Think you know Njong (The Military Club of Kom Kingdom)?

 Intro

 Njong = 'the right arm of Kwifoyn'

Some WoinKom sometimes refer to drinking alcohol as "se nyiiv njong". All conquest states were built on strong armies. As a conquest state, Kom had an effective military organization that helped in the territorial expansion and in the defense of the territory against intruders.

 The Club?

 Njong was a military club composed of young men of fighting age. Every village had its own Njong. For national defense the efforts of the village military clubs were coordinated by the palace military club (ndo njong nii foyn). The club house was usually built on the major road entering the village. Sessions were held once in the Kom eight-day week.  The members paid no entrance fee but were required to provide palm wine in turns.

 Club Head

 The head of the military club (bondo-njong) was usually elected and formally approved by Kwifoyn and the foyn. He was usually a man who had distinguished himself in war and was reputed for his organisational ability. He presided over sessions and transmitted messages received from the foyn, the kwifoyn or from other military clubs.

 Club Lieutenants

 He was assisted by two or three lieutenants (iitaman-njongsii, sing. tamanjong) who were also chosen by the club. They were expected to be intelligent, fair and just. They were charged with the distribution of palm wine during sessions. They also acted as emissaries or envoys. They looked after the club's instruments (drums, fans, double bells, flutes, spears, etc). When communal work was organised, these lieutenants convoked its members by playing the club's double bell (fiingem)

 Club Spies

 A constituted group of spies (iigwesii, sing. iigwe) was responsible for intelligence gathering. The spies were usually traders or travelers who went to neighbouring chiefdoms on trade missions but who were also charged with gathering information.

They were usually fluent in the languages of the neigbouring chiefdoms and this permitted them to infiltrate more easily.

Expert Warriors

There was also another group of expert warriors (njongsii-ngiisii) made up of men who had distinguished themselves in battle and who had been honoured with a special vessel from which they could drink palm wine during sessions. Today njongsii-nghiisii are the senior elders of the military clubs who have paid a fee of a goat in order to have this special vessel, nghii. (Some military clubs have degenerated into Drinking clubs)

Ordinary Club members

The ordinary members of the club were known as njong-miikai. Members came to weekly sessions dressed like warriors ready for battle. They were armed with guns, spears and cutlasses. War strategies were discussed during sessions. Plans for effective defense of the village were usually reviewed. War tactics were put into practice. Members were also disciplined.

Annual National Dance

During the annual national dance held in the palace, a special day was always reserved to all military clubs throughout the country, It was on this occasion that each military club displayed its new war strategies to the admiration of the large crowd {This day was known as aseng}

Palace Military Club at work.

When the foyn wanted to engage in an aggressive war, the palace military club organized the entire operation. Word was sent to all war leaders to assemble in the palace where the entire offensive operation was discussed and planned. Instructions were issued to heads of all military clubs and the distribution of guns, gunpowder, spears, and lances was made. This was known as sii tasiwong [lit. to sharpen a spear]. This meant the preparation for a war expedition. Sometimes a village military club would be charged with the task of sending its spies (iigwesii) to the chiefdom about to be attacked to gather information. Sometimes war clubs were commissioned to raid neighbouring chiefdoms for slaves!!!

The military club of Bolem, is said to have had excellent spies and warriors who made several raids in Bum and who on one occasion snatched away the sacred stool of the Chief of Bum!!!

The Fall of Din

According to Nsaw oral traditions, the small independent village of Din proved difficult to suppress. The oral traditions recount abortive attempts to bring Din under Nsaw hegemony. According to Kom accounts Foyn Yu heard of these attempts and sent some of his top warriors to Din. They succeeded in humiliating the Din people. Their chief was captured and hundreds of slaves were brought to Kom. The Chief of Din was later allowed to return to Din but many of his subjects remained in Kom as slaves {It is said that Din only became part of the Nsaw Chiefdom when the Germans were mapping out the boundaries of the Bamenda Chiefdoms}.

The Kom Army

The army (ndo-iwong) was divided into two main squads:

- ndo-lai (lit. the lost house) and

- ndo-kifeng (the foyn's military club)

Ndo-lai

Ndo-lai was a suicidal squad composed of the best soldiers. Its members were chosen from the military clubs spread throughout the kingdom. This group was responsible for launching attacks or putting up a strong defense. It was on this squad that victory or defeat depended. Ndo-Lai was the most prestigious. [The father of Bobe Johnny Ngong was a member of Ndo-lai and he died in the Kom-Bafmeng war].

Ndo-kifeng

Ndo-kifeng or Ndo-iwong-nii foyn was the foyn's military club. Its members were usually resident in the capital. Some village warriors belonged to this squad. They met regularly in the palace, drank palm wine and discussed military affairs. Ndo-kifeng usually fought along side ndo-lai. The ordinary soldiers who did not participate on national defense or aggressive wars were charged with minor operations such as village defense and communal works.

The members of the two top groups carried in their arm-pits small bags containing medicine (niba and fiibainfi) believed to give them courage and energy as well as protection against fatal wounds. Those who were wounded in battle were treated with afiiiwong (war medicine). It was customary that the foyn offered a sacrifice at Ntul for all those who had fallen in battle. He did so to avert misfortune.

Outro

The Kom dynasty began its wars of expansion from the day it was established at LaiKom about the middle of the 18th century if not earlier. It reached the height of its military glory at the close of the 19th century when Foyn Yu (1865-1912) gave the village military clubs a new revitalization: "he gave them war and some of the profits of war and invited noted warriors to drink weekly at the palace lodge" (Chilver and Kaberry, 1967a:132). The success of kom colonial expansion and its resistance to the German offensive in 1904/5 was not only due to the mountainous nature of the kingdom which offered a natural defense but the internal organization of the military clubs also played a vital role.

 Njong as a vital political organ helped to create the 280 square mile kingdom.

Some informants spoke with much regret that the whiteman had stopped the efforts of Kom from incorporating more chiefdoms into the Kom state. "We were really the Mukom-ago'o" they asserted with a soothing spirit. This expression gives the impression that Kom could not be defeated by any tribe. They were as strong as a rock (ngo'o). The Kom warriors harassed nearly all tribes that lay across their border.

 Just prior to the German arrival, it is said that Foyn Yu was planning a major attack on the small Chief of Mmen which had resisted two attempts of total incorporation into the Kom state. It is said that before he died in 1912, each time that he stood and faced the direction of Mmen, he shook his head. The German occupation of Kom had prevented the realization of his dream.

 The village war clubs also helped to organize the foyn's hunt and the repairs and building of houses in the palace. They also assisted in the maintenance of law and order in the villages. When Kwifoyn was abroad its security and protection were in the hands of members of Njong who accompanied Kwifoyn. Njong was rightly known as 'the right arm of Kwifoyn' While in former days Njong was a vital military association on which depended the defense of and the expansion of the kingdom, today it has degenerated into more of a drinking club. Today it also organizes communal activities and discusses current problems and politics of the local community.

 Culled from Dr. Paul Nkwi's Traditional Government and Social Change (1976)

Feedback - additional information on the subject from Bobe Nkfum:

Question:
How did the Kom people come about the name NJONG for their military group?

Answer:
Before the arrival of Foyn YUH I to the throne, this KOM military unit group was called (NDO-IGHONG /KINTIM). Foyn YUH overthrew another Foyn before becoming Foyn himself. The commander in chief who lead the NDO-IGHONG / KINTIM in 1865 to overthrow the Foyn for YUH to take over as Foyn, was called NJONG.

NJONG was the commander in chief of the NDO-IGHONG / KINTIM of Bobe Aboh. When he succeeded in his mission and enthroned YUH as the Foyn in 1865 the name NDO-IGHONG was changed to NJONG and that name has remained so till today. The real Bo Njong in Kom is the Foyn. The Njong Unit Heads in Kom are actually care takers of those units.

The Njong Unit Heads report their activities to the (MFORMIE) Commander-in-Chief who is based in the palace (Laikom). The Mformie transmits all reports to the Foyn. Decisions from the Bo Njong, the Foyn, are transmitted to the Njong units through the Mformie in Laikom. Foyn YUH II revamped the NJONG in 2008.

Their role today is no more to raid other chiefdoms but to keep the Kom cultural activities alive.

NKFUM

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