by: Sumelong Ernest
Bimbia, today, is the administrative capital of the newly created Limbe III Sub Division. It is located along the coastal south-eastern flanks of Limbe, formerly known as Victoria.
This peripheral area of Limbe is made up of other smaller settlements or villages like Dikolo, Bonagombe, Bonabile, Mabeta, Kange Fishing Port and Mboko I & II. But for the past years, the whole of this area was simply referred to as Bimbia. This is perhaps because of the overwhelming historical role Bimbia has had to play since the age of Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Bimbia, from about the year 1500, had as settlers the isuwus or isubus who are said to have migrated here from some point along the banks of the Wouri River in the Littoral Region. When one of the descendants of this Isuwu, named Mbimbi, became King, the people here began referring to all their territories here as “Bimbia.”
The Portuguese, one of the European countries that were engaged in the business of buying slaves, ivory and other items from Africa, reportedly reached the Cameroonian coast by 1472. From the Wouri Estuary where they landed and established contacts with the local coastal chiefs soon stretched their business contacts to Bimbia. By dint of its coastal location, Bimbia suddenly grew to become a significant trade port for slaves bound for plantations in the Americas and neighbouring islands of Tome, Principe, Fernando Po, today Equatorial Guinea. And Bimbia is the route through which very many Cameroonians, in the 1500s, 1600s and 1700s, passed through to reach plantations aboard.
Bimbia grew and, soon, another Isubu, Bile, was crowned king of the Isubus by name King Williams. Eventually, outcry against slavery brought missionaries from England who reached Bimbia in the 1800s. Most famous among them was Joseph Merrick who came in 1844 and softened the grounds. Then, in 1858, Alfred Saker came at the heels of Joseph Merrick, got land from King Williams and in this same year founded Victoria, today Limbe.
To end the business of trading in humans as slaves, the British missionaries got the Bimbia King to sign certain accords. The accords gave room for the missionaries to open schools and build churches. It is so that present day Bilingual Grammar School Molyko-Buea started off in Bimbia. But when Alfred Saker moved from Bimbia to settle in present day Limbe I, the development of Bimbia started dwindling. Soon, people started migrating from Bimbia up to Limbe. This is how a Bimbia that had been the epicenter of action and development for centuries soon lapsed into an era of almost nothingness.
Foreigners Stream In
As the locals migrated and settled in town, foreigners: mostly fishermen from Nigeria, Benin and Ghana streamed in to fill the void. That’s why, today, the fishing business, especially like the smoked crayfish business in Mabeta, Bimbia, is entirely in the hands of these foreigners instead of Bimbians. That is apparently why one of the chiefs of Mabeta is a Nigerian. This holds same for many fishing communities such as the Kange Fishing Port and Mboko.
Bimbia Takes Off Again
In early 2007, Limbe III Sub Division was created with Bimbia as the capital. Samuel Esebu Mokate was elected it pioneer Mayor. This has brought this age-old historical place once more into the limelight of political, economic and social activism. For the past three years, working in tandem with the pioneer DO, Benjamin Epey, Mayor Mokate has tried to usher in development to the area.
The most outstanding development that has swung down here is the establishment by the Cameroon Government of the Training Centre for the Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR, the elite unit of the Cameroon Army. This has caused the road from Limbe to Man O War Bay (Bimbia) where this facility is located, to be tarred. A new camp has been built and other facilities opened. Besides, the BIR has been assisting the Council in rehabilitating their earth roads among other things.
It is also in Limbe III, Bimbia that the campus and main secretariat of newly promoted Division One club, the Njalla Quan Sports Academy, NQSA, is located. Bimbia, agriculturally, also hosts some of CDC’s oil palm plantations and Mabeta is the crayfish or ‘njanga’ production capital of Cameroon. The Mayor, Mokate has extended electricity to many villages: Dikolo, Mabeta, Bimbia, Bona Ngombe and Bona Bile. But much of Bimbia still resides in darkness having neither pipe borne water nor electricity.
The very first Parliamentarian for Limbe, Hon Gwen Burnley owes her roots to Bimbia. She was the Parliamentarian for Limbe in 1982 when the famous name of the town, then called Victoria, metamorphosed to today Limbe.
The General Manager of the Cameroon Development Corporation, Henry Njalla Quan, the former Government Delegate to the Limbe Council, Samuel Lifanda Ebiama, one of the two Parliamentarians for Fako East (Limbe, Tiko, Muyuka) Hon Rachel Lyonga, the Mayor and member of the Central Committee of the CPDM party, Samuel Mokate, are all Bimbians. HRH Chief Samuel Ekum, who has been the President of the Limbe Chiefs Conference, is a Bimbian, though from Dikolo Village.
Of late, thanks to its historical past as a slave port, many Cameroonian Americans, who happened to have, by genetic analysis, retraced their ancestral origins to Cameroon, were at the slave village in Bimbia, where slaves were tied and shipped off to the Americas and Europe. On two occasions, they were here: in 2010 and 2011; the “Camericans,” as they are now known.
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