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is easy to judge kings, but too often we forget that they did not choose to be king and that kings and queens today are primarily concerned with maintaining the status quo of their kingdoms and preserving tradition. They must simply do what their royal ancestors did before them. 

And they sometimes had strange customs. And sometimes the kingdom has exotic laws that are suspended in most of the world. So if you are lucky enough to be born king in such a kingdom with such ancestors, you need a good sense of humor and a lot of patience.

When the press asked King Fon of Bafut, Abumbi II, about his 100 wives and polygamy, which is legal in Cameroon, he said that other values had prevailed during colonialism, namely those of governance, which were different from traditional values, and that there was, therefore, a constant conflict between traditional values and modern Western values.

According to a local tradition in Cameroon, after the death of the king, his son, the new king, inherits all his wives and children.

Abumbi II has been Fon of Bafut for 54 years

Abumbi II became the 11th Fon or King of Bafut in Cameroon after the death of his father in 1968. Since it is both legal and traditional for men to marry more than one wife, and there is no limit to the number of wives, Abumbi II inherited 72 queens and their children from his late father, as is customary in royal families in Cameroon. 

By this time, Abumbi II was already happily married to 28 wives, and so, when he became King Fon of Bafut, he was blessed with 100 queens and 500 children. One can imagine not only the inauguration ceremony but also the curiosity of the Western media, which surrounded King Fon and his wives at every opportunity. 

Country: Cameroon Site: Bafut Palace Caption: The Abin Ceremony in front of the Palace Image Date: 2007 Photographer: David Gandreau/WMF Provenance

They wanted to know how the wives felt about their marriage and what role they played in the King’s administration. Queen Constance, Abumbi’s third wife, told the media that behind every successful man must be a very successful, steadfast woman. And that their tradition is that when someone becomes king, the older women stay behind to pass on the tradition to the younger women, but also to teach the king the tradition because the king was a prince, not a king.

Prince Nickson, also of Bafut, explained that the queens play a big role in the fondom and it is up to these women to mold the man in his royal role. And Soni Methu, presenter of CNN’s Inside Africa program, said after meeting Fon Abumbi II: “I understand that we can be quick to condemn the lifestyle of kings, but just like in the UK, African kingdoms and kings are linked to a rich culture and history. Practices like inheriting all the wives of the father are nothing but a moral obligation.”

Fon’s Palace is a protected cultural heritage site

This large royal family lives in the Bafut Palace in the middle of a sacred forest in the center of the town of Bafut in northwest Cameroon, one of only two regions in Cameroon still ruled by a traditional chief. More than 400 years ago, the Bafut, who originally came from the northern regions of Lake Chad, began to rule and govern the region. 

King Fon of Bafut (Source: Alfred Weidinger)

They built a palace for their king, the Fon of Bafut, which still houses the tombs of the first three Bafut kings and was later moved to its present location, where it attracts tourists and researchers from all over the world. The palace is on the list of the 100 most endangered sites monitored by the World Monuments Fund.

In the palace complex, around the spiritual sanctuary, the Achum Shrine, which was only preserved after the sacking of the city by the Germans and the burning of the palace at the end of the 19th century, there are fifty houses that serve as the royal court and residences for the wives of the King Fon. The shrine can still be seen in its original form – built of wood and bamboo and thatched with straw. However, it is only accessible to King Fon and his closest advisors. 

The original palace was built of bamboo and reeds, but nothing remains of the construction. It was then rebuilt with burnt bricks. In front of the palace complex are several stones marking the gravesites of nobles who died in the service of the Fon. There’s also Takombang House, where the Fon’s ceremonial drum is kept.

Despite having a harem of 100 wives, King Fon considers himself a modern king and told CNN – “To run a kingdom in this day and age, you have to be educated because things are moving very fast. As the saying goes, education is light, ignorance is darkness.”

Long live the King.

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