Mr Amungwa Julius (40); Mrs Amungwa Nicoline Bemahti, (33) and pregnant; Amungwa Harriet (3); Amungwa Precious (2) and Christian Bondue (29) all met their untimely death as a result of a ghastly motor accident in Njombe, Littoral Region of Cameroon, at about 1 p.m. on July 27, 2009.
They were all buried on the same day after a Requiem Mass at the St Peter’s Parish Church in Bambui. The five coffins evoked immeasurable empathy. One of the coffins contained two bodies: the body of Mrs Amungwa Nicoline Bemahti and the little child that died in her womb, forced out through a surgical operation after the mother died.
Mr Amungwa Julius and Christian Bondue (a brother to Mrs Amungwa) died on the spot. Nicoline is reported to have died a little bit later in the hospital after she learned that the husband and the brother died on the spot. The two little ones Precious and Harriet died later.
The cause of the accident has been traced to witchcraft initiated by a woman whose names The Vanguard got just as Mami Butuh, a devout Catholic Christian and member of the St Jude Prayer group of the St Peter’s Parish Bambui belonging to the main Mission Station. The Vanguard gathered that she spends a lot of her time in the Oratory at the Main Mission each time praying.
A stormy departure
The story goes that on that fateful day the daughter-in-law, Mrs Amungwa Nicoline Bemahti, was to leave for Douala. The mother-in-law, Mami Butuh, tried to convince her to leave the children behind and go alone so that the children could come down later. Nicoline insisted that she was going to leave with the children. She wondered aloud how her mother-in-law who hated her so much could take care of her children in her absence. Unfortunately for Mami Butuh, her son Amungwa Julius, arrived from Douala and insisted on taking his family down to Douala in one fold.
Mami Butuh pleaded with her son to follow her so that they could go to a witchdoctor and perform some protective rituals on him. Julius told the mother that if this were to be done it should be done to all his family. The mother insisted that it will only be done on him. She failed to convince the young man.
Everything packed into their RAV 4 new car and everyone now ready to leave Mami Butuh is reported to have stood in front of the car and prayed that since the son had proven to be too stubborn he should “go and come”. Another source, the late Nicoline’s junior sister Cymorine Abongmbuh says, Julius went and dropped the mother-in-law in Church before they left. Another source says she touched all the four tyres of the vehicle with medicine.
The accident, the medicine bag
When news of the accident reached both families Mami Butuh immediately rushed to the scene of the accident. She took along one of her sons, Ngeh Patrick. She also invited her daughter, whose names The Vaguard got only as Mama, from Mutengene to meet her at the accident scene. Before she reached the place Norbert Ashinwa, a brother to the late Nicholine and a driver for the Garantie Express Company had already been there, carried the dead ones to the mortuary and the wounded to the hospital in Njombe.
Some family members asked him to remove the engine of the vehicle and keep before it could be stolen. When he went back to dismantle the engine the woman and the daughter were already around. He proceeded with the work and when he lifted the driver’s seat he saw a small bag under the seat.
“When I picked up the bag it was as if I had received an electric shock and I let it drop,” Norbert told The Vanguard newspaper. “I now gathered myself and said I had no medicine and this medicine can not affect me, before I bent down and pick it up again. I later gave the bag to Mama, the daughter of Mami Butuh from Mutengene.”
The little bag contained small snail shells with five cowries neatly stuck on it with a pin.
Medicine bag disappears from corpse’s hand
From the mortuary in Njombe now the corpses were supposed to have been transferred to the Bamenda Mortuary. They were then lined up outside the mortuary. Mami Butuh had a small “gift” for his departed son, Amungwa Julius. Unfortunately for her the son had been crushed to virtually beyond recognition so could not easily identify him. She thus went and put the small “gift” in late Christian Bondue’s hand and quickly covered it thinking it was Julius. Soon the labels on the corpses were brought and she realized that she had put the gift into the wrong hand. Before she went to recover it the little bag had disappeared. She is however reported to have put 5 francs pieces, one each, into the hands of each of the remaining corpses.
Norbert Ashinwa did not inform any family member of the medicine bag until after the death celebration was over. He went to the Bambui palace and reported to the traditional authorities what he had discovered in the car after the accident. He had gone to Mami Butuh to recover the bag so they could go to the palace and find out what kind of medicine was in it. She had refused to give him. When Mami Butuh was called to the palace, she denied having any knowledge of any such bag. The palace then gave her two weeks to go and reflect over the matter and come back and tell them the truth.
Mami Butuh attempts to destroy evidence
Taking advantage of the two weeks she had been given in the palace she now decided to blackmail Norbert Ashinwa, and get him detained by the gendarmes. She thus concocted a complaint against Norbert and presented to the gendarmes in Tubah. Our source said she told the gendarmes that when she was sleeping in the night she heard footsteps around her house.
When she opened the door she saw a very tall man in black and the man was talking with a girl in front of her house. This tall man, according to her, was Ashinwa Nobert and the woman, whose voice she recognized, was a certain Wase. A summons was served the two. Mami Butuh took this summons to the palace. The palace authorities decided to honour the summons, before Norbert could even appear there.
Meantime Mami Butuh had gone back to her witchdoctor, probably to fortify. She thus appeared at the Brigade with her witchdoctor on that day. Before her arrival with the witchdoctor the palace authorities had already explained everything to the gendarmes. Some sources hinted that she had brought the witchdoctor so that he could kill Norbert and so there will be no body left to testify her actions. Both witchdoctor and his client were immediately arrested and taken to the palace, along with the Brigade Commander, the Divisional Officer for Tubah, Mr Etta Mbokaya Ashu and the Commissioner of the Special Branch Police for Tubah.
The Confession at the Palace
At the palace yard so many people had gathered. The woman was told to speak her truth then. She again claimed ignorance of any medicine. She lied that it was instead her son that took medicine to protect himself and his family. The witchdoctor too, claimed he knew only of two types of medicines - one to protect the vehicle and one to protect the family.
At this juncture the palace authorities said they would want to take their decision, but before they take their decision to exile the woman, they have to wait for the administrative and judicial authorities to use the Whiteman’s method to solve the problem. The Fon ordered Atehnwi, one of Bambui’s strongest witchdoctors to take the medicine into the palace so they could find out what type it was. The other witchdoctor and the woman followed.
Inside the palace now the witchdoctor spoke his truth. He first confessed that he did not speak the truth outside the palace because he was afraid to be lynched by the crowd. He told the curious onlookers that he was from Yang in Kom in Boyo Division.
He told them that when this woman came asking for the medicine he made his divinations and told the woman that the woman’s and man’s family were not in agreement and he could not therefore give the medicine. The woman insisted that she wanted to kill the girl (Nicoline) at all costs. She complained that Nicoline had charmed her son and he listens only to her. He, the witchdoctor, had assured her that it was only pure love between the two and the girl had done no such thing as she was thinking. The woman vowed that she must kill the girl.
So they agreed on a fee of FCFA 25,000 francs. The woman gave an advance of 5000 francs, and since it was to happen in three days, she would give the remaining 20,000 francs after the deed had been done. When she returned with the medicine bag she gave it to the son, Ngeh Patrick, to go and place it in the car as instructed by the witchdoctor, under the driver’s seat. It was this bag of medicine that was picked up when they were dismantling the vehicle.
Atehnwi, the Bambui witchdoctor then asked him why he gave such bad medicines to the woman. It was then he gave the explanation.
Strange animals, then a mountain and 20,000 francs balance
The car had seven passengers. Five died and two survived. The survivors were Amungwa Eden Azeih, a student in St Paul’s College Nkwen Bamenda and another little one. Eden was the first son of the deceased husband and wife. They testified that they had been seeing very strange animals along the road as they drove along and the vehicle had hit many of them but none died. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was a very high mountain that suddenly appeared in front of them in Njombe. It was in an attempt to dodge this mountain that the vehicle toppled over.
The witchdoctor from Kom testified that the medicine he gave could cause all forms and all types of animals to appear and disappear to cause an accident. He complained that he was waiting to receive his balance of 20,000 francs when the woman came and took him to the brigade where he was supposed to kill Norbert so as to receive the rest of his money. Instead he was handcuffed and he was going through all that interrogation.
Asked to identify himself he said he was a traditional medicine practitioner for 25 years, but he had no license or any document to testify. He was thus detained at the Tubah Gendarmerie Brigade. Three days after the woman’s son, Ngeh Patrick was picked and detained and later the mother and son were whisked off straight to awaiting trial in Bamenda. At press time it was rumoured they had been taken to Kondengui in Yaoundé.
Attempts to withdraw child from College
Further reports say this woman and the son Patrick boldly went to St Paul’s College and attempted withdrawing the son, Azeih Eden, of the deceased. The Principal Rev Fr Ngwa George is reported to have refused. They wanted to retrieve the boy’s school fees that had already been paid. They even went ahead to say that they could replace the boy with another young person if the fees could not be refunded.
By Nke Valentine (First published in the Vanguard Newspaper in 2009)