Introduction and Historical Backgroung of the Bakweri
The Bakweri people occupy the South-eastern slopes of mount Cameroon( Fako ). Buea is one of their settlements lying at about 3,000 feet, in a a relatively densely populated belt of the mountain. The Bakweri are Bantu in language and origin. More narrowly, they fall into the Sawa, or the coastal peoples of Cameroon
The Origin of the Bakweri People
The Bakwerians are from the lower Bomboko behind Mount Fako. They were mostly fishermen, who settled along the coast, farmers, and hunters who settled beside the mountain. Most of the Bakweri villages claimed to have been founded from a group of villages which lies in a belt between 650m and 1000m up mount Cameroon.
The origin of the Bakweri settlement could be attributed to two separate traditions. Firstly, the tradition of the Buea group stated that a certain Eye Njie used to come from Bomboko to hunt on the Eastward side of the mountain with a friend Nakande. Nakande used to hunt near the site of present day Wonakanda while Eye moved on to a river near the present day Buea. When they brought in their wives, other friends and relatives from Womboko joined them and they opened gardens. Another tradition affirmed that ManyangMasonje left Isongo and Bakingili where he settled around Bimbia where he had many catches in “ISU” meaning the end of my journey. Nakande from Bomboko settled in Bonakanda which was called Ligbea which meant a place for good farming. He was a farmer.
However, although hunting was the primary motive behind the Bomboko migration, fertility of the soil on the slopes of mount Cameroon was equally a firm factor. While the men were engaged in hunting, the women farmed the land and subsequently, other migrants from Bomboko established Bakweri villages which were named after their founders. Although there is some view that the true Bakweri are the people of Buea and its surrounding villages, other groups classified under Bakweri included Bomboko, the area which the Bakweri are said to have originated and Wovea. The Bakweri are found on the eastern and south eastern slopes of the mountain, coastal Bomboko on the south-east coast, the inland Bomboko on the North-west of the Bakweri and Isuwu and Wovea are on the southern coast of the Fako Division.
The Isuwu are also believed to have originated from Bomboko. Isuwu was also known as Bimbia named after MbibiMbela who was the chief of the area in the last quarter of the 19th century. According to another source, their ancestors came from Bankingili and womana. The wovea claimed to have originated from Fernando Po who settled in the islands of Ambas Bay. All the above was due to the potential of the area like fertile soil and hunting facilities. This same fertile soil also attracted the Europeans into the area since their motive was centered on economic. Although these groups lived closer to each other, and practiced the same culture, they were independent from each other. The German successful attacks on the Bakweri could be attributed to this division. If the Bakweri were united, then their final defeat by the Germans during the Bakweri resistance under the leadership of KuvaLikenya could have failed and even if not the alienation policy might have adopted a different shape, thus the loose political and social ties amongst the Bakweri worked in favor of the Germans.
The Bakweri belong to the most north-western branch of the Bantu speaking people inhabiting central and southern Africa. To be certain about the date the Bakweri reached their present site, it was around 1750 as confirmed by genealogical evidence that it was the time they arrived one of their earliest settlement, Buea. Other sources asserted that the population pressure which affected Nigeria drove the Bakweri from their habitation near Lake Barombi in Kumba to the mount Fako area.
Bakweri were divided into the urban and rural areas. Those who lived in the central business districts like Limbe, Buea, Tiko and Muyuka were involved in skilled and unskilled professions. The rural Bakweri on the contrary worked as farmers, making use of mount Cameroon’s fertile volcanic soil to cultivate crops like cocoyam, maize, oil palm and plantains.
Traditional Bakweri society was divided into three strata. At the top were the native Bakweri with full rights of land ownership. The next consisted either non-Bakweri descendants of slaves and the last group were the slaves. The chiefs and headmen were at the top of this hierarchy in the past even though in recent times the figures have very little power in their own right as important issues are no decided by the committees and no longer secret societies and council of elders.
The Bakweri tribal group which was believed to have diverse origin like many other ethnic groups was attached to the Bantu family and had a decentralized society. Here we shall examine the family unit as a societal and political base, then the village council and the role of the chief further more we shall focus on the social and the economic organizations of this people.