THE REMAINS OF SLAVE TRADE FOUND IN CAMEROON

BIMBIA SLAVE VILLAGE

Cameroon is one of those countries that suffered from the slave trade and the first African country . The Portuguese, one of the European countries that were engaged in the business of buying slaves, ivory and other items from Africa, reportedly reached the Cameroonian coast by 1472. From the Wouri Estuary where they landed and established contacts with the local coastal chiefs soon stretched their business contacts to Bimbia. By dint of its coastal location, Bimbia suddenly grew to become a significant trade port for slaves bound for plantations in the Americas and neighbouring islands of Tome, Principe, Fernando Po, today Equatorial Guinea. And Bimbia is the route through which very many Cameroonians, in the 1500s, 1600s and 1700s, passed through to reach plantations aboard.

Bimbia was an independent state of Isubu people of Cameroon, in 1884 annexed by the Germans and incorporated in the colony of Kamerun. It lies in Southwest Region, to the south of Mount Cameroon and to the west of the Wouri estuary. Is situated at the East coast of the Limbe Sub Division. Bimbia consists of three villages: * Dikolo *Bona Ngombe * Bona Bille In 1932 when the population of Bimbia was about 2500peoples. Bimbia was the first place whitemen, the Jamaican and English Baptist missionaries led by Rev. Alfred Saker set foot on the Cameroon shore in 1858, from Fernando Po. There he built the first schooland first church. Later he went to Victoria where he built the Ebenezer Baptist church. The Bimbia man was the first person to go to Saker’s school and the first to become christian.

Origins

The predominant Isubu oral history holds that the ethnic group hails from Mboko, the area southwest of Mount Cameroon. Tradition makes them the descendants of Isuwu na Monanga, who led their migration to the west bank of the Wouri estuary. When a descendant of Isuwu named Mbimbi became king, the people began to refer to their territories as Bimbia.

European contacts

Joseph Merrick at an Isubu funeral in Cameroon, 1845.

Portuguese traders reached the Wouri estuary in 1472. Over the next few decades, more Europeans came to explore the estuary and the rivers that feed it, and to establish trading posts. The Isubu carved out a role for themselves as middlemen, trading ivory, kola nuts, andpeppers from the interior. However, a major commodity was slaves, most bound for plantations on nearby islands such as Annobon,Fernando Po, Príncipe, and São Tomé.[3]

Some Bimbia legend[citation needed] grants Ekum’a Makundu, a formerDikolo chief, to have said that “it was when Alfred Saker came with his christian religion we stopped the slave trading. The Bimbia used to catch some none natives and sell them as slaves to the Spanish ships that came to Bimbia but never landed because they were afraid of the natives whom they termed “savages” “. Ekum’a Makundu used to be a pirate and fought the Spanish people for their properties. The Spanish people got furious and decided to bomb Dikolo – Bimbia. When the information reached the locals, they made visible peace signal; when the Spaniards came back, some indigenes went to the sea to meet them and make a peace pact and promised never to worry them again.

By the 16th century, the Isubu were second only to the Duala in trade. The earliest Isubu merchants were likely tribal chiefs or headmen.[4]Bimbia, the primary Isubu settlement, grew quickly.

Europeans traders did their best to support friendly chiefs against their rivals, adulating them with titles such as King, Prince, or Chief. In exchange, these indigenes offered trade monopolies to their patrons and sometimes ceded land.[citation needed] An Isubu chief named Bilebecame leader of the Isubu as King William, although Dick Merchant of Dikolo village and other chiefs eventually opposed his dominance.

British influence

British traders became the dominant European presence in the region by the mid-19th century, and the Crown used them to enforce abolitionof the slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea. In 1844 and 1848, King William signed anti-slavery treaties. In exchange, the traders provided him with annual gifts of alcohol, guns, textiles, and other goods.[4] William was also asked to forbid practices the British viewed as barbaric, such as sacrificing a chief’s wife upon his death.[5] With William’s blessing, Bimbia became a haven for repatriated slaves and escapees from the illicit trade, which continued for many more years.

The British also endeavored to educate and Christianise the Bimbians.[6] King William rebuffed the earliest missionaries because he did not agree with their insistence on prayer and opposition to polygamy. In 1844, however, Joseph Merrick convinced William to let him open a church and school in Bimbia.[7] In 1858, the Spanish ousted Protestant missionaries from their base at Fernando Po. King William sold a portion of his domains to the missionary Alfred Saker, who then founded Victoria (today known as Limbe). By 1875, numerous missions and schools sprung up in Victoria and other settlements. Victoria came to be a mixture of freed slaves, working Cameroonians, and Christianised Cameroonians from the various coastal groups. Cameroonian Pidgin English began to develop at this time.

Isubu society was changed fundamentally by the European trade. European goods became status symbols, and some rulers appointed Western traders and missionaries as advisors. Large numbers of Isubu grew wealthy, leading to rising class tensions. Competition escalated between coastal groups and even between related settlements. Between 1855 and 1879, the Isubu alone engaged in at least four conflicts, both internal and with rival ethnic groups. Traders exploited this atmosphere, and beginning in 1860, German, French, and Spanish merchants had established contacts and weakened the British monopoly. The Duala had gained a virtual hegemony over trade through the Wouri estuary, and the Isubu had little power left. Young King William was virtually powerless when he succeeded his father in 1878.[8]

Treaties

On 17 February 1844, King William I of Bimbia and the chiefs of Bimbia concluded a treaty with Lieutenant Edward Charles Earl, commander of the English brig Rapid in which the slave trade was prohibited in exchange for goods worth $1,200, and free trade was guaranteed.[9] On 19 December 1850, a further treaty with Thomas Rodney Eden, captain of the Amphitrite, regulated trade terms, covering subjects such as payment of “comey”, a customary fee paid by trading vessels to chiefs in exchange for permission to trade.[10] On 7 February 1855, the British Acting Consul, J.W.B. Lynslager, witnessed an engagement in which the chiefs of the Boobee (Bubi) Islands, adjacent to the Amboise (Ambas) Islands, settled the recent dispute and acknowledged King William of Bimbia’s authority.[11]

German protectorate

A German protectorate over the Cameroons was declared on 12 July 1884. In a communication of 15 October 1884 the German Government described the territories included in the protectorate, which included Bimbia.[12]

Economic activities

Fishing and Farming

The Bimbia are mostly fishermen. In the thirties the fishing industry was florishing. Fishing is a communal labour as it was not possible for one man to be able to set up his fishing equipment. Therefore the men of the village came together and made the equipment of one person then went to the other.

Technics

The Bimbia man fishes in many different ways namely: Ndemba, Ngoto, Mbunja, Efese and Moleke.

The women are yam planters. People come to buy benyanya, smoked njanga, smoked mwanjamoto and other fish. Women come from chop farm with raw food to exchange for fish and bring things like accra banana, groundnuts and koki beans.

The women dry all the fish, sell it or battler for household needs. During the dry season, the men go to sea in the night. The women work until morning on the efefe to sort out the fish in their different species, put on very big baskets called ‘ndenge’ and start drying them on the ‘wokas’. Woka is a stab make of bamboos from the palm tree. Then carry the wokas to the ‘etaka’ or bandas where a long fire is made to smoke the fish at night. The dried benyanya is stored away to give way for other fish to be dried also. When the season for meyo is over, the season for mwanjamoto and crayfish (njanga) starts.

Women are from the sale of fish responsible for looking after of all the house needs such as soap, oil, salt, kerosene etc. Men are responsible for the sale of the big benyanya to pay school fees.

Chiefs

Dikolo has six quarters : Mbeng’a Liwoka, Bali, Wona Wonanya, Wona Ngowe, Wona Mbimbi and Mabetefutu with their family heads and a traditional chief.

Bimbia chieftaincy stool dose not rotates. It is in the same family for all generations.

  • In Dikolo the Ekum’a Makundu family have the chieftaincy and it is not contested for.
  • In Bona Ngombe the Musuka family have the chieftaincy.
  • In Bona Bille the Billa Lozenge family have the chieftaincy, the descendants of king William of Bimbia.

    Early European contacts

    Joseph Merrick at an Isubu funeral in Cameroon, 1845.

    Portuguese traders reached the Wouri estuary in 1472. Over the next few decades, more Europeans came to explore the estuary and the rivers that feed it, and to establish trading posts. The Isubu carved out a role for themselves as middlemen, trading ivory, kola nuts, andpeppers from the interior. However, a major commodity was slaves, most bound for plantations on nearby islands such as Annobon,Fernando Po, Príncipe, and São Tomé.[3]

    Some Bimbia legend[citation needed] grants Ekum’a Makundu, a formerDikolo chief, to have said that “it was when Alfred Saker came with his christian religion we stopped the slave trading. The Bimbia used to catch some none natives and sell them as slaves to the Spanish ships that came to Bimbia but never landed because they were afraid of the natives whom they termed “savages” “. Ekum’a Makundu used to be a pirate and fought the Spanish people for their properties. The Spanish people got furious and decided to bomb Dikolo – Bimbia. When the information reached the locals, they made visible peace signal; when the Spaniards came back, some indigenes went to the sea to meet them and make a peace pact and promised never to worry them again.

    By the 16th century, the Isubu were second only to the Duala in trade. The earliest Isubu merchants were likely tribal chiefs or headmen.[4]Bimbia, the primary Isubu settlement, grew quickly.

    Europeans traders did their best to support friendly chiefs against their rivals, adulating them with titles such as King, Prince, or Chief. In exchange, these indigenes offered trade monopolies to their patrons and sometimes ceded land.[citation needed] An Isubu chief named Bilebecame leader of the Isubu as King William, although Dick Merchant of Dikolo village and other chiefs eventually opposed his dominance.

    British influence

    British traders became the dominant European presence in the region by the mid-19th century, and the Crown used them to enforce abolitionof the slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea. In 1844 and 1848, King William signed anti-slavery treaties. In exchange, the traders provided him with annual gifts of alcohol, guns, textiles, and other goods.[4] William was also asked to forbid practices the British viewed as barbaric, such as sacrificing a chief’s wife upon his death.[5] With William’s blessing, Bimbia became a haven for repatriated slaves and escapees from the illicit trade, which continued for many more years.

    The British also endeavored to educate and Christianise the Bimbians.[6] King William rebuffed the earliest missionaries because he did not agree with their insistence on prayer and opposition to polygamy. In 1844, however, Joseph Merrick convinced William to let him open a church and school in Bimbia.[7] In 1858, the Spanish ousted Protestant missionaries from their base at Fernando Po. King William sold a portion of his domains to the missionary Alfred Saker, who then founded Victoria (today known as Limbe). By 1875, numerous missions and schools sprung up in Victoria and other settlements. Victoria came to be a mixture of freed slaves, working Cameroonians, and Christianised Cameroonians from the various coastal groups. Cameroonian Pidgin English began to develop at this time.

    Isubu society was changed fundamentally by the European trade. European goods became status symbols, and some rulers appointed Western traders and missionaries as advisors. Large numbers of Isubu grew wealthy, leading to rising class tensions. Competition escalated between coastal groups and even between related settlements. Between 1855 and 1879, the Isubu alone engaged in at least four conflicts, both internal and with rival ethnic groups. Traders exploited this atmosphere, and beginning in 1860, German, French, and Spanish merchants had established contacts and weakened the British monopoly. The Duala had gained a virtual hegemony over trade through the Wouri estuary, and the Isubu had little power left. Young King William was virtually powerless when he succeeded his father in 1878.[8]

    Treaties

    On 17 February 1844, King William I of Bimbia and the chiefs of Bimbia concluded a treaty with Lieutenant Edward Charles Earl, commander of the English brig Rapid in which the slave trade was prohibited in exchange for goods worth $1,200, and free trade was guaranteed.[9] On 19 December 1850, a further treaty with Thomas Rodney Eden, captain of the Amphitrite, regulated trade terms, covering subjects such as payment of “comey”, a customary fee paid by trading vessels to chiefs in exchange for permission to trade.[10] On 7 February 1855, the British Acting Consul, J.W.B. Lynslager, witnessed an engagement in which the chiefs of the Boobee (Bubi) Islands, adjacent to the Amboise (Ambas) Islands, settled the recent dispute and acknowledged King William of Bimbia’s authority.[11]

    German protectorate

    A German protectorate over the Cameroons was declared on 12 July 1884. In a communication of 15 October 1884 the German Government described the territories included in the protectorate, which included Bimbia.[12]

    Economic activities

    Fishing and Farming

    The Bimbia are mostly fishermen. In the thirties the fishing industry was florishing. Fishing is a communal labour as it was not possible for one man to be able to set up his fishing equipment. Therefore the men of the village came together and made the equipment of one person then went to the other.

    Technics

    The Bimbia man fishes in many different ways namely: Ndemba, Ngoto, Mbunja, Efese and Moleke.

    The women are yam planters. People come to buy benyanya, smoked njanga, smoked mwanjamoto and other fish. Women come from chop farm with raw food to exchange for fish and bring things like accra banana, groundnuts and koki beans.

    The women dry all the fish, sell it or battler for household needs. During the dry season, the men go to sea in the night. The women work until morning on the efefe to sort out the fish in their different species, put on very big baskets called ‘ndenge’ and start drying them on the ‘wokas’. Woka is a stab make of bamboos from the palm tree. Then carry the wokas to the ‘etaka’ or bandas where a long fire is made to smoke the fish at night. The dried benyanya is stored away to give way for other fish to be dried also. When the season for meyo is over, the season for mwanjamoto and crayfish (njanga) starts.

    Women are from the sale of fish responsible for looking after of all the house needs such as soap, oil, salt, kerosene etc. Men are responsible for the sale of the big benyanya to pay school fees.

    Chiefs

    Dikolo has six quarters : Mbeng’a Liwoka, Bali, Wona Wonanya, Wona Ngowe, Wona Mbimbi and Mabetefutu with their family heads and a traditional chief.

    Bimbia chieftaincy stool dose not rotates. It is in the same family for all generations.

    • In Dikolo the Ekum’a Makundu family have the chieftaincy and it is not contested for.
    • In Bona Ngombe the Musuka family have the chieftaincy.
    • In Bona Bille the Billa Lozenge family have the chieftaincy, the descendants of king William of Bimbia.

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