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The Political Organisation of Bali-Nyonga
The Fon: Constitutional head and military head.
Assist the Fon in his daily administrative duties. Positions within the cabinet must be filled by the Fon on his ascent to the throne. The posts are Mfomungwi, Tita Sikod, Tita Sama, Tita Nyagang (of the Lela society) and Mamfon and the Tutuwan-non hereditary positions that can be renewed at the discretion of the Fon on his ascent to the throne.
Kah Mfomungwi (The Queen)
This position, unique to Bali Nyonga, is filled by the Fon’s half sister, dates from the time of Nah Nyonga, the female progenetor of Bali Kings. The Kah Mfomungwi acts as a deputy to the fon and can substitute the fon in many functions. She has a compound of her own and dresses in royal garments (one with a moon behind its back) during public ceremonies and sits on a throne next to the Fon. Because of the male dominated nature of Bali society, the Kah Mfonmungwi has turned out to be more of a figure-head than a real administrative assistant to the Fon.
This is the military commander of the Fon’s bodyguards. He is usually the son of a princess (daughter of the reigning or dead fon) and is also an ex-officio member of the Sama group. He is responsible for the security of the Fon in public ceremonies. He helps the Tsinted organise food and gunpowder distribution during public manifestation. When the Nkom Ngong is appointed, he takes him from the palace gates to the other Kom who then take him round the piazza to present newly appointed individual to the public.
This is usually an uncle of the ruling fon and is selected from the maternal family of the late Fon. Thus he is usually an ex-officio of the Sama. He takes care of the fon’s business such as organising and hosting funerals for the fon’s wives and children. In ritual ceremonies he enjoys a place of honour and may sit on the ‘grass mat’(sadliga) which is usually reserved for the Fon. Enjoys the honorific address of ‘mo’ which is a prerogative of Princes and Fonte.
The head of the military wing of Lela, this person is usually selected from the original Yani stock and initiated in the conduct of Lela rites. In public ceremonies he may substitue the fon in offering sacrifices. He personally leads the flag bearers (tutuwan) in their military display during Lela festivities. Though not of royal origin, he equally enjoys the honorific address of ‘mo’.
Ma Mfon (Ganua)
The king’s mother. She is anointed after the funeral rites are completed and acts as an adviser to the king. She has her own compound.
The Traditional Council:
This body was originally comprised of the Kom Kwatat, the Fonte and some Tsinted and acted as a consultative council. The fon consulted each group separately and convoked all in a plenary to announce decisions. However, under the reign of Galega II, the traditional council was reorganized to include the Sama, Nwana, Bon Mfon (royal children) and the Yefana (youths). This was in recognition of the increasing importance of these groups in society. A Traditional Executive Council acted as an executive body of the larger council. Two persons from existing traditional groups were called upon to sit on the Traditional Executive Council when it discussed matters with national administrative authorities.
The Fon’s Representative:
This position grew out of the HRH Galega II who as parliamentarian and member of the West Cameroon House of Chiefs, was often out of Bali. It became necessary to have someone available to make decisions on immediate issues and to receive visiting officials. This person also represented the Fon during the meetings of the Traditional Executive Council. During the reign of Galega II the position as a Dayebga Tita Nji III.
The ‘Minister’ of Palace Affairs:
This term has been coined to designate one of the palace functions that evolved out of practical need. Under the reign of Fonyonga II, the vast nature of his wealth made it necessary to have someone to oversee matters relating to his family and property. The monarch owned several herds of cattle, goats and sheep as well as extensive maize farms and raffia palm bushes. He had equally inherited a large family numbering between 300-400. Though the role of the Tita Sama had been designated to oversee the fon’s economic and personal business, under the reign of Fonyonga II this function became too complicated for one person. The postion first went to Tita Fokum and at the death of Fonyonga II, it passed on to Tita Kehdinga. When the latter died, the post became occupied by Tita Nukuna. As well as overseeing internal palace administration, he also gives out the princesses in marriage.
The Fon’s Secretary:
Individuals appointed to this postion, may not be title holders but may have been co-opted by the Fon to perform specific duties. This postion have variously been occupied by the later Alfred Dook, the late Alfred Diaga, Vincet Nteh and also by Ndanjong. Though not originally titular nobles, through their association with the palace, they became very influential figures.
Religious and political institutions in Bali Nyonga
I. Religious Institutions
Originally a non royal institution, the Voma society is a male cult found in all Chamba kingdoms. Founded by Nah’ Nyonga, it was re-established in Bali Nyonga by Galega I in the 1860s when he succeeded Fonyonga I. Voma major annual celebrations at the end of the dry season in January or February to revoke the rains at the Voma shrine known as ‘dola’. The society performs rituals and ceremonies throughout the year, notably in October and in January-February when it celebrates the festival of ‘first fruits’ and the closing of the Voma year known as ‘vomnunga’a’. There are three Voma shrines in Bali: the Dola Ngu (Great shrine) found in Ntaiton, Dola Tsenye found at the Tsenye compound in Tilkali, and ‘Dola Tandsong’ found at Titanji compound. The Voma society is concerned with fertility rites and also fighting evil spirits. Its leaders were originally the fon’s guards and were thus given the title ‘nwana’ meaning guard. Subsequently the nwanas became kingmakers, a role which enhanced their political participation in Bali.
Appointments to the office of nwana were hereditary. Hence most successors of the original appointees continue to carry out functions attributed to their predecessors in the Voma society. It is organised hierarchically as follows:
Ba Nwana (Nwan-Billa)
Responsible for the burial, installation and initiation of the Fon into the secrets of Bali society and educating him on the art of government. Tita Langa is the one responsible for anointing the Fon. There are 13 nwana positions, of which nine are the original nwana. Usually ordained in a special ceremony called “Ma we musu” or “Ma pob musun”.
Titawang’a Voma –Senior members of the Voma. May substitute the Nwana on certain ceremonies except the installation of the Fon. Title of Tikwanga also given to war heads who belong to the Kom Ngong but do not have the protocol rank of Kom.
Bon Voma: Literally means ‘children of voma’. Composed of junior members of Voma society. Some are appointed by members of the voma society who want them to act as their valets. Others recruited for the ability of perform music. The initiation ceremony of the bon voma and Tikwanga’a voma is called ‘Ma lab voma’ or ‘Ma lab dola’.
Vom Keina-Literally means wives of voma. They are nominated by the nwanas from the female members of their family. They could be the wife or the daughter of the nwana. They do not take part in the secret meetings but their major role is as choristers singing voma music during public appearances.
Galega I set about reorganising the society by introducing members of the royal family into it and creating distributing functions as follows:
The Fon: Head
Gwanvoma: Adminstrative head in charge of day to day running of the society and overseeing public celebrations.
Tita Lang’a: Heads important rites administered by the Voma society.
Nwanyedla (Doh Nwana): Custodian of all Voma cult objects.
Nwan Vaksi: Representative of the blood royals to the voma society.
Lamgwa: Officer in charge of smith works.
Under Galega I’s reform, Tita Nji I, his first son was appointed Nwan Vaksi while Tita Nyagang, Tita Musing and Tita Ngo were also made leaders.
Subsequent reforms by Galega II saw Fogam (alias Fokejah) Tamombo Fufunjuh (alias Caspa) and Tita Labi elevated to the rank of nwana.
A royal institution which has the Fon as its head. With a membership that can only be gained through inheritance or through the appointment of the Fon, the Lela society is in charge of the lela shrine (Wolela) that is located at the centre of the dance piazza in front of the palace. Like the Voma, the Lela play a key role in the initiation of a new Fon. After the inauguration of the Fon he mounts the Wolela in a public ceremony. This indicates his acceptance by Lela. The Lela institution is also described as custodians of war medicine. Most of its senior members are also members of the Voma society eg Tita Langa (principal king maker) and Tita Nji (representative of the royal descendants). Prominent Lela members also ensure that the will of deceased monarch is respected and that the right heir was installed.
The Sama perform special duties during various Lela ceremonies. Though the positions within this group is hereditary (eg. Tita Langa’a, Tita Nji, Tita Fonkwa, Tita Yebid, Tita Sua, Tita Bamoh, Banyuga Gwanlima, Naaka, Tita Nukuna, Tita Nyagasa, Tita Doh Kundzuma, Fogakoh); the position of others co-opted into the group because of their knowledge of Lela music, is non-hereditary (eg Gwandi, Gwendzeng, Foyam, Trukang and Saila Fohtung). Such a position could however be inherited at the discretion of the Fon
Appointed by the Fon on personal merit, the tutuwan are flag-bearers in the traditional and can be seen during the Lela festival standing near the two flags in a uniform. Their number vary from 2-3 plus 4 substitutes bringing their total to anything to 6 or 7. The head of the group is Tita Nyagang and he represents the Fon at the Lela stream during public ceremonies. He can be identified through the Dingwasa (an insignia composed of two spears) and the Dingsoga (a third spear) which he carries during the Lela ceremony. Tita Nyagang is also the head of the Gwei. The Tutuwans are not of royal decent and their positions are non-hereditary. In practice the Fons have tended to maintain the title within the same families.
Gwei and The Guards
Best describes as ‘spies who in public ceremonies who acted as fools or jesters’, the Gwei is traditionally a spying and security organisatio. They acted as spies to the Fon in pre-colonial times. Today their role is most visible during public festivals such as Lela where they act as scouts. As a rule, members are not of royal descent hence they are appointed by the Fon* (See personal note). Famous Gweis include Gwei Nchanyam, Gwei Pamuga, Gwei Tateh, Gwei Vadla and Gwei Mumbamti.
Owing to their non-royal origins, both the Gwei and Tutuwan do not take part during officiating exercises at the Wolela. (Today, it is common that many of the jesters who appear at the Lela ceremony are not appointed by the Fon, but simply dress themselves up and take up that role for the day. They usually lead the Lela parade out of and into the piazza. However, special individuals appointed by the Fon as special armed guards do not indulge in jesting.)
Miscellaneous groups of courtiers, military leaders, lobbyists, diplomats engaged in daily administration at the Fon’s palace. Members are appointed from among twins and families that were traditionally associated with the group. At the discretion of the Fon, some members can be appointed to the Lela or Voma Society.
Ranks within the Tsinted
Together with Tita Sikod, they are responsible for distributing gunpowder, food and doing other admin duties at the palace. There are four Kom Tsinted all of whom are hereditary titleholders and have risen to the rank of military commander (Tita).
Tita Foncham, Tital Fokum, Tita Mufut and Tita Fofam.
These are mainly valets and men servants who serve at the palace. Many are twins and others are given by their families to serve at the palace. Some may become so important as to merit the rank of a Kom Ngong when the vacancy occurs.
This institution exists in Bali Fondoms and is mainly a political institution whose members are appointed by the Fon from the population based on personal merit. They advise and inform the monarch on a range of issues. In bygone days the Nkom was a distinguished warrior and man of labour. Today they are people who have distinguished themselves through public services, community leadership, prosperity and fair-mindedness. The Kom are answerable to the Fon. They may settle disputes in their quarters or sit at judges at the traditional court. The Kom fall into two groups:
Kom Ba’ni or Kom Kwatat or Mkom Mfon
Hereditary title holders (i.e their predecessors were Kom as far back as during the reign of Fonyonga I). In order of their importance to protocol, these are: Tita Kuna, Tita Kunkah, Tita Gwandiku, Gwansenyam, Gwananji, Gwaabe, Gwandi. The use of Tita to precede the titles of the first three does not designate royal descent but is an emphasis of their leadership position.
Their origin can be traced to the reign of Fonyonga II. They are title holders appointed on personal merit by the Fon to assist in the running of public affairs. Their position may or may not be inherited by their descendant. This will depend on the qualities of the descendant. In practice, their titles have tended to be inheritable.
In the reign of both the Kom Ngong and Kom Mfon have constituted themselves into Ndakum Bakom in order to encourage solidarity in public service.
These are sub-chiefs. Their origin lies in their role as sub chiefs of certain groups than joined the Balis as they migrated southwards. These sub-chiefs retained their title of Fo and paid allegiance to the Fon of Bali. Like the Kom, the Tstinted help the Fon in administrative duties in their respective quarters. Their role during the installation of the fon is limited to providing him with mystical powers he needs to undertake his royal duties. There are two groups of Fonte’ :
Sub-chiefs whose descendants were associated with Bali before the batter lf Bafufundong. They are five of them: Fombongjong (Fumujeng), Fo-kemban, Fo’ Tikali (Tikali), Fo-Ti (Ti-Gawolbe). The first two belong to Buti.
Fogako’ can also be added to this least and represent the Peli or Bali Nkohtan who were the first to occupy the present site of Bali Nyonga before the latter defeated them under the reign of Galega I.
Fonte’ Banten or Lolo
Those who came after the battle of Bafufudong. They are nine of them: Fo-Kundem, Fo-Ngiam, Fo-Samgwan, Fo-Won, Fo-Ngon, Fo-Sang, Fo-Fuleng, Fo-Set and Fomunyam
To following four are also added to the group: Fombelu, Fobossah, Fowock and Fombufong. These do not participate in ritual ceremonies but are represented by Fokunyang.
A relatively young organisation, this institution has its roots in the defunct Vomdzaana and Kwifon societies of the Banten allies. With a membership drawn mainly from the children of the Fon’s female siblings (collectively known as Lekasiwaa or Bundzad), the Ngumba is an essential arm of the royal institution. Princes, the Fon’s brothers and half-brothers and all females are forbidden from membership. The Ngumba holds meetings at the Nted Ngumba and its head is called Tandangu (father of the house). The institution is undertakes peacekeeping and judiciary functions and is responsible for maintaining order during public ceremonies, instituting injunctions and enforcing the Fon’s decisions