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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

Colonialism played an important role in bringing independent African kingdoms into common political or administrative units. However, such endeavours created conflicting situations and groups hitherto dominated by their neighbours in the pre-colonial period opted out of these associations. Using the example of the Aghem and their neighbors in the present day North West Region of modern Cameroon, (west/central Africa), this paper contends that such a union, particularly the one created by the British in 1921, could not survive as it instead intensified the hatred and bitterness that existed between them in the pre-colonial period. The Aghem, who had once defeated the Weh, resisted a union where the Weh chief was to act as one of the judges, lording over them. They thus rejected membership in the Weh Native Court area while demanding their own court area. Even though the British colonial authorities heeded their demands and created the Wum (Aghem) Native Court area in 1927, they were uncomfortable with the presence of the Bebas, Befang, and Esimbi in the same unit with them. They ill-treated these groups and could not embrace equality with a people who were once tribute payers. In spite of the Aghem’s claim of superiority over them, the Bebas, Befang, and Esimbi persevered in the union until 1933 when they rejected the Aghem highhandedness and started clamouring for their own court area. This demand had a favourable response and, in 1937, colonial authorities created a new court area for them.

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