THE BAKWERI – GERMAN WAR OF 1891
AND IT’S IMPACT THEREAFTER
The Germans made their first expedition against Gbea in 1891 under the famous commander Von Gravenreuth, who came up with some one hundred and fifty Dahomean and Togolese troops.
The Gbea revelations of the possible causes of the war states that during this period, there was a lot of witchcraft practised by the villagers and by so doing many people lost their lives as a result of this practice. The rate of killings was alarming in all villages. In Gbea, two women who had been accused of killing a man, were immediately subjected to the ‘eku’ a sasswood or deal in which the accused was given a mixture of sasswood to drink, and if he or she vomited she was declared innocent but if no vomiting occurred the person was declared guilty and hanged immediately. Those who were not killed were banished to Victoria (Hvo) which served as a sanctuary. These events were allegedly reported to the Germans by the Basel mission catechist locally called “chicha” (Teacher) by the natives. He was strongly opposed to the witch-cleansing method of the Bakweris. A practice opposed to their Christian beliefs. The Germans therefore decided to attack Gbea and put an end to the growing threats of the Bakweris.
The news of the departure of German troops from Victoria was known in Gbea from natives of villages who had gone down to Victoria to exchange goods. The Gbea Chief Kuva Likenye also kept his men on alert, and built a barricade near a ravine situated over the dry bed of the Namonge stream near the Parliamentarian flat Hotel. Behind this ravine also was the Buea town fence which ran in an unbroken circuit for many kilometres.
In the face of such a strategy, the Dahomean troops opened fire indiscriminately against the Gbea people, who too retreated over the ravine and took position behind the fence. From this position the Bakweri opened fire after a final alert from a look-out who eventually sounded the slit drum while the soldiers had crossed the enemy the enemy lines.
During this battle Von Gravenreuth was killed with two shots on the chest by the man called Mondinde Mw’Ekeke . This was partly because of the miscalculation he made to leave behind some men and maxim guns which would have helped to crush the Bakweri. Those which were carried refused to work, partly because of the strong witchcraft from the Bakweris.
The German soldiers fled to the south west of the mountains slopes guided by Dr. Preuss. Von Schukmann; acting Governor reports that when they returned to the site, the corpse of Von Gravenreuth was in a decomposed state and it was impossible to transport it. His head was taken together with his heart and buried at the cellar of the mission.
The Bakweri victory over the Germans in 1891 brought a lot of popularity to their ruler Kuva Likenye, who was now regarded as a real King warrior. The Germans only made a repost in 1894 in an expedition this time well fortified to bring down the Bakweris to their knees.
During this attack, the Bakweri villages were destroyed, huts burnt down and cattle taken away. The extensive destruction of Gbea was a real punishment for what happened during the death of Von Gravenreuth. Kuva Likenye the chief of Buea fled to the lower Bakweris and died in exile. He was succeeded by his brother Endeley who also escaped to lower Mokunda. He was later captured and exiled to Duala, until the Buea people had to pay an indemnity.
It should be recounted that the harsh treatment method on the people by the Germans discouraged many Bakweris to learn or co-operate with the Germans. Roads were constructed using Bakweri labour; some had to carry cement on their heads from Victoria to Buea. Parents refused sending their children to school because of the harsh treatment by the Germans whom they feared could be transfered to their off springs. This partly contributes to the negative attitude of the natives towards forced labour.
To further punish the natives, the Germans used this opportunity to acquire land which they used to open up plantations of Palm, banana, rubber.
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