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The Uldeme and Plata/Plasla (Cameroon)

No etymology of the name Uldeme is known to us. Mouchet (1947:93,103) speaks of the ‘massif Udham’, which is called ‘Udheme’ by the Wandala and ‘Ouldeme’ by the French administrators. The same applies to the Plata, who live among the Uldeme. Mouchet refers to the Plata as ‘Placa’ (ibid:96) and he informs us that they originate form ‘Zalideve’ (Zelidva). Juillerat (1971:53f) informs us that the Plata left Muktele land to settle in Uldeme. The Plata are also found among other neighbouring ethnic groups, like e.g. among the Vame-Mbreme and the Hurza (Mouchet 1947). The people of the Gwoza Hills refer to the Fulbe of Madagali as Plataha. The Mafa refer to the Fulbe and to muslims in general as well as those who were slave raiders as ‘Plasar’ (Muller- Kosack 1999). Blench (E-mail 1999) says rightly that Plata should be spelt ‘Pelasla’.



The Uldeme massif is situated south of Vame-Mbreme, with the Uldeme settling in the west and the Plata settling in the east. The latter are neighbours of the Hurza and the Vame-Mbreme. The western neighbours of the Uldeme are the Muktele and their southern neighbours are the Mada. The Uldeme massif is up to 750 m with a plateau on top. Hodogway, the settlement where Hallaire (1971) conducted her studies about the agricultural system of the Uldeme/Plata is situated towards the eastern slopes of the massif. The Uldeme massif belongs to the arrondissement Tokombere, canton Ouldeme.

Mouchet (1947:94) counts only 3,027 Uldeme, while Haillaire & Barral (1967:57) count 6,075. Hallaire (1991:26) speaks of 6,570 while Boulet et al 1984 speak of 6,200 Uldeme. SIL (1982) counts 10,500 Uldeme, which sounds highly unrealistic. According to Hallaire’s map (1991:fig5) the population density in Uldeme/Plata land is, with between 100 to 139 inhabitants per square km, one of the highest in the Northern Mandaras.



Barreteau (1984:168) says that the Uldeme speak wuzlam, which is like muyang, mada, melokwo (Mokyo-Molkwo) and zulgwa (zulgwa, minew. gemjek) a dialect of mafa-south. Mouchet (1947:96) informs us that the Plata speak ‘placa’, which is pelasla according to Barreteau (ibid). Pelasla is a dialect of ndreme (see page Hurza and Vame-Mbreme), which is classified under mafa-northeast (ibid). The SIL website Ethnologue speaks of wuzlam (Uldeme) and pelasla (Plata) as a dialect of Biu-Mandara A.5. SIL uses pelasla as a synomym for Barreteau’s ndreme.


While the Uldeme are well established as an ethnic group in the literature, the Plata are not. However it has been claimed by MacEachern (1990:153-163, 239f) that the Plata need to be seen as an ethnic group and not a clan which has been incorporated into various ethnic groups (mainly the Uldeme, Vame-Mbreme and Hurza) in the form of localised lineages. All Plata lineages claim to have originated from Zelidva (see page Zelidva). Mouchet (ibid:94f) informs us that the Uldeme lineages consist of three local groups of various origin. The most important are the descendants of a Wandala ruler of Doulo. They are called ‘Egdza-Vrinda’, meaning ‘son of Vrinda’. Another Uldeme lingeage consists of descendants of his companion. The third group consists of lineages which are not related to ‘Egdza-Vrinda’ and his companions. These three local groups came from Waza, Muyeng, and Zelidva. Those who came from Zelidva are the Plata (ibid).


The ethnographic literature on the Uldeme has not passed survey stage. Most important in this context is Mouchet, but others have conducted ethnographic research as well (Hallaire 1970, 1971: Colombel 1987, 1997: MacEachern 1990). Hallaire is a geographer and has published about the agricultural system of the Uldeme. Colomel is a linguist who has published extensively on the language structure of the Uldeme. MacEachern is an archeologist who is interested in ethno-archaeology. Jungraithmayr and Tourneux (1982) have published a comparative study of three chadic languages of which wuzlam (Uldeme) is one.

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