Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Kom society, culture and customs

 Matrilineal Kom explained

The Kom society is patriarchal. Males hold the vast majority of power and privilege, while females in the Kom society labour primarily in domestic roles in the kitchen and the farm. In the Kom society, a man's power and wealth is measured by the number of wives that he has. Polygamy is a thing of pride. This makes a man with one wife voiceless in a men’s gathering. (In fact he is described as using the wife as a ‘walking stick’ since you can not hold two walking sticks with one hand). In the Kom society girls get married as young as 15 years old.
Interestingly, though Kom males hold most of the power in day-to-day affairs, the Kom society, which also places great emphasis on respect for elders, is matrilineal in matters of succession. In this regard, the Kom society differs significantly from other tribes of Cameroon. Lineage in the Kom culture is continued on the side of the mother and not the father in such a way that when an adult Kom male dies, ownership of his property including his compound, wives and children is transferred to his nephew (son of his sister, and only when the deceased is not survived by a brother) and not his own son. The process of matrilineal succession in Kom society is more complicated if a deceased male did not have a nephew to leave his property to. In this case, succession would be continued on the side of first cousin. This practice is now becoming obsolete, however.
This practice, however, is not the exclusive preserve of the Kom people. This is what Eugenia Shanklin, one of the most experienced scholars of Kom Anthroplogy, posits:

“I can't resist replying to the question about matrilineality, about which many Kom people are not well taught or informed by their teachers (who have often been missionaries and somewhat biased against a system that seems so foreign).

Matrilineality indeed means tracing descent through the maternal line; it also usually involves inheritance in that line, as it does in Kom, with nephew succeeding uncle. (The variant that the eldest nephew succeeds the uncle is not invariable, and any Kom person is already sufficiently familiar with exceptions to the rule.) What most Kom people seem not to be aware of is that there are several other matrilineal groups in the Grassfields, e.g., Nyos and Mmen, and that there is a "matrilineal belt" across Central Africa. What most anthropologists seem not to be aware of is that if one were counting peoples, a majority of African groups are matrilineal. If one is counting heads, however, a majority of the African population is patrilineal. The outstanding and highly populous matrilineal group in West Africa is the Ashante/Asante and I believe most people are familiar with their importance in the region.

Several things are of interest about matrilineality: the first is that divorce is quite frequent and marriage ties are always quite brittle in such societies, probably because a primary emotional tie is between brother and sister, not husband and wife. A second is that - unlike in Kom - women usually retain the rights to their children following divorce and there is no need for an adjudicated settlement.

A third is that women in matrilineal societies usually have much more authority - through their brothers and their kin group - than women in patrilineal societies. They are more influential in matters of succession, of rights in farm land, and such than their patrilineal sisters. I have several times had the "pleasure" of interviewing a Kom woman in the presence of her husband, then of her brother, and it is as if one is interviewing two different people - when she is with her husband, anything he says is agreed to, no matter how outrageous or wrong he may be. With her brother, the same woman says what she thinks, corrects him if he misspeaks, and argues for a point of view that one could consider the feminine, matrilineal viewpoint.

There is some debate about what is happening to matrilineal societies across Africa but the consensus now is that people maintain their matrilineality in the face even of modernization. A recent issue of the journal, Critique of Anthropology, (1997) took this up at some length.

There used to be a debate in anthropology about whether matrilineality was doomed to die out because it was the "oldest" form of human social organization and was being replaced by the more modern form, patrilineality. BoChong/Hon. F. Nkwain remembers being told about this by Phyllis Kaberry - you can all imagine his outraged, eloquent reaction - and it was the going view for some time in the early years of the 20th century, until people noticed that matrilineality actually wasn't dying out.

Mary Douglas wrote an interesting article in 1969 called "Is Matriliny Doomed?" She had studied the matrilineal Lele of the Kasai (River, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), an interesting matrilineal group that practiced polyandry, among other things - polyandry is the custom in which a woman is married to more than one man. Douglas concluded that matriliny was alive and well and not in danger of dying out. Other scholars have recently agreed with her at some length, for different reasons, and I may include this discussion in an article on Kom kinship that I am trying to revise for this new book on Kom I'm trying to get published.

Debating the 'wisdom' of the matrilineal system is a favorite parlor/chong house game in Kom, I know, and I don't want to get into those debates. But I hope this information will place such discussions in their appropriate context - I couldn't resist adding this because I just wrote an article for Don and April Gordon's reader, Understanding Contemporary Africa, on African systems of kinship and marriage and I mentioned some of the aspects I've referred to here.”
Understanding matrilineal succession the Kom way

Hon. Ndim Albert Waingeh, former member of the Caneroonian Parliament, retired educator and front-line politician of Kom extraction, member of the Kom Language Committee and of the Itui Kom Traditional High Court, throws more light on the way of life of a people that has been summarily dismissed as ‘bad’ even before it is understood for its intrinsic value:

“There is a period in history that is referred to as the Dark Ages. One would think that this refers to a period when most of the inhabitants of the world were dark in colour or a period when the sun refused to shine, but no! The Dark Ages refers to a period when existing records were destroyed by barbarians and no written records of what happened within that period can be found.

There is a continent referred to as the ‘dark’ continent, not because of the colour of the inhabitants but because of the absence of written records on her way of life in general. In the same way, our Region, the North West (Cameroon) can be referred to as the ‘dark Region’ because there is no where one can turn to for important information on us and our way of life.

As it always happens, what is not known is often negatively feared. We in Kom particularly fear ponds that are too dark for one to see to the bottom. We refer to such a pond as ‘achim-a-debli’ (the devil’s pond). It is the same with our traditions that are not known. They are easily classified as bad because they are not understood. For example, we only hear of how widows are ill-treated during burial and mourning of husbands. When one goes on to find out, the ill-treatment is that the widow must sit on the floor throughout and cannot go out unless accompanied. Little do we know that this practice originated from attempts to protect the poor woman who had lost her husband from over straining or killing herself. Let there be light!

Hon. Ndim Albert Waingeh goes on to elucidate the Kom way of matrilineal succession:

“It is now a well known fact that the Kom people are among the few tribes in the world that practice matrilineal succession. A lot has been written and/or said about it. There are those who have set out to attack it while others have set out to defend it. I merely set out to explain it so that those who wish to attack or defend it can do so with full knowledge of what it is they are defending or attacking.

Matrilineal describes a line of genealogical relationship or decent that follows the female side of the family. Thus it describes a group that is related through mothers. Relationship is traced through the woman’s line of decent.

The understanding of family as father, mother and children, is foreign to Kom. All Kom people belong to clans. A clan is defined as a group of people all related through one common ancestor and in Kom, this ancestor is always the woman. So far nineteen clans have been identified in Kom to the best of my knowledge and I stand to be corrected:

Membership of the clan
One is a member of a clan by being the child of their mother. If one’s mother is an Ikui woman, they are automatically a member of the Ikui clan. If one’s father is an Achaff man, they remain a child of the Achaff clan. People who become Kom people through marriage or through any other means can adopt or be adopted by a clan. However, women can found clans of their own since the growth and expansion of the clan comes from them. This explains the existence of clans like Kidjem, Mejang, Avim, Nguh and others, which grew from women that came in from Babanki, Mejang, Wum and Bamungo in that order. This means that if a Kom man marries a woman from the USA for example, and she does not want to adopt one of the existing clans, usually that of her husband, then her children and the children of her daughters could found a clan called USA.
Considering that clan membership is taken from the mother, one is bound to belong to the same clan as the mother’s brothers and sisters, and as the sisters’ sons and daughters.

Ownership of property in Kom
It is important to note that in Kom, the individual is only the caretaker of any property they might acquire. The property is owned by the clan and is guarded and protected jealously by the clan. Thus, if an Achaff man builds a compound, it is referred to by all as an Achaff compound. If a Mejang man acquires farmland, it is mejang farmland. Property extends to wives and children. A wife of an Ikui man is the wife of the Ikui clan, except in the case where that wife’s hand was sought for in marriage by a father for his son (not maternal uncle), as it often happens for a first son in the family, in which case, the woman is the property of the father’s clan.

As already indicated, all property belongs to the clan and what is succeeded when a person dies is property. The first right to the property is the closest clan member to the deceased, and this means, a brother from the same womb. Where there is no brother from the same mother, a sister from the same mother has the right, but as the Kom man expects all women to be married, and married out of the clan, they can only succeed through their sons; thus, the much-talked about the right of the nephew. The nephew only takes the mother’s place to look after her brother’s property. In the absence of a sister, the search for a successor continues within the clan, extending to brothers or nephews from aunts. A good illustration of this system can be done with the royal succession in Kom.
The first Fon was Jina, son of Bo, daughter of Nakingtii. The second was Kumambong, son of Nange, daughter of Bo. The third was Kuo, son of Yimbum, daughter of Nange; and the table below explains this dynasty:
(Queen Mother)
(Grand Queen Mother)
Njina II
Yuh II
So, to trace the royal line of the present Foyn to his ancestor, we have: Yuh-Ni-Fintya-Nkwain-Funkuin-Nain-Nindum-Yibum-Nange-Bo-Nakingtii.
We can also see from this royal lineage that two sets of brothers have ruled Kom: Tufoyn Nayah, Kimeng Nayah; Ngam Kuo, Ndzi Kuo. The rest have been nephews.
Not all clans in Kom, however, practise matrilineal succession very strictly. Some units of clans, like the Kidjem clan and the Ndotitichia clan, founded by men who moved in from Atumikui or by Babanki people who chose to remain when the others moved to present sites, have continued to retain patrilineal succession. Over time, these clans have found themselves practising both matrilineal and patrilineal succession. The most prominent example of patrilineal succession in Kom has remained the Aboh compound, where the traditional Bo Foyn, father of the Fon, lives.
It is also to be noted that in Kom, the word succession is only used to refer to a case where a nephew comes in because it is only then that the ceremony of succession is carried out. When it is a brother to take over, he simply moves into the property. In the case of a nephew, the clan sends a delegation to his father to ‘beg’ for him. Then a ceremony is organised where other successors come together to be fed and the children of the deceased publicly recognise their new father by receiving wine from his traditional cup (their late father’s traditional cup) and by showering him with gifts during an out-door dance.”
Kom National Almanac of 1956, edited by John Yuh Ndinyah, indicates that Kom may have had more reigning Fons:

1.      Batehfuonu
2.      Jinjua
3.      Tangnangkolih
4.      Jinaboh
5.      Kumabong
6.      Nkwo
7.      Nkwain
8.      Tufoin (1830-55)
9.      Kimeng (1855-65)
10.  Yuh (Born in 1835)
11.  Ngam (Born in 1855)
12.  Ndi (Born in 1866)
13.  Alo’o (Born in 1890)
14.  Nsom (Born in 1895)
15.  Njina (2) (Born in 1902)
16.  Yibain (Born in 1906)
17.  Yuh (2) (Reigning Fon)

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Following Rwanda, Senegal to Replace French by English to Develop the Country Faster

French-CocoricoFrench is Dead. If it’s the only language you speak, you’d have access to less than 4% of humanity knowledge and ideas. That’s very limiting.

For France, French language is a matter of international prestige, but Africans don’t have anymore the luxury of satisfying the salon caprice of grandeur of France by sticking to a dying language!
In United States more than 300,000 new book titles and editions are published every year. In United Kingdom this number is  206,000. Where does France stands?
In France only 63,000 new book titles and editions are published every year. This is 5 times less than the Unites States and 3 times less than United Kingdom. This means a person who is only literate in French would have 8 times less access to information and knowledge than a person who is is literate in English.

In Burkina-Faso, only 12 new book titles and editions are published every year. In Mali 14, in Benin 84, in Madagascar 119, and in Egypt 9,022 the highest ranking African country.
How does French stands in scientific publications?
In terms of academic and scientific articles, Unites States produced about 3 millions scientific articles over the last ten years, United Kingdom 700.000 articles. Where does France stands? 500.000 articles. It means that a person who is literate in French would have 7 times less access to scientific publications than a person who is literate in English.
In fact, this number is much higher because all other countries mainly publish their scientific articles in English as all major scientific reviews, journals and publications are in English.

What about the number of scholarly journals and publications by language
Only 4% of  scholarly journals and publications are in French.

Scholarly journal by language
What about the size of Wikipedia by language?
On Wikipedia there are more than 4 millions articles in English, with more than 600 millions edits, 1,447 admins and more than 18 millions users. Wikipedia in French is 3 times less, comprising 1,2 millions articles, 93 millions edits,  181 admins, and only 1,5 million users.
What about the number of content per language on the Internet?
The internet has about 634 million websites pages, and 54% of the content is in English and only 4% in French. French is in fact marginal on the Internet, which is now the collective brain of humanity.

What about Film and video production by language?
Only 3% of film and video content are in French.

Film and video production by language
What about Newspapers and magazines production?
Only 2% of Newspapers and magazines are in French. Less than Hindi.

French is really Dead.

If it’s the only language you speak, you have access to less than 2% of the humanity knowledge.

Slowly, we will start classifying French as an indigenous language spoken by only 60 millions people in a small country in Europe, and few other micro-countries or Regions like Belgium, Quebec, Switzerland. What’s an Irony!
Some French colonies in Africa still speak that language, but recently there is a huge movement to move away from that colonial heritage to embrace English. Rwanda was the first African country to replace the French language by English. The reason is simple, Rwanda doesn’t export perfume, cosmetics and fashion clothes, therefore the country doesn’t need such a sophisticated and rich language.
Gabon has also made it clear to steer the country to English language, as the President Ali Bongo is amazed by what Rwanda has accomplished in so little time. ( Excusez-moi, text in French).
France itself, just has took notice of the huge shift, and will introduce English into all its schools and universities.
When it comes to Science and Technology, Business and Commerce, French is a dead language. English is the language that could open faster the developing countries to the world and help them access up-to-date information, and become more competitive.
It’s not about trowing French for English. It’s about science, business and education. Go to scandinavian countries, they all speak English by default and offer hundreds of curriculum in English at their universities. The same now in many East European countries. I know several African students studying in China in English.

I know few people working on the matter, and they won’t even be able to talk about it publicly because of French government intimidation and harassment to keep french alive in the African schools.

Anyway, with or without the government, I have to say French has no future on the continent simply because French is more a tourism language, not technology and business language for the future Elite of the continent.

It’s not a Dream, it’s already a reality. The governments would have to catch up, and the French government intimidations won’t be enough. The time where Africans have to ask for permission to do what they want with their life has now passed!
Yesterday I spent almost 1H30 with a senior manager, and they will do it the other way around, because the demand from the students is huge for english.
Contrary to what people can see in the medias, a dying star looks the brightest when it’s close to hit the ground!