Also called the Fonanguon’s requisition, the #king’sjugement is one of the the key attractions of this biennial cultural Rendez-Vous.

A monarch on the stand? Hard to believe. However, it is in this exercise that the Sultan King of Bamoun, Ibrahim Mbombouo Njoya, engages in each edition of the Nguon. Indeed every two years, on the occasion of what, over the years and editions, has become an unmissable event in the Cameroonian cultural sphere and even outside, the Sultan King is put on trial. And this, in public. An unusual scene that attracts beautiful people each time. Men, women, children, administrative authorities and business leaders. Many of them make the trip to attend this traditional Nguon sequence.

To the sound of the drums which punctuate the traditional dances, a procession enters the royal court. It is precisely the Mechire, the royal sentry, who opens the procession. His spear in hand, he walks around the area as if to ensure the safety of the site. He is followed by the Queen mother. The Sultan King then makes his entry. He is directly followed by the Tah-Ngouh, who here represents the Minister of Justice. And before speaking, the Tah-Ngouh vigorously plants the Kut-Mutngu on the ground. These are the spears of truth. The courtyard is black with people. No one wants to miss this moment when the Sultan King is brought before the Court of Justice. The royal court serves as a tribunal for the occasion

The judgement is executed by the members of a secret society. These are the 99 Fonanguon (the Sultan being the 100th). Who, for the occasion, become the spokesperson of the Bamoun people as well as a Constitutional Court. Everyone in their requisitions reviews the Sultan King’s management of the kingdom.

The moment is rich in sounds and emotions. Especially when facing his people, the King becomes nothing but a subject, without his attributes and leaving the time of judgement his throne. The Sultan King is standing under the sun during the whole trial. It’s always been so. But in the last edition, given his age, he was allowed to sit down. Howver, he was seated, not on his throne , but rather in a simple chair throughout the ceremony.

The scene takes place in full view of everyone. It’s good to know that the King can be found guilty and be fined. The current Sultan King has already been found guilty twice already: The first time in 2014 because he had cried in public when his mother died and the second time in 2018, for having materialized the coat of arms of the kingdom on the ground at the palace.

The conviction is often accompanied by a fine. For the Bamoun sons and daughters, the King’s judgment is a very important moment in the life of the kingdom. It symbolizes democracy. Above all, it shows that the Bamoun people already had the notion of democracy before the Europeans arrived in Cameroon. At the end of the trial, and once the verdict has been made public, the King if put back on his throne, delivers a speech, makes commitments, and regains his attributes. The parade of descendants of all Bamoun kings closes the ceremony.

Marthe Ndiang

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