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Published:October 16th, 2007 02:33 EST
Perils and Consequences of Inter-Tribal Marriages

Perils and Consequences of Inter-Tribal Marriages

By Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo

Nothing can be said about Cameroon, west of Mungo, without the mention of its diverse cultural heritage contained within about 285 ethnic groups distributed in ten provinces. Among the ten provinces, northwest alone has 120 ethnicities.

In a recent informal interview with some people from the northwest province, on what is so annoying regarding their custom, Ngwana Mary testifies that she got married to her husband, John, who is now of blessed memory. Few years later, things never worked out the way she wanted. Then she demanded for a break up (traditionally), but her husband denied. So, she quit her matrimony and was leaving by herself. Yet, that wasn`t the solution because, traditionally, she was still regarded as somebody`s wife, and it was a taboo in case she gets married again.

Normally, according to custom, if you`ve not had a child with your husband and both agreed to part, the lady`s family would pay back all that was given to her families in order to divorce her husband.

Alternatively, your kids will be named after your former husband. And this was the case with her because his husband and family denied taking back their money and gifts. Instead, they did not want her to put to birth with any other man, so that the kid(s) will be name after John. That was wicked. She suffers with this grief and could not get married because no man will want to name hisher kids after somebody he does not know.

Meanwhile, according to Sylvie from a tribe called Bafuwum, the case is different. But it has its own bad sides; i.e.- your husband`s nephew (son of your first sister only .i.e.- first girl in the family) will nherit his wealth when he dies; likewise, when the nephew dies, his nephew, too, inherits " so the trend. Regardless if your kids are capable of managing their father`s wealth. And statistics have shown that most of these nephews do not contribute in the upbringing of their uncle`s children (cousins).  No matter, it is not far from the truth that the to-be successors sometimes murder their uncles, since they want to acquire wealth as fast as possible. This has made most of the men from Bafuwum not to carry out any developmental project, since they are already aware that when they die, their kids will become helpless, homeless. Thus, what is the essence in development? Whereby the person who will inherit your properties will misuse it.    

Mangenge from Dongamantung Division, a tribe commonly known as kaka (Yamba), says it`s a taboo for a married woman to discuss matters with her mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law. Actually, this was initiated by the ancestor with the notion that if there is no communication between your in-laws and you, there will hardly be problems between families-- and thus harmony since every family is just particular with his or her issues. But, this could only be resolved if-- and only if-- sisters and mothers-in-law buy gifts (such as loins, pots, palm oils, etc.) and offer them to the married lady as a sign of honour, so that they could communicate freely and happily.

John, from Bafut, says, "Once you are from a royal kingdom, you will only get married to a Bafut." Thus, he feels it`s as though your choice to choose who you will  marry in life is being determined by others and not the individuals concerned.

Therefore, this has made most families to think it is wise not to accept any gift from your child`s fiancé, or even bride price which is a sign of appreciation. Since, statistically, many young girls and women have remained unmarried or frustrated because of the gifts received by their parents from their to-be husbands. By not accepting gifts, parents give their child a privilege to decide on what to do, whenever life becomes uncomfortable with her husband, and also the parents have a right to talk in the marital home

Regarding other`s views, they will never get married to their tribal guygirl. Reason being that the involvement of different ethnic groups means involvement of two different beliefs and no one will ever succumb to that which is not in his tradition; and also, no family will curse you for not doing according to custom because your custom does not ask you to do this or that. This actually has brought a lot of chaos, yet it`s realised to be the best strategy to erase certain beliefs from people`s minds. But you know custom remains a custom and not all will want that changed, because while others are against, some feel it`s nice and that is what identifies you. For example, following a discussion between certain elders in the village, they feel that: as aforementioned, all these customs are meant to limit promiscuity and encourage women to be patient in their marriage, but perhaps did forget that the word "patient` is not just for women, and men, too, could respect that.  

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