WHY THE PEOPLE FROM NWA SUB DIV. SHOULD BE CALLED ‘THE YAMBA’ AND NOT “THE KAKA” PEOPLE.
Sourced from HERMAN GUFLER’s Book “YAMBA SPIDER DIVINATION”
THE Yamba are a people living in the north-eastern corner of the Cameroon Grassfields. Administratively they are part of the Nwa Subdivision of the Donga Mantung Division of the North-West Province of the Republic of Cameroon. Nwa Subdivision was set up in 1963 with headquarters in Nwa. It comprises three areas of almost equal size: the Mfumte area in the North (473 square
kilometres), the Yamba area in the centre (491 square kilometres), and the Mbaw area in the South (490 square kilometres) (Yaounde 1973: 8).
Most of the villages are situated in deep valleys or shallow depressions, but some are perched on hilltops. The hills are covered with grass, which makes the whole area an excellent grazing country for Fulani cattle. The extremely difficult terrain, poor roads, lack of employment, and also the serious problem of cattle destroying the farms have led a great number of people to
leave the area. It is estimated that over thirty per cent of the Yamba are living outside their native area. The people remaining
in the villages practice subsistence farming, the main crops being maize, cocoa, yams, plantains, bananas, groundnuts and egusi. Guinea corn, which used to be one of their staple crops, has lost its importance and is cultivated only on a small scale in the eastern part of Yamba. The deep valleys to the west and north are dotted with palm trees which provide enough oil for domestic consumption and for sale to the higher Yamba villages to the south and to the Wimbum markets at Ntaamru’ and Ndu.
The Yamba area (including Mfumte) was formerly known as the Kaka area and its people as the Kaka people. The name seems to have been given to them by the Fulani slave-raiders from Banyo. Migeod writes (1925: 134): As to the name Kaka, the Lom (Rom) people are said to be Kaka because they are settled in the Kaka country. When the Germans first came to Banyo, Tonga (the chief of Rom) said they asked, ‘Who are the people who live on those hills? And the Fulbe said, ‘Kaka’, meaning the nasty fighting people. And E.
H. Gorges, in his assessment report on the Kaka-Ntem area, states: ‘The very name Kaka was originally merely a Fulani nickname derived from the frightened utterance of a captured native-Ka! Ka! (No! No!)’ (1932: para. 29). This nickname was adopted by the Germans and the British. The Baptist missionaries, who have been working in the area since the early 1930s, preferred to call it the Mbem areal because the name Kaka was repugnant to the people, having been imposed on them by their former enemies and by outsiders. In 1960, the educated elite of the Yamba decided to change the name for the people, their language, and the area to Yamba. The word is used to call the attention of others when somebody wants to speak and can be translated as ‘I say’ or ‘listen to me!’ (Jikong 1979: 20; Scruggs 1980: 3).
The Yamba people are a closely related group, living in seventeen independent villages. All attempts by the British administration to make the chief of Mbem, the largest village, the paramount chief of all the Yamba met with fierce resistance. Each village has its own chief, but there are many indications that the present system of chiefship is a recent innovation. All the Yamba chiefdoms claim a Tikar origin, and to have migrated from the east, most often from the Tikar town Kimi (Bankim). However, there is strong evidence that the Yamba are a mixed population of Tikar, Mambila and local origin (Nkwi and Warnier 1982: 16, 154).
The Yamba are patrilocal and patrilineal. They have been largely isolated from the rest of the world because of the inaccessibility of their land and by inter-village hostilities (Jikong 1979: 17; see also Buinda Mori 1987). The villages are divided into hamlets (or ‘quarters’) which often lie far apart and which have their own ‘chiefs’. The hamlets are made up of exogamous units (boate”). The lineage heads and the heads and members of secret societies form a sort of gerontocracy and exert social control over their people mainly through these secret societies, the most important of which is nwantap.
The language of the Yamba presents certain analytic difficulties. T. R. Scruggs, who has made a study of this subject (1979, 1980, 1981), writes (1980: 6): The high degree of independence and separateness of each village, coupled with the different times of arrival of different groups, has led to a large number of different dialects … The degree of similarity and mutual intelligibility varies according to the distance between villages and possibly the time of settlement. Roger Moss, a Cambridge student acting as a Plebiscite Supervisory Officer in the 1961 plebiscite,3 gave Chilver and Kaberry a brief vocabulary of ‘Mbem’ (Yamba) which seemed to place the Yamba language fairly clearly in the Mbam-Nkam group of the Grassfields group of Bantu languages on lexical grounds (Chilver, personal communication; Nkwi and Wamier 1982: 18).
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