The town of Bamoun in northwest Cameroon recently crowned its new king. Traditional council of the Bamoun people, an ethnic group in Cameroon named Nabil Mfoforifoum Mbombo Njoya as their supreme leader, who took over from his deceased father. Soon after taking the charge, Nabil rejected the tradition of receiving the offering of a virgin girl in his service, making global headlines.
The archaic tradition of the Islamic group requires the Sultan to fulfill ‘Lah-Kam’, wherein he is expected to take a teenage virgin bride from the Njim Monchouh line. The purpose of this rite is rather crude. The young girl becomes the King’s wife and offers her virginity to him so that he can complete his initiation rites.
However, 28-year-old Nabil refused to marry the girl he was presented with, citing her age and noting that she should be attending school and receiving education.
Not only this, the new Sultan announced that he will sponsor her education up to the university level. King Nabil further iterated that he will try his best to abolish the system of offering teenagers for marriage which has been in existence for years.
15 is the legal age of marriage in Cameroon:
Although the legal age of marriage in Cameroon is 15, according to Article 144 of the Civil Code, a girl aged 14 is considered ripe for marriage, pending consent from the parents. Despite the outdated traditions binding the community, the fact that Nabil dared to stand tall and reject it speaks volumes about his character.
He has shown by his action that those who hide under tradition to do and get away with things such as cradle snatching have no excuse to do the right thing. It is actions such as his that help in dismantling archaic customs that no longer have relevance in contemporary society.
Nabil is the 20th king of the ethnic group, succeeding his father Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya, who died at the age of 83 in September. The new king has no formal government powers but upholds Bamoun tradition and controls millions of hectares of land through a trust.
The real Black Panther – Netizens applaud the new king:
Netizens took to Twitter to applaud Nabil for his gesture. One tweeter thanked the king and said, “This is a demonstration of the true meaning of leadership. Well done King Nabil Mbombo Njoya”
This is a demonstration of the true meaning of leadership. Well done King Nabil Mbombo Njoya! 👏👏
— Benard Musekese Wabukala (@bmusekese) December 15, 2021
Meanwhile, another called him a true king, “Now that’s what i call a true king. @KingNabill is The King Solomon of today. We need more African man like him not this fools that impregnated a 10yrs old.”
— @MikeMaimane (@mikemaimane) December 14, 2021
One netizen compared him to the fictional king of Wakana T’Challa aka Black Panther by tweeting, “The Real Black Panther”.
The Real Black Panther ✨ https://t.co/4XYRNe3jlW
— Chuma N. (@sussex_caxton) December 13, 2021
While Nabil has set an example, the neighboring country of Nigeria is yet to take lessons. Child marriage is highly prevalent in African countries. According to a report by Save the Children International (SCI), in the northeast and northwest parts of Nigeria, over 48% of girls are married by the age of 15, while 78% are forced to tie the knot by 18.
Child marriage is a problem prevalent in the African and the Arab world that needs to be eliminated. The rise of Wahhabism ideology that has even traveled to the Bamoun kingdom, needs to be uprooted fair and square.
The International community needs to get involved in a strong manner, as child marriage is modern-day slavery that affects the entire world. Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes that a child is any human being under the age of 18 unless, under state law, the majority is attained earlier.
The Kingdom of Bamoun is a pre-colonial Central African state in what is now northwest Cameroon. Bamoun ethnic enclave has now become an international tourist destination, with the 600-year-old Nguon Festival that celebrates the rich and vibrant culture of the people annually. The decision of Nabil is expected to bring more footfall to the region.