German colonial administration of the Bamenda area is extensively treated in
Chilver's 'Paramountcy and Protection in the Cameroons'
(1967) and also in 'Native Administration in West Central Cameroons
1902-1945' (1963). She has used primary German sources for these
studies; therefore I have relied on these works and on personal communications
from her for most of the material in this section.
administration of the Bamenda area is best viewed against the backdrop of Bali
Nyonga paramountcy and the treaty Zintgraff concluded with Galega in 1891.
Galega formally surrendered powers of execution and war-making to the Germans
and in return he was given suzerainty rights over the surrounding non-Bali -
mostly Widekum - peoples. Galega was to collect taxes and tolls from those
chiefdoms placed under him and he also became a major labour recruiter for the
Germans. This constituted the principle policiy of administration in the
Bamenda area, namely to prop up friendly chiefs wherever they could be found
and to place as many smaller ones as possible under them as vassals. This was
intended both to maintain order and to ensure a constant supply of labour for
the plantations and government works and services.
realisation of this policy for the rest of the Bamenda District was problematic
since it required the complete subjugation of the area in order to unite people
under chiefs other than their own. Right up until their expulsion from the
region in 1915 the Germans maintained the Bamenda District as an emergency area
and the military garrison was kept busy conquering new areas and quelling
uprisings in supposedly pacified areas.
further obstacle to the implementation of any administrative policy was the
fact that German policy on colonial administration remained ill-defined.
Colonial matters were for long handled by the
the colonial office of the German Foreign Ministry. Commercial pressure groups
had a large say in the formulation of colonial policy (Newbury 1967: 455-56).
The apparent lack of effective control from the centre meant that abuses by
local officials went on largely unchecked. The recall and disciplinary
measures taken against Governor Jesko Von Puttkamer is a case in point that
coincided with a change in policy. This culminated in the establishment in
1907 of a separate
a Ministry for Colonial Affairs under Dr Bernhard Dernburg, the first Colonial
Secretary reputed for his 'liberal and humane views' (Le Vine 1964:
apparent effect of this new 'liberal' policy was felt in Bafut
following its military defeat in 1907. It was dealt with relatively leniently;
it was not dismembered and its Fon was sent into exile for only one year. A
report from the military commander of the Bamenda station had strongly urged
the restoration of the Fon as 'orderly government in Bafut was impossible
without him' (Kaberry and Chilver 1963: 7-8). The German authorities
recognised the Fon as a convenient agent of administration and so long as he
danced to their tune he went unmolested. Chilver observes that 'once the
obedience of the Bafut to the station was established following the wars, their
internal affairs were on the whole left alone'. Any default was met by
armed intervention. This situation has been described by Chilver (pers. com.)
as 'delegated administration and emergency intervention'.
respect of justice it appears that no well-established system of courts was
ever implemented in the area. Chilver (1963: 94) notes that the Station
Commander sat as a judge in a court with native assessors, appointed for one
year, to advise on custom. Informants in and around Bafut could give no
details of such courts with native assessors, the common notion being that the
Germans had no courts beyond the moots held by the Station Commander to settle
disputes while on tour. As in other military districts, chiefs' courts
were left undisturbed to deal with civil pleas and minor criminal matters.
They were, however, prohibited from engaging in the poison ordeal, enslavement
or brutal punishment.
Return to the Paideuma Contents page
Return to the 'Mama for story' page