2. MFU' and Tax Collection

From an unregistered file of Tour Reports by A.D.Os, dated 12.i.34

.... "During a recent tour of Banso I stayed at Nkot [Nkor]. I sent for some elders of Bum and Nditaw (sic) and the head of Ngunikimbi came. Nditaw said the Bum were 'adopting the manjong organization'. One year ago, as a result of travels in Banso, two important people, Nditaw and Moachom [possibly Ful Mwancum], became obsessed with the idea of commencing manjong in Bum. The Bum have recently built manjong houses at Lagabum, Fonfuka, Ngunikimbi, Ofio and Saf. This is only the beginning. They propose to build more houses. They are adapted to the duties of tax collection and, where houses exist, they are being employed to supervise the actual collection of money.

This society is only beginning, for at the present time they have only got as far as making one big office holder, namely one of Moachom's sons called Ngong Nana. They call him, oddly enough, Tanfuk [EMC. Tamfu'] They have no other tamanjongs. The organization has also got as far as catering for the election of officers and it has been decided that the Chief should be entrusted with this duty. Those compounds, whose members attend the existing manjong, are now paying tax to them.

As the matter is one of general interest and one which may, in due course, affect the organization of the community, I considered that you would wish to know the facts with a view to keeping the project under supervision. The more so, as similar difficulties to those now existent in the Banso area may arise (i.e. Compound Heads losing their authority in the community owing to the growing power of tamanjongs)."

[This unsigned note (perhaps by W.M. Bridges) belongs to the period during which 'Lump Sum Assessment' for tax was still the administrative vogue, though it was soon to be modified. (For a description of its effects in Nso' see Chilver and Kaberry 'From Tribute to Tax', in Africa 30 (i), 1960, reprinted in John Middleton's Black Africa: Macmillan, New York, 1970.) The reporter has not yet caught up with the problems faced in Nso' in tax-collection, which differed from those of Bum. In the former the Catholic Mission has initially forbidden converts to join Ngwerong lodges and manjong type male societies: neither it nor the Baptist Mission has done so in Bum, where, it had seemed to them, Kwi'fon had no offensive 'pagan religious' associations though Ntul or Ntut was rather more dubious. But, as we have seen, Kwi'fon-a-Bum only applied in Bum to its old core area, while membership of Ntut had been extended to include other elements. While it had no executive apparatus per se it depended for enforcement on palace retainers or the 'messenger' element in nda ntul which in turn left the enforcement of rules to a variety of local devices, in the hands of non-Alung chieflets and abitek. Now Nso', on the other hand, had early adapted its well- developed military and hunting associations (of which Mfu' was the leading one under royal patronage with sector headquarters in the capital) in various ways to cope with administrative demands and public work, and these could apply sanctions for non- compliance.

An association also called Mfu' had existed in Bum: according to Pollock it was a drinking and dance association possessed of a buffalo mask owned by 'senior members of the clan', apparently bearing no direct relationship to the Nso' bullroarer society of the same name, introduced there from the Bamum borderlands. Njong-type societies, reminiscent of the Kom ones, had also existed and we hear, for example, of a nda cam. But, at least insofar as our slender information goes, there had been no regular meeting of njong officers at the palace. We collected no information about the evidently successful accommodation of Bum to a fairly regular German presence, or indeed about the history of this and other adaptations, such as the development of older Quarter-moots into the Area Councils of the last stages of British rule. The capacity of the Bum leadership to transform and adapt older institutions between 1930 and 1960 deserves special study.]

Glossary Contents Working Notes
Sally Chilver's Field Diary Phyllis Kaberry Fieldnotes Published Account

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