Ba. Babila 74 81 64 60 / 90 24 10 70
Lela is an annual festival to commemorate the wars that the Chamba people in general and the Bali Nyonga in particular fought and the conquering of other tribes through their migratory path. Lela is a royal institution with the Fon as its head and the Lela institution is in charge of the Lela shrine called “Wolela”. When a Fon is inaugurated, he is presented to Bali Nyonga population by mounting the Wolela in a public ceremony.
The Lela festival is a four days public event and usually takes place in the Month of December. t starts with a launching ceremony called “Pob Lela” not open to public and a few days after the Lela festival begins.
Day 1 : “Shuh Fuh”
The first day is more of a religious day. It starts in early morning when the tradition flags “Tutuwans” are brought out of palace and placed in the Lela piazza. At about 1 p.m. the population gathered at the Lela piazza to start the male dominant two miles procession lead by the tutuwan to the sacred stream (shrine) called “nchi shuh fuh”. At the sacred stream, the two tutuwans (white flags) are purified and the gods of land appeased and asked to be on their side in case of any war. On their way back to the Lela piazza, they chant war songs to signify that they are prepared and ready for any war or attack. There is a brief stop at Kah Manfon’s residence for refreshment. When the population arrived at the Lela piazza, there is heavy gun firing followed by dancing till about 6:30 p.m.
Day 2 : “Lehti”
The second day is a day to commemorate the victories the Chamba and Bali Nyonga had on the wars they along their migratory path. The day is full of military manoeuvres and warlike exhibitions. The day starts with a silent procession to the hill side behind the ntanko’o market. The Fon during the silent procession is lead by men wearing caps made with bird feathers. The procession is silent as it signifies the movement of troops to the warfront and the men wear caps made of birds to deceive their enemies that it is a flock of bird moving and not humans. On arrival at ntanko’o (the supposed warfront), there is heavy gun firing for about 30 minutes. On the way back to the Lela piazza, there is a lot of military by the military wing, gun firing and singing of victorious songs. Same as day 1, when the population arrived at the Lela piazza, there is heavy gun firing followed by dancing till about 6:30 p.m.
Day 3 : “Ben”
As the name implies, (“Ben” is dance) the third day of the Lela festival mainly dancing and jubilations to signify that they are victors. There is no gun firing this day. The third day is more of political day as it on this day that the Fon appoints new nkoms (ministers) and gives an address about the state of the union. The day starts at about 2 p.m. with dancing with the men and women dressed in the best of their tradition regalia. At about 4 p.m. , dancing is halted and the Fon made known his newly appointees and delivers his state of the union through the nkoms and after that there is dancing till about 6:30 p.m.
Day 4 : “Nun Kong”
The fourth and last day of the Lela festival is mostly dancing with less gun firing. As the name “nchu nun kong” in mungaka implies, this is day that the two traditional flags “tutuwans” are taken back to where are kept inside the palace. The day begins at about 2 p.m. with dancing and at about 4 p.m. the Fon delivers an address about the future of the union. After the Fon’s address, the tutuwans (traditional flag) are taken into the palace followed by less gun firing. The day ends with the population bidding farewell to Lela and chanting “Lela bati lumo’ ka! Yo, yo” meaning Lela we only get see next year
History of Bali Nyonga:
Bali Nyonga belongs to the Chamba lecko group - an entity that migrated from Chamba around River Faro in the Nigeria-Cameroon border and settled in the Benue plain around circa 1600. Many conflicting theories abound to the origins of the Chamba. Though the precise itinerary of the Chamba migration is not universally agreed upon, the most plausible and oft cited however remains the view that the Chamba together with the Bata were one of the many Sudanese groups that migrated from the Borno empire and settled around Lake Chad at the beginning of 10h Century AD. In the face of desertification, increased famine, and the ambitious expanding of the Islamic Kanem Borno empire, the Chamba group along with other non-muslim Sudanese groups decided to move south. Settling in the Benue around circa 1600, the banks of River Faro and River Dewo, provided ample vegetation for their cattle. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 18th Century with increased famine in the area, the Chamba moved westwards into Junkun country (still in the Benue) under the leadership of Loya Garbosa where they subdued the declining Kororofa Kingdom. From here they moved Southwards to Kontcha, concluding an alliance with the Buti. Continuing eastwards into Ngaoundere, the Chamba absorbed the Kufad –a clan of Mbum. Chamba-Fulani relations had been characterised by a long peaceful coexistence. The cattle breeding Fulani and the farmer hunter Chamba maintained good relations within the Kanem Borno empire. Historians point to the similarities in dressing and musical instruments such as the Danga and the Lela flute, flag bearing, as well as horse riding as products of this socialisation. However, in the face of the Fulani jihad which began in 1815, some Chamba clans resisting the ambitious expansion of the Islamic empire, and under the leadership of Gawolbe (C1790-1836) the group again moved south westwards in 1825 through Banyo where the Chamba incorporated large numbers of the Peli, Mboum and Buti and the Tikars commonly known in Bali Nyonga as Tikali. Settling for a while near Bamun, the Chamba attempted to exploit a longstanding conflict between the Bati and Bamun to attack Bamun and incorporate it to the Chamba. Though failing to subjugate the Bamun, the Chamba subsequently amalgamated some of the Bati and moved further south into Bagam which they conquered. Some historians refer to the Bati elements incorporated here as ‘Ti Galwolbe’. Moving from there, the Bali Chamba headed through Bamenjinda and Babaju and into Bamenda. In the course of this, they fought with the people of Bafreng, Mankon, Bafut Bapinyin, Meta and Moghamo. Settling in Dschang, the Chamba were met with fierce resistance from the inhabitants of Dschang. This led to the death of Gawolbe in the battle of Bafu-Fundong near Djuitisa. The Chamba then moved north-westwards and camped near Bagam in order to re-organise and select a new leader. Most grass field traditions still point to the Bali Chamba as warriors. It is believed that the attractive nature of the vegetation in these areas was irresistible to the horses of the Chamba prompting the group’s movement further southwards. The Bali Chamba are thus credited with having introduced the horse to the southern part of the country. Tradition holds that the constant movement of the Chamba was as a result of their search for land fertile enough to avoid the occurrence of famine.
THE CHAMBA SPLIT
The successor of Gawolbe was Gangsin but he proved unpopular and too weak to wield the Chamba together and establish a strong and united kingdom. Consequently, there emerged many postulants to the throne. The tensions between the rivals provoked a split between the Chamba elements. This split was to lead to the formation of seven distinct principalities.
1/ Bali Kumbat (Nepkolbi)
Led by Galega, this was the largest and probably the most influential group among the Chamba, they moved North-westwards waging wars against Bambili, Bambui and the Tikars of Ndop plain, finally defeating the Bamumkumbit and settling on their hilltop position. It is claimed that their leader Galega was an influential retainer who carried many palace secrets with him.
2/ Bali- Gangsin (Donep)
This group equally moved North-westwards and settled south-east of Bali Kumbat.
3/ Bali-Gashu (Gasonep)
Led by Ga-Nyam, the group first moved to the site of present day Bali-Gham befoe moving further northwards and settling to the east of Bali-Kumbat.
4/ Bali-Gham (Nepgavilbi)
Led by Ga-Sanga, the group moved to Bagham Nindeng where they acquired their locational name before settling in their present site near Santa.
5/ Bali Muti
This group travelled via Wum and settled in Takun which is located in present day Tabara State in Nigeria. It is one of 15 local government areas in Tabara state.
6/ Bali Nkohntan
This group settled in Kuform in the present Bali-Nyonga subdivision. They were subsequently assimilated by their Bali Nyonga cousins. This explains why unlike other Balis, Bali Nyonga today flies two flags (tutuwan)
7/ Bali Nyonga
Led by Nyongpasi, son of Princess Na’nyonga, this group first moved to Tsen (Kuti or Kupare) located on the southern part of the Bamun region. Here, they renewed relations with the Bati seen as recalcitrant subjects of the Bamun Some theories hold that an attempted alliance with the Bati against the Bamun failed and prompted them to move from the area. Together with the recalcitrant Bati elements, in C1848 they moved towards Bamenda waging a series of wars against eastern Bamileke groups such as the Bangante, the Bansoa and Bamunju. In Bamenda, they made a blood treaty with the Fon of Bafreng and stayed there for seven years before pursuing their Nkohtan breathren to Kuform. Defeating the latter, Bali Nyonga incorporated this group as well as its Baku, Mudum and Kenyang subjects in 1855 and settled in the area. Nyongpoasi later became Fonyonga I the first ruler of Bali Nyonga.
**An Introduction to the Study of Bali Nyonga: A Tribute to His Royal Highness Galega II, Traditional Ruler of Bali-Nyonga from 1940-1985.
By Tintanji, Vincent., Gwanfogbe, Mathew., Nwana, Elias., Ndagam, Gwanua., and Lima, Adolf Sema. (1988)
Summaried by Mr. BABILA Elvis
Fon Galega II,
Fon Mbinglo at
the Tiko Airport
The Bali Modern Jazz
Laying of the foundatiostone of the Cameroon Christian University Bali
Brief Profiles of the Leadership of Bali Nyonga from Na Na’nyonga to Dr Ganyonga III
Na’nyonga, the lone daughter of Gawolbe, did not fold her hands and watch her six brothers fought over their father’s throne, she courageously and intelligently joined in the succession battle. The succession battle ended with the split of the Chamba Leko people and Na’nyonga earning the support of a great portion of the Chamba Leko, formed what is today known as Bali Nyonga. After Na’nyonga founded and lead the Bali Nyonga for a while, she was faced with the challenges that most of the Chamba Leko people cults were male dominant, so she officially handed the leadership of the Bali Nyonga people to her son Nyongpasi who reigned as Fonyonga I. after she handed over the leadership to her son, the office “Mamfon” was created for her and she became the first Kah Mamfon.
Fonyonga I (or Ganyonga I) 1830 – 1857
Nyongapasi reigned as Fonyonga I and during his leadership founded the present Bali Nyonga site. He also established the first palace and dynasty at Kwifom.
Galega I 1857 – 1901
It is believed that Galega I was born around 1829 at Banyo and took over the leadership of the Bali Nyonga dynasty in 1857. During his reign, he transferred the palace from Kwifom to the present site. He welcomed the first European explorer Dr Zintgraft on January 16, 1889 and after singing a series of treaties with Dr Zintgraft, the State of Germany recognized and considered the Bali Nyonga dynasty a partner. Through the recognition of the Bali Nyonga dynasty by Imperial State of Germany, the Bali Nyonga was opened to western culture and civilization.
Fonyonga II (or Ganyonga II) 1901 – 1940
Prince Tita Gwenjang was born at kufom and succeeded his father, Galega I in 1901 and reigned with name Fonyonga II. He continued with his father policy of accommodation the German. He was very interest in western civilization. He welcomed the first missionaries in Bali Nyonga and encouraged formal education. During his reign, the first Native Authority was opened in Bali in 1903, the first Native Court in the grassfields was created and the New Testament was translated into Mungaka. He also saw the construction of the Bali Bamenda road. The greatest of all his achievements was the recuperation of Gawolbe head and regalia from Bafu Fudong.
Galega II 1940 - 1985
Prince Vincent Samdala was born in Bali Nyonga in 1906. He succeeded his father Fonyonga II on August 30, 1940 and reign with the name Galega II. He was the first Leader of the Bali Nyonga dynasty to have formal education. During his reign, he:
- Organized the Bali Development Committee in 1941 to plan streets and open up roads in Bali town.
- Founded the Bali Improvement Union in 1943 to foster the education Bali kids.
- Constructed the present palace.
- Fought for the independence and unification of Cameroon
- Contructed the grandstand at the Lela piazza
Also during his reign, the first college CPC was opened in 1949, the first airstrip in the grassfield was established in Bali, Bali rose from a town to a Sub Division and the street in Bali were electrified.
Ganyonga III (or Fonyonga III) 1985 – Present
Prince Dr George Dohsang was born on
Dec 25, 1946 at Bali Nyonga.He succeeded his father Galega II on September 26, 1985 and he is reigning with name Ganyonga III. He is a holder of Ph.D in Sociology and Anthropology and has a lecturer at ENS (Ecole Normale Superieure) Bambili.Under his watchful eyes, Bali is developing tremendously politically, economically and socially
still under construction!!!!!!!!!!!!!
by Mr. Babila