Traditional Rule in the Face of Emerging Elitism in Bafut North West Cameroon, 1970-1982

Divine Fuhnwi Ngwa


In Bafut, leadership, power and authority resided in the hands of traditional rulers who administered the people according to native law, custom and traditions. The leader was called mfor befeu (translated as fon by colonialist). The fon in his political setting was surrounded by a cream of traditional advisers and institutions such as kwifor and takumbeng, made up of noble men from commoners’ origin and royal family properly rooted in the traditions and customs and needed no other form of training to rule the people. Colonial rule introduced western education with the intention of training young Africans to assist them in administration and governance. Independent African governments inherited the system and spirit. The consequence was the mindset of the educated African tamed against his own customs and traditions. A dichotomy was created in society leading to social class discrimination and power usurpation in local political systems. The educated people hijacked the power machinery from the traditional leaders whom they tagged with stigmatizing words as “illiterate”. This syndrome created what was generally called an “elite class” which regulated power with no recourse to the position of the traditionalists. This paper examines the conflict that ensued in Bafut from 1970 as a result of handing over power to the indigenous westernised and educated elite and imposing them in local affairs and administration. We contend that the involvement of fabricated post-independent elite in leadership positions created conflict given that power tussles between them and the traditional rulers caused societal virtues (as peace) to be trampled upon. We adopted a chronological approach here and from our sources we concluded that elitism in the context of western education acquired is the root of conflict in local politics. Elitism as a concept needs to be carefully tailored to enhance sustainable development and lasting peace in our local communities.

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