Restoration of Cultural Identity: The Case of the Banen Tribe in Cameroon
Posted: 26 Jan 2006 Last revised: 2 Nov 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2006
The culture refers to the social heritage of a people, those learned patterns for thinking, feeling, and acting that are transmitted from one generation to the next, including the embodiment of these patterns in material items (Hughes et al., 2002: 41). Therefore, every nation, tribe or nation is characterised by a set of patterns, idioms, and/or myths, elements sustaining their social heritage. Unfortunately, some injustices, prejudices and other developments in the history of a group may bring an end to these elements and consequently disrupt their social cohesion. In Africa, after years of battle for "political independence", many countries acknowledged the disruption of the cohesion of their society. In the case of Cameroon, the Banen tribe was in the forefront of a fierce opposition for the occupation of successive colonial powers, Germany and France.
France brought a severe repression to this particular tribe and contributed to their dislocation in more than four regions (Littoral, South, South West and Centre) of Cameroon. The tribe Banen part of the Bantoide group previously living around the region of high mountains of the West Coast of Cameroon, in a surface of about 10000 kilometers squares, are now found scattered in a periphery of more than three hundred kilometers in the areas of Ndikinimeki, Nitouckou, Edéa, Douala, Ebolowa, Penja, and Yingui. Some dialects like the Bassa used to have the Tunen (Banen dialect) as their language of communication. Under the German rulership during the 1880s, a referendum was organised in the previously Banen areas which are the current Ndockmakumak village (Babimbi II), the Logkat village and the Ndobianga village. The question asked to the populations was to tell if they prefer joining Ngambè (the Bassa main city) or stay under Yingui (the Banen city) dominion. Unfortunately, these populations accepted to join Ngambè situated in the Bassa tribe, and these populations are now considered as being Bassa. More recently, the population called 'Banen Ba Ngwanga' speak the Bassa dialect while they are from the Banen tribe.
As it has been mentioned above, the dispersion of the Banen brought the lost of their culture, and more importantly of their dialect, the Tunen that has four main sub dialects namely: the Topoigne, the Alinga, the Ndocktuna and the Effombo. Being approximately 10 per cent of the whole population of Cameroon during the 1990s (Balhiki, 2005), it will be unfortunate for Cameroon as a country to lose this important social and cultural heritage. Therefore, what need to be done in order to bring back the Banen heritage fifty years after the repression of the French colonial master and more than a century after the German referendum?
The present paper is an attempt to explore ways and means, which may be undertaken to reverse the situation by using the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the sustainable development goals and the cultural development pillars. The ideas developed within the NEPAD framework and the development pillars coined by Professor Alain Ndedi are not panaceas to the plights and ills faced by the Banen tribe, but must be seen as a contribution to the restoration of the pride lost by more than 2 millions of Cameroonians.
Keywords: Banen, Cameroon, Culture
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