By Andre Jones
King Abumbi II, the 11th king (or “fon”) of the Bafut region in Cameroon, has 100 wives. Yes, you read that correctly — he has 100 wives. We’ll explain.
According to local tradition, when a king dies, his successor inherits all of his wives. When a fon takes the throne, he must participate in a “stoning ceremony” where he is brought before the Bafut population, who may decide to throw harmless ceremonial pebbles or actually choose to hurt him with large stones.
When King Achirimbi II died in 1968, his successor and son Abumbi II ascended the throne and inherited his 72 wives. Add these to his already 28 wives and King Abumbi ended up with 100 queens and 500 children.
Soni Methu, presenter for CNN’s “Inside Africa” noted, “…we might be quick to judge the lifestyle of the kings, but just like in the United Kingdom, African kingdoms and kings are bound to a rich culture and history. (Practices) like inheritance of all your father’s wives is nothing but a moral obligation.”
These women are not simply possessions. Often, these queens are well-spoken, highly educated, and multilingual.
“Behind every successful man must be a very successful, staunch woman”, says Queen Constance, Abumbi’s third wife.
Rather than mere ornaments, the older wives occupy what would be traditionally claimed as a slightly masculine role in other parts of the world.
“Our tradition has it that when you are king, the elderly wives remain to hand down the tradition to the younger wives, and also to teach the king the tradition because the king had been a prince, not a king,” Queen Constance explained.
Polygamy continues to be challenged in Cameroon as a result of a decline in polygamous marriages in the region. This decline can be attributed to changing value systems, a rise in the popularity of Christianity, and the growing allure of Western civilization.
This does not deter King Abumbi, who says it is his job to preserve the culture of his people and that his wives are very important to him. Polygamy, still legal in Cameroon and in rural areas throughout the country, places no limit on the amount of wives a man may marry.