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) then decided to use the remaining loot to re-introduce the Ŋgírì cults to Nso’ land, with the strong backing of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv. As was to be expected Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (who re-introduced Ŋwéròŋ to Nso’ society) were incensed by this re-introduction of the Ŋgírì cults. Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) and Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv refused to back down. However, to pacify Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm they agreed to limit Ŋgírì’s power substantially. According to their agreement Ŋgírì was never going to assume any of the Judicial, Administrative or Regulatory roles that were then under Ŋwéròŋ’s authority. Ŋgírì was limited to the role of Palace fraternity for the boys (princes). This did not sit very well with some senior princes who were barred by virtue of their princely birth from belonging to the Ŋwéròŋ cults.
As expected, when one of the disgruntled princes who was a senior member of the severely limited and hamstringed Ŋgírì cults became King he decided to give the Ŋgírì cults more power. This happened in 1907 when a senior Ŋgírì cult member became the King Fòn Mapri (1907-1910). Of course Ŋwéròŋ and Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm objected to this augmentation of Ŋgírì’s power. In fact Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was so incensed that Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was breaking the agreements they had with his predecessor that he opposed Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) in public. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) could not digest this affront to his authority and ordered Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm to be killed. Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was assassinated within the Palace grounds in 1909 and his staff was sent back to his people (the Taaŋkùm people still sing Laala about the incident to this day). The assassination of Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm was the last straw for Ŋwéròŋ which had tolerated quite a few killings from Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) who was purging the Royal family of all his potential rivals. Ŋwéròŋ decided that Fòn Mapri (1907 -1910) needed to be taken to the execution site in Kisée (near Mbuluv) and executed (laar – made to disappear). However before Ŋwéròŋ could put their plan into action another opportunity presented itself. Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) was ordered to Bamenda station to pay submissive tribute to the German colonial Governor. Ŋwéròŋ plotted Fòn Mapri’s (1907-1910) assassination at Vikuùtsәn when the Fòn was on his way to Bamenda in 1910. To this day in Nso’ folklore Fòn Mapri (1907-1910) is referred to as Kinforkir ke Vikuùtsәn (the one who died prematurely at Vikuùtsәn) and is recorded as the second casualty of the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì squabbles after Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm (Tsәmaloŋ).
To bring back peace to the Palace, Fòn Mapri’s (1907-1910) successor Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) rescinded the increased Ŋgírì powers that Fòn Mapri (1910-1947) had ordered and returned to the 1890 agreements between Ŋwéròŋ, Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv, Shúufaáy Taaŋkùm and Fòn Sehm II (1875-1907) that led to the re-instatement of the Ŋgírì cults. There were still however some recalcitrant princes who were unwilling to relinquish the new Ŋgírì powers and return the cults group to a mere fraternity. Surprisingly in the background within the court, these recalcitrant princes had the full support of Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv who was still nursing his own grudges against Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947). So, more trouble was brewing for Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì in the background and it was not going to take long before it exploded in the open.
Despite their tense relationship, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì collaborated fully in matters that threatened their mutual interests. In 1912, Catholic missionaries arrived the Paramount Kingdom of Nso’ and the Fòn graciously received them and gave them a huge piece of land at Shisong, for their church and hospital. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì were not thrilled with this largesse from the Fòn towards the misssionaries. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì both saw these new comers (like the German soldiers) as a threat to their power and influence. Despite the Fòn’s explanation that the missionaries were not a threat, Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì maintained their position especially after their meetings with Mfoome Ba’ and Nfoome Gham (leaders of the Manjoŋ war society) had convinced them that the missionaries were Germans who hailed from the same place as the German soldiers that had defeated Manjoŋ and killed the Fòn in 1907.
In a meeting with Ŋwéròŋ, Ŋgírì, Maŋjoŋ and the Councillors (Vibay), the Fòn came to a compromise and agreed that the missionaries should be confined to Shisong and not allowed to venture anywhere else. Luckily for the Nso’ traditionalists, Germany lost World War I and the activities of the missionaries were abruptly halted as all German missionaries were ordered out of The Cameroons. However, that suspension of missionary activities did not last for long because the Germans were replaced by French missionaries and evangelization resumed. The Christians even became more daring and expanded their activities to Kimbo where they built a church at Mbìvtinmbaŋ, less than a quarter of a mile from the Palace. Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì could not stand the insult from the Christians any longer. They told the Fòn that they were going to burn the church down if he did not order the catechist Paul Taŋgwa (Ba’njav) to take his catechumens back to Shisong as had initially been agreed. The Fòn refused to oblige and Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì acted, and burned the whole church compound including the surrounding houses to the ground.
The ring leaders of the conspiracy to burn the church were Faáy Faanjaŋ (Ŋwéròŋ and Ŋgírì), Mfoome Ba’ (Manjoŋ and Ŋgírì), Mfoome Gham (Manjoŋ and Ŋwéròŋ), Sheey Tavtin of Mbiiŋgiy (Tav Ŋwéròŋ) and Faáy Bambùy (Tav Ŋgírì – not yet elevated to Shúufaáy in 1920). The catechist and his flock immediately reported the incident to the Fòn who was livid because he feared retaliation from the colonial administration in Bamenda. The Christians reported that it was Ŋwéròŋ under the leadership of Faáy Faanjaŋ that burned the church. The Fòn immediately summoned Faáy Faanjaŋ to the Court. When the other conspirators heard that Faáy Faanjaŋ had been summoned to the Palace, they all showed up in a delegation of more than twenty(20). Seeing the contingent and knowing what had happened to his predecessor Fòn Mapri (1907-1910), Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) must have been frightened. The Fòn asked the Christians if they could identify the Faáy Faanjaŋ that was standing before them as the culprit that torched the church building. They all said that the arsonist was a hooded Ŋwéròŋ (Kilumsi), but that they were convinced it was Faáy Faanjaŋ who was inside the mask. The Fòn then told them that since they could not identify the culprit, there was nothing he could do apart
from send all the suspects to the Colonial Administration for punishment and then help them rebuild their church.
After the Christians left the Fòn convinced his Councilors, especially Shúufaáy Ndzәәndzәv that the church had to be rebuilt. He reminded them of the disgraceful treatment the Germans had mitted to them a few years earlier after the Nso’-German war, and asked if they wanted a repeat. They all replied in the negative and he assisted the Christians to rebuild their church with no objections from any Councilor. Twelve culprits (including the above ring leaders) were sent to jail for two months and ordered to pay heavy fines. Even though he never converted to Christianity, Fòn Ŋgà’ Bì’ Fòn I (1910-1947) was absolutely convinced according to his closest confidants that Christianity and the development it brought was good for his Kingdom.
Despite this brief incident of comity, the Ŋwéròŋ-Ŋgírì truce was short-lived.

Compiled & shared by Shey Tatah Sevidzem

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