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The Mboku (Cameroon)

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Mouchet (1947:108) reports that there is no etymology of the name Mboku given by the Mboku. The Mboku consist of six local groups: Mabal (who came from Hurza only around 1800), Murro (who came from the Mofu area, also around 1800), Maya (who presumably came from Doulo, the former capital of Wandala), Mulgor and Tchibek (who arrived soon after Mulgor), and Madagar (who came from Mada land).

Name:

Location:

Mboku is situated on an up to 750 metre high peninsular plateau massif stretching its most easterly extension of the Northern Mandaras into the plain of Diamare. The Gemjek are their nextdoor neighbours in the Meri mountains to the west. The Mokio with their inselberg, only 5 km away, are their eastern neighbours. Mboku is part of the departement Diamare, arrodissement Meri, canton Doulek.

Mouchet counts in 1947 (page 101) about 4,000 Mboku. Boulet et al (1984:119) counts, like Mouchet 30 years earlier, only 4,000 Mboku. The SIL website Ethnologue (SIL 1982) estimates about 6,700 Mboku. Mouchet (1947:101) still remarks on the extensive terrace culture of the Mboku. The population density lies today between 40 to 99 inhabitants per square km (Haillaire 1991:fig5).

Population:

According to Barreteau (1984:167f) mboku is like ndreme/pelasla (ndreme, mberem, demwa, pelasla, hurza) a dialect/language of mafa-northeast. The SIL website Ethnologue, which does not use the classification of mafa-northeast, does not see a link between ‘mbuko’ (mboku) and pelasla (ndreme).

Language:

Mouchet (1947:102) argues convincingly that all six Mboku local kingroups share one and the same language and the same customs. We assume that they still refer to themselves as Mboku in linguistic as well as in ethnic terms. This is surprising since they all moved in from different areas (Hurza, Mofu, Mada, Doulo, Giziga) not longer than about 200 years ago. Hallaire (1991) does not mention the Mboko as an ethnic group on her list (p26) but on her map (fig3), whereby Boulet at al (1984:115,119) do clearly recognise them as an ethnic group.

Ethnicity:

Vincent (1981:285) recognises the Mboki/Mboko as an ethnic unit and groups them together with the Meri, Zulgo and Gemjek. She refers to them as ‘Tsklam’ and classifies them ethnically as a sub-group of the Mofu-Diamare. Vincent explains that the ‘true’ or Mofu proper (Durum, Duvangar, Wazang) call ‘the peoples who live nextdoor to the north ...Tsklam’ (Vincent 1991:60). Vincent does not know the meaning of the word, but Muller-Kosack (1997:129) informs us that the Mafa mean by ‘tsekam’ a regional chieftaincy of loosely associated villages.

Most important literature is Mouchet and Vincent, although Vincent does not explicitly describe the Mboko as an ethnic group. Her main ethnographic interest are the ‘true’ Mofu and questions remain open whether the expression Mofu-Diamare can be maintained in the way it has been constructed by Vincent. From the point of view of linguistic studies it remains to be seen whether Barreteau’s inclusion of mboku into mafa-northeast is sound. No specific ethnographic study of the mboku language has been conducted so far.

Literature:

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