Three Cameroonian kings work in Maryland while ruling their tribes
Capitol Heights fundraiser highlights country's food, culture
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Three kings from Cameroon are presently living and working in the Washington, D.C. area, but that doesn't mean they are not still connected to their subjects in West Africa.
The men are ancestral chiefs of tribal areas in the English-speaking northwest part of the country, which borders Nigeria and is about the size of California.
Six years ago, the kings called fons in Cameroon formed the North West Fons' Council-USA, which has about 20 members, including associates and supporters, many of whom have connections to the Bowie area.
So far, the kings say they have put some of their own money into the organization to help fund scholarships for students in the English-speaking northwest and southwest parts of their country and to also preserve Cameroonian culture and values.
But this year the council decided to reach out to a broader audience by hosting a fundraiser with Cameroonian food, dance and traditional dress, held Saturday at the Blossom Center in Capitol Heights.
"This year we're asking friends to help us, extending a hand to Cameroonians and Americans and all nationalities," said King Kennedy Nganjo, who lives in New Carrollton, rules over 6,000 subjects in Njirong and is earning a master's degree in secondary education at Bowie State while working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
Also a founder is King Raymond B. Kangsen, ruler of 20,000 people in Kesu-Wum, who lives in Silver Spring and also works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
The third founder is King Godlove Ayeng III, ruler of more than 14,000 subjects in Bamunkumbit, who lives in Bowie and works as a nurse in an elementary school in southeast Baltimore.
With more than $17,000 pledged or donated, the organizers almost reached their goal of raising $20,000 to fund 250 scholarships, said Victor Tarkeh, executive director of the council.
Tarkeh, who lives in Bowie and teaches English as a second language at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, is also an adviser to Ayeng and vice president of a Bamunkumbit development association.
The kings said during telephone interviews on Sunday that one of the purposes of the North West Fons Council, formed in 2005, is to educate people about Cameroon's culture and values, especially children of Cameroonian descent.
"We want to protect and preserve our ancient culture," said Kangsen about tribal traditions that predate by many generations the takeover of the region by European countries in the late 1800s.
"There are kids who were born here but don't know what's going on," he said about Cameroon, which achieved independence from Britain and France in the early 1960s.
The council also wants to promote Cameroon as a tourist destination, especially for African-Americans with roots in the region, which are today easier to establish with the help of DNA testing, Kangsen said.
"We're tying to let the world know who we are," he said, adding that the council is in the process of establishing a website.
Besides their council work, the kings are also working individually to raise money to bring water, electricity, medical clinics and other development projects to rural areas where most people subsist by farming or raising livestock.
Kangsen said he worked with six engineering students from the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville Rotary Club to dig a trench 2.5 miles long to bring water from a spring to the people in his region.
Nganjo said he is looking for engineering help to locate a good source of drinking water and to drill a well in Njirong. The area has a health center but it is not equipped with things such as mattresses and lab equipment, he said.
"A government nurse visits, but he can only work with what he has," he said.
Tarkeh, who is working to raise money for projects in Bamunkumbit, said that Bowie already has a connection to the region through the Village Baptist Church on Mitchellville Road, which helped to build a new church there.
For more information about the council, call Tarkeh at 240-422-5354 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.