Report of 1923
LETTER OF MAJOR GLASSON
From The A.D.O. i/c South Cameroons Area (Yola).
To. The Resident Yola Province.
- I have the honour to submit a Report on my recent visit to the
Mambila tribe in the Gashaka District of the South Cameroons Area of
- The Report is arranged in three parts. Part I General. Part II
Assessment. Part III Historical and Ethnological.
- This is the first time that this area has been visited, except for
a visit by Mr Greene, District Officer of Muri in 1917, and up to the
present there has been no assessment made and there are no records of
- A map, taken from Moisel but corrected, is attached to illustrate
I have the honour to be
TOANGO Asst. District Officer.
your obedient servant.
June 2nd, 1923 i/c South Cameroons Area (Yola).
A REPORT ON THE MAMBILA TRIBE OF
IN THE SOUTH CAMEROONS AREA OF YOLA PROVINCE (MANDATED TERRITORY)
BY MAJOR B. GLASSON. MC.ASSISTANT DISTRICT OFFICER.
- This Report deals with the Ntem, Kaka, and Mambila areas of the Gashaka District of
the South Cameroons Area of Yola Province in general and of the
Mambila country in particular. It is the outcome of a visit paid by
Major B. Glasson, MC. Asst. District Officer in charge of the South
Cameroons of Yola Province which commenced on March 14th and lasted
until April 26th, 1923.
- Reference for the sake of continuity only is made to the Ntem and
Kaka areas for the reasons set forth in paragraphs 21 and 22 and I
have confined myself especially to the
Mambila tribe as it is the area which immediately
concerns Yola Province.
- The area has been left untouched, except for a visit to parts of
it by Mr Grome, District Officer of Muri in 1917, when £26 was enacted
from some of the villages as tribute. No payments have been made since
with the exception of a few pounds paid by one or two villages
- The Mambila country lies South-West of Gashaka and is bounded by
Gashaka on the North, by the River Donga on the South - the border
between the Mambila and Kaka tribes - by the Anglo-French boundary on
the East, and by the Tukum boundary on the West.
- The Mambila tribe occupy an area of about 2,000 sq. miles but
owing to the nature of the country it is inhabited only in certain
areas and large stretches of country remain unoccupied.
- The country consists of high rocky mountains, varying
from 2,000 to 6,000 feet in height, the slopes of which are
mostly unfit for cultivation. The soil in the valleys is very
productive but, like most pagan tribes, the Mambila only cultivates
sufficient for his own immediate needs.
- The climate is comparatively cold and very wet. The rains usually
start in March and end in November.
- The country is watered by the Rivers Donga or Kari, and its
The population as revealed by the census, given in Part II of this
Report under assessment, is 4,047
I was accompanied by my Political native staff, 1 Lance Corporal and
6 Northern Nigerian Police, the District Head of Gashaka and about
twenty of his followers. The District Head of Gashaka brought food for
We ascended the Genderu Pass at Dundere, a climb of over 5,000 feet,
and made a camp for the night.
Hama Jorda, the village head of Mayo Dogo met us. Hama Jorda is a
Fulani from Banyo and was a sarakije (constable) of Sambo the late
Head of Banyo and the father of the present Head of Gashaka. When Hama
Jorda's father died he came over to the Mambila country to live and
expressed his loyalty to Gashaka. His mother is a Mambila pagan and so
is his wife and they both live with him at Jalingo, a village he
started at Kuma.
I have spoken to Hama Jorda at some length because he figures
prominently in the selection of the Kuma villages of
him as their Jaure and I consider it important that something should
be known of him.
ATTITUDE OF THE KUMA
From Dundere we proceeded to Kuma. The pagans were extremely friendly
and the only complaint, which indeed was general throughout the tour,
was that they wished to have someone elected from among themselves to
whom they could pay their taxes. They were emphatic in their decision
that they would not pay to any "Jekada" that might be sent from
Gashaka but they were at the same time equally emphatic that they
wished to remain under Gashaka.
I get the following villages together to select their Jaure. Kuma,
Jekke, Ntem, Gubin, Wa, Maden, Dunda and Yirrum. Each of these had
from four to five small hamlets under them and they were each
independent of the other.
All these villages unanimously elected Hama Jorda as their Jaure to
whom they would in future pay their tax on the understanding that he
would take it to Gashaka.
The villages of Maden and Dunda are Kam Kam villages. They are part
of the Mambila tribe but are called Kam Kam on account of the
Basket-Making industry which is carried out there. (Kam Kam in Fulani
These villages had never been visited and were inclined to show
truculence. By waiting patiently I was, however, able to avoid force,
as indeed has been the case throughout. Not a single round of
ammunition has been expended and such villages as showed hostility at first were amongst the most friendly before I
From Kuma we passed to Titon.
The pagans were extremely friendly
and they unanimously elected the head of Titon, who indeed is the
rightful head (see Part III Historical Notes attached) as the one to
whom they would pay tax to. He has about five small hamlets under him
and I saw no reason, as they have always been independent, to change
now. The head of Titon himself is quite capable and should do well as
an ordinary village head and should pay his tax without
From Titon we passed to Kabri,
an extremely stiff climb of about
4,800 feet. The pagans at Kabri itself, where the village head lives,
were very friendly but one or two of the outlying villages ran away,
fearing no doubt that I would take action against them for the
complaints of molesting traders that have been brought against them of
late. They subsequently came in. The village head of Kabri was elected
as the one to whom they would pay their taxes and, as in the case of
Titon, I consider the right man was elected and that there will be no
difficulty whatsoever in the future about their tax.
Passing from Kabri we went to Wakude, avoiding the village of
Warwar as there was smallpox there: Wakude was, perhaps, the most
primitive of the villages I visited. They were inclined to be
truculent at first but improved greatly on acquaintance. No force was
used and before night the village head and all the
older people had come in to see me. It transpired that they too were
frightened because they thought that I might punish them for molesting
traders. It has been reported to me, but I could not obtain any
definite evidence, that one or two traders had entirely disappeared in
the last year, and it is believed that they disappeared while passing
I impressed on the village head that he would be held responsible for
such acts in the future and that the British White Man would punish
him most severely if it occurred again. The reply was the usual one
that they thought that the White Men had all gone away and that they
would never do such things again.
These people elected the head of Warwar to whom to pay their tax and
he impressed me as being one of the most capable of all the Mambilas I
From Wakude we proceeded to Tamyar
which was an extremely stiff
climb of from 4,000 to 5,000 feet. The difficulties of the journey
were greatly added to by the heavy rains which made progress extremely
hard and in some places perilous.
We were received very well at Tamyar and the different villages that
came in to see me elected the head of Tamyar as their spokesman.
This completes the Mambila groups except for M'Bang who is really
under Tamyar but who of late has broken away and tried to establish
his independence. He has no claim to independence, I went into the
matter very carefully, so I put him back under Tamyar. I afterwards learnt that the people wanted to remain under
Tamyar but that their head, who had only just returned from French
country, wanted to set up a rival village.
TIKAR & NTEM AREA
- From Tamyar we proceeded to descend the mountains and
visited the Tikar and Ntem area. This area has a total population of
1,380 souls and forms the substance of a separate report on the new
boundary as proposed, between the Cameroon Province and the Gashaka
District of the South Cameroons Area of Yola Province recently
submitted by Mr Hawkesworth, A.D.C. and myself.
Proceeding from the Ntem area Mr Hawkesworth, Asst. District Officer
of the Bamenda Division, whom I had met by appointment at Ntem, and
myself ascended the mountains at Ngonkaw and proceeded to explore the
Kaka country. The climb is a difficult one of about 5,500 feet.
The Kakas, like their neighbours the Mambilas, have been left
untouched by British Administration but the Germans had got them
partially in hand when War broke out in 1914. The tax they paid to the
Germans was three marks per adult male, paid mostly in
ATTITUDE OF THE KAKA PAGANS
At N'wa the first place we camped at we were informed that the people
of M'Bem, the village for which we were making, would not receive us
and that they had poisoned the water and set traps for us. We
accordingly proceeded with caution and I am glad to say the rumours
were without foundation. The pagans received us with a
certain amount of distrust and shyness which was but natural and this
entirely disappeared after a few days.
I refrain from writing more in connection with the Kaka tribe. Mr
Hawkesworth and myself have referred to their Jukon origin in our
joint Report on the boundary, and, as I understand, this country will
in all probability pass to the Cameroons Province for administration a
thorough assessment will be made, a difficult task and one which could
only be undertaken in the dry season.
- The Kakas voluntarily paid £2.18.10 to me in tax and this has
been sent to Yola. This, I submit, shows that they will not be a very
difficult problem from an administrative point of view. They and the
Ntem people did not acknowledge the District Head of Gashaka. We have
referred to the village of Nyuron in the boundary report.
EFFECTS OF THE VISIT
- The most noticeable effects of the visit was the opening up of the
trade route to Banso in the Cameroons Province. Banso is the great
kola supplying district in these parts, supplying the whole of Yola
and Muri Provinces.
The route followed previous to this visit was from Gashaka via Banyo
(French) and Ntem. Now that this new route has been opened up traders
can remain wholly in British Territory. As proof that the route is
likely to be extensively used can be deducted from the fact that in a
single day myself and staff counted no less than three
hundred and thirty-six traders passing through.
- Traders passing from Yola and Muri bring as their chief wares
potash, salt, clothes, and locust cakes and return with kolas. The
price of kolas, as a result of our visit, rose considerably in the few
days we were at Ntem.
- I held a public market just outside my house for the benefit of
my own following and my carriers. I detailed one of my staff for
market duty and his work consisted in seeing that the pagans were not
exploited. These markets were at first poorly attended but grew daily
until they became a very popular feature. When the pagans saw that
they not only get money for their goods but actually made a profit,
they followed us from one village to another and this did, I submit, a
great deal towards bringing about a very marked change in their
attitude towards me so noticeable when I compare my arrival and
departure from their country.
- On my outward journey all women and children were carefully
removed and only the men remained behind. On the homeward journey
things had changed very much for the better, the distrust had
disappeared and not only the women and men came to me with their
complaints but the young children even came to sell small articles in
- These were of the ordinary nature of petty cases except one which
required more serious attention. This was a case of a Fulani from
Gashaka taking by force a woman and her three children and making them
live in Gashaka. I investigated the case thoroughly and was obliged
to convict. Full minutes of the case were submitted to
Yola under cover of my No. SC/32/1923/13 dated April 4th,
- I have established rest houses all along the route. These are
marked clearly on the Map accompanying this Report and these will add
greatly to any visits that may be made to this area in the
From a Political point of view there has been no administration of
the Mambila tribe under British Rule and no previous assessment has
- Such administration as was set up during the time the tribe was
under the Germans has long since been forgotten, but the Germans did
not administer this area seriously, and were only just beginning to do
so when War broke out in 1914. At this time they were doing a good
deal of road construction and this brought them in contact with the
Mambilas more than actual administration.
- Beyond a payment of £26 as tribute paid to Mr Grome, District
Officer of Muri in 1917, and a few pounds by one or two villages that
have always remained friendly to Gashaka and included in the Gashaka
Tax, the tribe has not contributed to the general revenue under
- The tribe, as mentioned under "Historical", is divided up into
four distinct groups. The group head, who will now become the Village
Head, has in the past exercised full authority over the villages or
hamlets comprising his particular group. Order has been maintained by
him and his relations, and justice has been administered by him in
consultation with the elders.
- With the exception of Kuma, who have selected Hama Jorda as their
Village Head, I see no reason why the old group heads, who have been
selected by their respective villages, should not become the Village
Head under the proposed administration.
- The average life of a farm is considered as four years.
Fertilisers - Dung is apparently not used in the soil at all.
The only manure that is used is called 'Yom'. This is a species of
fern which grows freely in the country. It is of two kinds, the one
for manure and the other for catching fish. The latter is grown very
freely and has a small commercial value, on account of its property of
poisoning fish, and is called 'Mabigiguite'.
- System - A farm is planted with Yom for the first year,
then cut and allowed to rot. It is then mixed with the soil as a
manure. For the next and two following years whatever one wishes to
grow is planted and in the fourth or beginning of the fifth year Yom
is again planted. I could not find any evidence of where different
crops were sown in each year.
- The chief crops grown in
the area are Guinea corn, groundnuts, bananas, Masara, gwoza, sweet
potato or Danka and tobacco.
- The following table gives the amount produced, the average price
obtained, and the income per acre in an average year.
Bananas are sold in the markets at 12 for
- These figures are the figures given to me by the head of Titon
after I had measured out an acre of land and shown it to him.
- The only exports from the country are mats, baskets and hoes. The
market value of these articles is:
The income derived from this source for any one village in a year is
£5 to £6.
|Baskets||6d to 9d|
|Mats||3d to 6d|
- The whole of the Mambila country is practically devoid of trees,
except in the Kam Kam and Tigon areas. In the country round these a
few Oil Palm trees (Kwakwa or Gima) are to be found and a small trade
is done in the oil. Banana trees, with abundant fruit, are to be found
in every village. At villages such as Kuma, Titon, Warwar, Wakude and
Kabri the incomes derived from these in an average year is £4 to
- Baskets, mats, bags, spears, cutlasses, knives, and hoes are made
on an extensive scale. The income derived from the sale of these
articles has been referred to in paragraph 12. There is not much
trade done in spears, cutlasses, and knives.
- There are no cattle owned by the pagans. The country is extremely
good for cattle grazing and is much frequented by the
Fulani. Jalingo, the only Fulani village in the area, has a large
number of cattle but they have been assessed under Gashaka District.
There are a large number of goats and sheep in the area: these have
been included in the census table.
- A good trade is done among themselves and with the traders
passing through. This will be greatly increased now that the new trade
route to Banso has been opened. Traders bring Salt and potash to the
area and take away local products.
- Markets exist at the following places but they are very local and
the pagans very seldom move from one market to another.
Kuma, Titon, Kabri, Wakude, Tamyar, Warwar, Jubbu, Gikau, Gubin, Ntem,
- The coin used among themselves is German, and English coin were
practically unknown. During my recent visit the pagans were shy of
accepting English money and often brought it to me to see if it were
good. When they became accustomed to it there was no difficulty
- Practically no roads exist. I used for the most part the cattle
tracks. A track has now been cleared, about three to four feet wide,
from Dundere to Tamyar. From Tamyar an excellent road exists. It is
the new road that the were making to Buea in the Cameroons Province
from Banyo Germans. It runs via Ribado, Tamyar, Kaka, and Banso. In
1914 the Germans had got this road almost completed.
At the present time it has fallen to pieces as no work has been done
on it since the War. The Germans intended it to be used as a motor
- No Missionaries have as yet attempted to penetrate the Mambila
- The Germans originally imposed a capitation tax of three marks
per adult male on the tribe. They did not, however, strictly enforce
the collection of it but accepted most of it in the nature of work on
the new road.
IMMIGRATION & EMIGRATION
- There is no evidence of either immigration or of emigration. The
tribe has always disliked and distrusted strangers and confined
themselves to their own area.
- Slavery was known amongst themselves but only as an outcome of
crime. Such crimes as murder, assault, and adultery were punished
formerly by either fines or slavery, the accused being condemned by
the Village Head and Elders to become the slave of the
- For medicines the ordinary native herbs
are used. There are no native doctors, the village head or some old
man in the village performing this office. There is no
- I was assured on the highest authority that the tribe are
ignorant of venereal in any of its forms. Smallpox seems to be the
only disease that visits them regularly.
- There have been no serious outbreaks of disease among at any time
and beyond the smallpox referred to in the preceding paragraph they
appear to be singularly free from disease of any kind,
probably due to their good climate.
- The pagans are in undisturbed occupation of
the country. Amongst them their usual primitive and usually peaceful
local customs obtain. They claim all rights over the land in the
immediate proximity to their villages.
- The following table gives the areas under cultivation in the
larger villages and will help to form some idea of the amount of
wealth derived from this source. The farms are planted with the
commodities mentioned in paragraph 9.
|Village||Cultivated Area|| lbs
produced||Income £ s d |
acres|| 50000|| £120|
acres|| 46000|| £130|
- At places such as Titon, Tamyar, Wakude and Wa large quanitities
of tobacco are grown, this accounts for the difference in the incomes
at the different villages.
- The census taken during the month of April 1923 reveals a total
population of 4,047 souls. A detailed list of the various villages
together with the livestock is given in the following table. In the
list Incapables are included under their own sexes as well as
separately, goats are included under sheep.
There are no horses in the area.
|| Children|| Incapables || Total ||
|Warwar|| 58|| 61||
|| 331|| 57|
|Gikau || 49|| 53||45||
22 ||~|| 120|| 20|
|Yiamba (Yana) || 20|| 42||20||
|N'Lu|| 8 || 8
|Yirrum|| 20|| 22||
|Gubin|| 52|| 57||
|Ntem|| 30|| 37||
27||16||~|| 80|| 44|
|Genbu|| 40|| 46||
38||24||~|| 108|| 50|
|Teb|| 70|| 90||
80||40||3|| 210|| 69|
|Kam Kam|| 40|| 44||
| || 1399 ||1704 || 1369
||974|| 74 || 4047 || 1345
- The census was made by the District Head of Gashaka, my Political
staff, the village heads and myself. The village head was warned
beforehand that we were coming and that all the people must remain in
the village, a house to house count was then made. Each village was
personally visited with the exception of Tigon and Magu. The
precipitous nature of the mountains in the vicinity of these villages
made a visit impossible. The count of these two villages was done by
the village head and the district mallam.
- Great possibilities lie in the country. The soil is extremely rich
and ideal for farming, and when the pagan has been taught the value of
trade, the value of his produce, and the advantages of becoming a
civilized member of the community, the country should yield
- Working on a 10% basis as nearly as possible I
submit that for the present a suitable tax to impose would be 1/- for
adult males and 6d for adult females.
- I consulted all the larger village heads on the question of their
taxation and it was generally agreed that a tax such as I have
suggested would be fair and reasonable. It compares very favourably
with the original tax imposed by the Germans of three marks, at the
present rate of exchange.
- The assessing officer was Major B. Glasson, MC. A.D.O. in charge
of the South Cameroons Area of the Yola Province assisted by a native
staff of one Political Agent, one scribe, on Interpreter, and two
Messengers,the District Head of Gashaka and the
various village heads.
- The time taken to complete the assessment was from March 14th to
April 26th 1923 (1 month and 15 days).
- Reference is made throughout to Moisel's map sheets F2 and E2 and
to the attached tracing.