Historical Background



According to some historians, Mvele is a tribe of the Beti ethnic group (Nation) which was a Fan sub-group. Being a fan sub-group, they were first located in the sub Saharan region in the Adamawa region and later migrated from this region because of Ousman Dan Fodio, a Muslim chief coming from the Adamawa region of Cameroon, who decided to spread Islam all over the region. Confronted to this situation, they decided to migrate southward and they crossed the Sanaga river (called by these people “Yom”) at the end of the 18th Century. By the time they arrived at the sanaga river, they saw something which looked like a bridge and went on crossing. Some other people were left on the other side of the river because the person holding the banboo torch, while trying to put it off pressed on the bridge floor and this act made the bridge to start shaking then later on disappear in the water causing those people to remain on the other side. It was later on that they realised that the bridge on which they were crossing was a big snake and they called it ’’Ngang- Medza’’. Consequently, some other people like the OSSA NANGA were left on the other side of the river and could not cross because there was no more bridge.  Confronted with this situation, these people who were considered as one (united), were oblige to divide themselves. The beti decided to settle away from the Sanaga Maritime (at Obala) and the Fang people dispersed themselves at the frontiers of the South region of Cameroon. The separation of the fan people from the Beti was also explained by the tracing of the African frontiers by the white men and this brought the fang people in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

The Beti which was a sub group of the Fang now became and ethnic group (nation) and the tribes found here are; the Eton, the Ntumu, the Ewondo (called Yaoundé by the first German explorers), the Mvele. All these tribes at that moment were located in the same place and now had to separate themselves from each other and acquire a place to settle, they had to conquer the people who were living in the place they wanted to settle in.Today we have more than half a million beti found in Cameroon group around the capital –Yaoundé.  The Mvele were later on push at the bank of the river Sanaga by the BABUTE at the middle of the last century. In the 20th century, what the Mvele considered most important was sex and nakedness and hunger was also a connotation of nakedness in times of war to them.

Ancestors had a life style different from that of today. Firstly, people cared less on what to wear as men and women just needed something to cover their nakedness. Banana leaves were thus used by these people to cover their nakedness.

Secondly, ancestors of this tribe slept on beds made up of fishing rod cover with mat made from raffia called in their native language<<Akua>>or what is called Roseau.

The huts in which their ancestors slept were very simple as roofs of these cases where made from a sort of mat called Kie. The walls were made of trees bark notably called NTOM.

They did hunting, picking and gathering to sustain their lifes. They also lived on yams removed from the soil called Ekodo.

This is a little bit how the ancestors of this tribe lived but today everything is different. These changes can be explained by the geographical changes of the area and European colonization of the region. These made the life style of the tribe totally change. The way their ancestors lived is totally different from what the others are living today.


The Beti are descendants of the Bantus and their origin is very complex to define. Their ancestor is called ‘’Nanga’’ who is of origin Bantu. It descendants are; Kolo Beti, Eton Beti, Mvele Beti, Mvan Beti, Meka Beti Bulu, and the only daughter was Ntumu, the last born. The principal Beti tribes today are the Eton, the Ewondo, and the Bene, who are direct brothers of the Ewondos, the Bulu, the Menguisa and the Mvele.  Menguissas, Ntumus and Mvele, are too close to the Bulus than to Eton’s and Ewondos. All Beti tribes speak almost the same language called ati.


The term ‘’Mve’’ was the symbol of the origin of the Mvele. Mve means woman sex (virgin) and it is materialize by women genital organs. The plural of Mve which is Mvele identifies descendants. The female gender is a sign of wealth and prosperity. For all Mvele, it is a source of fecundity; it is the base of life. The term Mvele produced a choc in the Beti land due to its significance. The appellation was unusual and produced an image in people heads. Mvele is the administrative appellation and it is called << Yengono>> in reality. Their names start with the prefix ‘’ye’’ same as that of the Bulu and Fang.

The Mvele put a lot of importance on sex because of the apparent attitude in the traditional society. Every Mvele could be identify through his or her expression of nudity. To be naked in the Mvele tribe transmit emotion. It is also a sentiment of joy or sorrows and difficulties, of satisfaction or deception. When a Mvele was sentimentally hurt, it meant that his most important right was violated and a revoltry act/sentiment arose.


Mvele was later colonized by the Germans and was now going to live under the Germans influence and adapt to a new way of life. A traditional chief-Charles Atangana was later chosen by the Germans to rule and administer the area .  To be able to rule the Beti areas, and mainly the  Mvele area very well, Charles Atangana was formed by certain catholic missionaries.  It should be notice that Charles was not a rich notable but a ‘’Nkukuma Ntangan’’ so was bound to respect the missionaries as required. He later appointed his brother Atangana Enyegue to rule the Mvele as he was not able to continue. The Mvele considered this act of his as scorn and humiliation. To them, the choice of a stranger to rule them proved the incapability of the patriarch (zomelo’o) to manage the local throne. They rejected strangers each time they presented themselves in the territory. In fact, the population rejected these strangers because almost all of them wanted to change the tribe name (Mvele). But hopefully, those strangers never succeeded in doing that. They wanted to name the tribe as South Ewondo (Kolo Nkie). They wanted this tribe to be considered as a band under the Ewondo and Bene all this to suppress the term Mvele.  For the Germans, all Beti tribes were Ewondo from Yaoundé. Mvele was then considered as part of this tribe forcing them to be Ewondos according to the geographical location of certain Europeans.

In 1925, the Germans decided to leave the Mvele rule themselves. This happen when the first Mvele chiefs were appointed: the west Mvele was ruled by Toulou Nkou and the East was ruled by Ze Mendouga. It is because of segmentation and appointment that some of them accepted the Europeans in the area.


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