Report of 1923


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 Yola Province.

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 the tribe.

A map, taken from Moisel but corrected, is attached to illustrate the Report.

I have the honour to be
your obedient servant.

TOANGO Asst. District Officer.
June 2nd, 1923 i/c South Cameroons Area (Yola).


Part I


Part II


Part III

Historical and Ethnological



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 friendly to Gashaka.


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 tributaries


The population as revealed by the census, given in Part II of this Report under assessment, is 4,047

The Tour

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 his retinue.

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.


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 means basket.)

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 left.


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 difficulty.


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 this village.

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 saw.


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.


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 labour.


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.


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 the markets.


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, 1923.


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 future.


Administration Administration"> Local Administration
Proposed Administration Agriculture
Nature of Crops Exports
Forestry Industries
Cattle and Livestock Trade
Market Coinage
Roads Missions
Taxation Immigration and Emigration
Slavery Medical and Sanitation
Disease Recent Epidemics
Land Tenure Area under Cultivation
Census and Livestock Census 1923
Method Employed Conclusion
Proposed Tax Personal
Time References

From a Political point of view there has been no administration of the Mambila tribe under British Rule and no previous assessment has been made.

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 British Administration.


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.

Article Weight Average price dry season Income per acre
Guinea corn 750 lbs 2.5 lbs for 1/2 penny 12.6
Groundnuts 1000 lbs 3lbs for 1/2penny 2.1.71/2
Masara 1200 lbs 5lbs for 1d 1.0.0
Dankali 200 lbs 3lbs for 1/2d 2.9
Tobacco 200 lbs 1lb for 6d 5.0.0.
Gwoza 300 lbs 4lbs for 1d 6.8
Bananas are sold in the markets at 12 for 1/2d

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:

Baskets 6d to 9d
Mats 3d to 6d
Hoes 1/-
The income derived from this source for any one village in a year is 5 to 6.

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 5.


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, and Yirrum.


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 whatsoever.


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 road.


No Missionaries have as yet attempted to penetrate the Mambila country.


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.


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 accuser.


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 sanitation.


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
Kuma 80 acres 69500 150
Titon 60 acres 50000 120
Kabri 60 acres 46000 130
Wakude 80 acres 75000 150
Tamyar 80 acres 75000 150
Wa 120 acres 100000 170

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.



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 considerable wealth.


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.

Village Comps A.Males. A.Females Children Incapables Total Sheep
Kuma 113 141 139 100 3 380 46
Kabri 141 170 127 88 6 385 107
Warwar 58 61 54 57 1 172 35
Wakude 79 186 92 113 28 331 57
Tamyar 29 32 30 41 1 103 63
M'Bang 45 52 44 26 11 122 32
Gikau 49 53 45 22 ~ 120 20
Jekke 53 69 59 23 3 151 47
Yiamba (Yana) 20 42 20 22 ~ 84 42
N'Lu 8 8 15 15 ~ 38 53
Barso 20 24 20 26 ~ 70 49
Yirrum 20 22 20 13 1 55 50
Gubin 52 57 51 37 ~ 145 125
Ntem 30 37 27 16 ~ 80 44
Genbu 40 46 38 24 ~ 108 50
Wa 100 114 64 28 4 206 76
Teb 70 90 80 40 3 210 69
Barru 80 84 59 34 ~ 177 56
Kam Kam 40 44 35 10 ~ 89 37
Bamga 130 140 129 75 6 344 86
Magu 32 35 29 39 ~ 103 32
Tigon 60 70 58 42 3 170 34
1399 1704 1369 974 74 4047 1345