The Historical Background
The incursion of European exploiters on the Dark Continent witnessed a historical turning point which left Africa almost at the verge of total chaos. Although pro-colonial advocates hold strongly that this European conquest brought Africa out of an endless state of slumber and decadence, the Pan-African unionists and other pro-African elite think otherwise. Various pictures of the European incursion into the “peacefulness” of Africa have been presented by different researchers, historians and men of letters. Nkong Kima herewith uses this dramatic medium to present one of the faces of the post native resistant era against the European rule.
The event which prompts the playwright to produce The Regency of Ajongako II is the Bangwa Resistance of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century in Cameroon (Kamerun) against the German colonial rule (1884-1916). The Bangwa people constituted one of those tribes in Cameroon which put up a strong resistance against the then foreign rule. Although the resistance did not involve the entire Bangwa tribe, the greatest portion of it was involved being the one governed by the then most renowned Bangwa king Asonganyi Fontem – the portion which is today known as Lebang and ruled by the Fon of Fontem (Asonganyi’s grandson). Not only Lebang was solely involved however because other neighbouring settlements through their chiefs came in during the resistance either to support Asonganyi or to betray him; the latter group doing so just to win the consent and protection of the German colonial master and as a result of their envious feelings toward the most renowned king.
Asonganyi was initially not an enemy to the German colonial administration in Kamerun. In fact, he was a friend and a trusted one too. He welcomed the German trading agents sent to his territory and even went into a permanent friendship deal with them through a blood pact. His long term friendship deal with the German firm agent Gustav Canrau – whom the Bangwa people called Manji-Kwala in imitation of Conrau’s carriers who accompanied him during his trade tours – witnessed a trustworthy intimacy pact between the Bangwa king and the German colonial authority. The betrayal of confidence however originated from Conrau. When the time of his departure came Asonganyi had instructed his vassals to present energetic young men who could work on the German coastal plantations at the request of the white man. There was a need for a strong native labour force to maintain the German coastal plantations at the coast of Kamerun. Asonganyi, in order to express the depth of his intimacy with Conrau, provided close to a hundred young people with the hope that they would return to the land after one year of service at the coast with gifts in return.
While the one year period was yet to elapse, Conrau reappeared with request for more men although he had not brought back the previous retinue. This time he was not given the celebrative reception he had during his first visit to the territory. The king was rather cold toward him and decided to hold Conrau in close custody. Many families protested at voice top without even dreading Asonganyi who was by then the most feared personality in the Nweh territory asking for the return of their kinsmen who went with Conrau. Many had lost hopes and rented their clothes to mourn for their lost relations. The truth was that most of those men were probably dead with the unfavourable conditions of work at the plantations and for the fact that most were exhausted through long journeys on foot. Asonganyi suspected this and this suggests why he became cold toward Conrau and decided to hold him captive.
While in detention Conrau sought for every means to escape to no avail. It became obvious to him that the Bangwa king was not ready to release him. Besides, he had no information from the German colonial headquarters in Buea and began to lose hopes. He knew Asonganyi was only waiting for time to execute him after failing to entice the king with promises of ensuring that he would become the only monarch recognised by the German authority throughout the Western Grassfields. His last attempt to escape met with little or no success as he was pursued and beheaded just few kilometres from the Azi royal palace. Some sources say no Bangwa soldier actually beheaded Conrau but that he took away his own life after discovering that his attempt to escape was a futile one. It was said that Nkwetta Bezankeng who actually brought his head to the palace cut it off when Conrau had committed suicide.
When the news of the assassination of Conrau got to the German colonial authority, they immediately dispatched an ultimatum requesting for the arrest of the Bangwa king and the perpetrators of Conrau’s assassination. This led to a strong confrontation between the Bangwa natives and the German colonial soldiers. The Bangwa people fought bravely with the use of a traditional fortification or defensive medicine known as “aziah” which had been used in the recent past to fight against neighbouring enemy tribes (Atem George 2000:8).
Asonganyi went into hiding and refused to show up for a long period. Many Bangwa natives of neighbouring clans came to Asonganyi’s rescue but many yet cooperated with the Germans to lead them through the hilly Bangwa terrain in the pursuit of the most wanted man – their intention being to capture Asonganyi and defeat his forces on behalf of the colonial master. When “aziah” began to lose its potency and the Bangwa people could no more resist the strong military skills of the Germans, Asonganyi decided to surrender in order to avoid the great loss of lives among his people orchestrated by the Germans. He came out of his hiding in 1911 and handed himself to the German authority. He was immediately taken prisoner, tried and exiled to the north of Kamerun to serve a life imprisonment sentence. His throne was handed over to his eldest son Prince Ajongako by the Germans. In order to weaken the Bangwa people and arrest an imminent assault from the natives due to the sentence given to their king, the German colonial administration set up a resident office in Azi known as Fontemdorf. It also disintegrated the Bangwa territory appointing different warrant chiefs to govern it and compensating those who cooperated with them with portions of the kingdom governed by Asonganyi [ibid]. The Germans had to oversee into the activities of these warrant chiefs among whom Asonganyi’s eldest son was one.
The Germans dictated the traditional policies to govern the natives to the warrant chiefs, the more reason why these chiefs were hated and dreaded by the natives. Most of them eventually became power mongers; abusing the traditions and the pride of the native peoples. Ajongako for instance became a tyrant through German influence, betraying his natives and patronising raids to send labourers to work on German plantations, the same reason his father fought against at the expense of his freedom. With the coming of the First World War which witnessed the expulsion of Germany from its overseas territories and the arrival of mandatory powers to take over Germany’s possessions, Asonganyi the Bangwa king was to recover his lost throne. This however brought another controversial situation in the territory as Ajongako the prince regent was not ready to surrender the throne to his father. He was however forced to do so through intrigue solely planned by Asonganyi’s loyalists. The consequence was that Ajongako had to be exiled from the Bangwa land after Asonganyi had regained the throne. It is this regency period of Asonganyi’s son (Ajongako) that Nkong Kima presents to us through a live dramatic medium.
The Executive Superintendent
Cumaland Publishing Factor
In collaboration with Ndi Mbecha A. F.
1 Ajongako II – the Bangwa Prince (German warrant chief sitting as regent to Asonganyi)
2 Asonganyi (the exiled Bangwa King and father of Ajongako)
3 Fuatabong I (German ally governing part of Nweh tribe)
4 Fualeke Chacha (Asonganyi’s ally also governing part of Nweh tribe)
5 Mafuantem and Mafuameika (aunt and sister of the former Bangwa king Asonganyi)
6 Nkwetta Bezankeng (Asonganyi’s half brother, co-regent to Ajongako)
7 Hauptman Langhell (the chief German Officer in the Dschang area)
8 Lt Rausch (German officer overseeing Fontemdorf)
9 The Dschang area kings (Fotoh, Foleke, Fondong, Fongondeng, Fongotongo etc)
10 The nobility corps comprising loyalists to both Ajongako and Asonganyi
11 German and native choruses, officers, soldiers, kinsmen, court elders and retainers, messengers and the masses
stall the king to his throne. Speeches of goodwill are made most of which reveal the ordeal orchestrated in the king’s absence. The occasion ends with a ceremony of promotion in which loyal tribesmen are accorded titles of nobility.
A2 – Scene 14
A1 – Scene 1:
At the newly open Fontemdorf resident office, Hauptmann the resident superior of Dschang and Lt Rausch who will eventually oversee Fontemdorf come to pressurise the Bangwa elders to handover the Bangwa resistant king Asonganyi to them. The elders reveal that Asonganyi died in the course of fighting the Germans, but which the latter do not believe whole heartedly. However, they accept Asonganyi’s proposed Prince Regent Ajongako to co-reign with Asonganyi’s deputy, Nkwetta Bezankeng. They go further to share the Bangwa territory into two giving the northern part to Fuatabong I for assisting the Germans during the Bangwa resistance. They also punish and dethrone those like Fualeke Chacha and Foto of Ndungatet for supporting Asonganyi during the resistance war.
A1 – Scene 2
Ajongako and Fuatabong I discuss on how to haunt and capture the natives for plantation labour in order to appease the colonial administration and fulfil the instruction given them as German colonial warrant chiefs. As Fuatabong I leaves, Ajongako prepares with his closest advisers to stage night raids in order to capture labourers.
A1 – Scene 3
Lt Rausch is disappointed that unlike Fuatabong I Ajongako has made no attempt to bring labourers for the German coastal plantations. As they are talking, Ajongako marches some captives up and hands them to Rausch. He pleads that his men should return to the territory after service at the coast of Kamerun. This gesture establishes a temporal cordial affiliation between the Prince Regent and the German firms.
A1 – Scene 4
The public, through the eyes of two villagers is scared with the manner in which night raids are carried out to supply labourers to the white man’s plantations. As they make allusion to the harsh treatment of labourers in those plantations, a retrospection of live plantation activity is displayed with plantation supervisor wantonly shooting down labourers and using tricks to make them work without resting.
A1 – Scene 5
Ajongako is seen with some of his close palace relations. A half brother is so bitter with the regent for sleeping with his mother and putting her in a family way. The regent states that it is his right to own his father’s wives now that the king is away. Another accusation the young prince and princess make is the regent’s wayward habit of seizing the wives of his relations. The regent is hurt with this accusation and orders that the young prince should be sent to Fontemdorf. He pays no dime to the pleas given on the young man’s behalf.
A1 – Scene 6
The court elders are worried about the king’s present desire as he wants to come out of his hiding and present himself to the white man in order to avoid the killing of his people. They convince the elders in the king’s attendance to hold the king’s peace and let him not surrender lest he is beheaded or hanged by the white. The end by hoping that Germany’s stay in their land should be short-lived.
A1 – Scene 7
Abachi from Fualeke Chacha creates a spectacular show by vowing to make the Germans in Mamfe (Ossindingue) know that Asonganyi is in hiding and not death as his people claim. This is because he is infuriated by the Prince Regent’s conduct for recently seizing his wife. He demonstrates his anger in the market place amid a curious crowd and leaves for Mamfe. He doesn’t want to take the advice of not betraying the Bangwa king.
A1 – Scene 8
In Fualeke Chacha’s council, he regrets that one of his subjects is going to betray the king in hiding as he is duly informed. He sends messengers to Azi to alert the Prince Regent.
A1 – Scene 9
The royal council of Azi palace meets to discuss the impending betrayal of the king with all blaming the Prince Regent for going his own way and hurting many people. They however agree to unite their thoughts in order to rescue Asonganyi from the impending execution.
A2 – Scene 1
Report reaching the Dschang resident office says Abachi has revealed that Asonganyi is only in hiding and not dead as the Bangwa people claimed. Officers express views of undying suspicion against the Bangwa people but pledge their services to the crown of Germany if it comes to war. We hear that Lt Rausch has been dispatched to Fontemdorf for this purpose.
A2 – Scene 2
Lt Rausch reaches the Azi palace led by Abachi. He insists on having the king handed over although the royal council still wants to claim Asonganyi is actually dead. He leaves with an ultimatum to have the king presented in less than a day. The councillors disagree on whether to hand Asonganyi over or not.
A2 – Scene 3
As Lt Rausch sits at Fontemdorf heavily guarded, Asonganyi comes in with a cross section of his territory who are curious to watch the king’s fate. Asonganyi presents a white cock and a white sheep as symbols of peace thereby handing himself to the white man. Rausch announces that the king shall be taken to Dschang to be tried. Natives are shocked to hear this and declare that they are ready for another war with Germany. Asonganyi threatens them with a curse if they dare fight on account of him again, citing enormous bloodshed which has been recorded. As he is bound away, the officers fire guns into the air to disperse the curious crowd.
A2 – Scene 4
The Bamileke kings in the Dschang area meet in the palace of Fotoh-à-Dschang to discuss the impending fate of Asonganyi and how to appease the white man to free their kinsman. They agree to beguile him with a gift of seventy elephant tusks hoping that this would make the white man free Asonganyi.
A2 – Scene 5
This court scene opens in the Dschang resident office where Asonganyi is to be tried. He is levied so many charges among which is the initial one of causing Conrau to die. Asonganyi knows that guilty or not he must be persecuted and declares his stance strongly without dreading the outcome. He is therefore given a sentence which among all is being permanently dethroned and not allowed to return to the Bangwa territory. He is exiled to the town of Garoua in northern Kamerun where he will serve a life sentence. In the midst of this confusion Fotoh-à-Dschang speaking on behalf of the Dschang area kings pleads pardon for Asonganyi but this is denied. The victim is marched out to the land of his asylum.
A2 – Scene 6
Two commoners meet at a market place in Azi to discuss the ongoing executions, betrayals, exodus and many faults all orchestrated by the prince and the German administration. They reveal there is a lot of torture of innocent people.
A2 – Scene 7
At Fontemdorf, Lt Rausch receives news that the ongoing 1st World War is extending to the colonies in Africa and is highly agitated. He dispatches messengers to the respective quarters in support of Germany to make preparations toward the war. His main preoccupation is to reinforce the Nsanakang unit where the most deadly war is to be fought.
A2 – Scene 8
This is the actual war scene in which we are exposed to the last fight at the battlefield of Nsanakang. The allied forces give orders for their forces to strike and bring the Kaiser to his knees. A German commander comes in to surrender as they prepare to quit Kamerun.
A2 – Scene 9
Mafuameika summons the commoners and is addressing them about the release of the king who has chosen to stay away from the crown. She is also excited that German period of tyranny is over. As the natives react joyously, Ajongako is infuriated as he comes in and meets them. He insults the queen mother and sends them away. He is very anxious about the impending state of the crown as it seems obvious that he may lose it.
A2 – Scene 10
Ajongako is filled with thoughts about a possible return of the Bangwa king to seek his throne. He swears not to give up power if it comes to that. While he is deep in this reflection a messenger from Asonganyi comes in to alert him of the ongoing execution of native rulers. Asonganyi wants him to come with him and seek a hiding but Ajongako suspects that his father may be using a trick to oust him from power. But he decides to go anyway.
A2 – Scene 11
Gossipers come in to inform Ajongako of Asonganyi’s projected return to the territory. We learn the king escaped to Dschang, but no one knows why, only to prepare and come back for the crown of the land. The prince summons his forces asking them to march up toward Legwe to stop the king. He leaves with his train toward Legwe with pretext he is going to welcome the king.
A2 – Scene 12
Mafuameika summons the nobility corps to plan strategies and sabotage Ajongako’s intention of killing his father the king. They agree to convince the king to return through the Ngundeng road and not through Atungong as earlier planned. They intend to reinstall the king on his throne before his son discovers.
A2 – Scene 13
This scene witnesses the actual return of Asonganyi to recover his lost throne. The ceremony is presided over by the younger queen mother Mafuameika with the support of her aunt Mafuantem. The king is brought back with a hilarious manifestation of traditional rituals. The kingmaker Mbi Nditu and his train rein scene reveals the fate of Ajongako paid off his wrongdoings. While at the target point waiting to lynch his father, a noise of jubilation seems to be heard from the royal palace. Messengers come in to inform the regent that Asonganyi has regained his lost throne and declared Ajongako exiled. The prince regent is shocked with this news. To worsen matters, his retinue begins to desert him in order to seek Asonganyi’s pardon. Only one loyalist to him wants to remain and die with the prince regent. They decide to wander until death takes away their lives.
A2 – Scene 14
This retribution scene reveals the fate of Ajongako paid off his wrongdoings. While at the target point waiting to lynch his father, a noise of jubilation seems to be heard from the royal palace. Messengers come in to inform the regent that Asonganyi has regained his lost throne and declared Ajongako exiled. The prince regent is shocked with this news. To worsen matters, his retinue begins to desert him in order to seek Asonganyi’s pardon. Only one loyalist to him wants to remain and die with the prince regent. They decide to wander until death takes away their lives.
* Nkong Kima is a Teacher ,Writer and Critic. Cumaland Diary is a blog for the expression of his literary ideas and works.