About the presenter: Jonas Berinyuy states: "I am a recovering stammerer and have stammered throughout my life. I consider myself a covert stammerer I am 31 years of age and a teacher by profession. I am still unmarried. My goal is to teach more fluently and also to help others learn about stuttering." I am participating in this event for my very first time. I am from the NSO tribe and belong to a family of five. My brother and I both stammer. Neither my mother nor my father stammers. I believe there are better days ahead for those living with stammering in Cameroon as we are hearing of successful therapies available all round the world. I believe and trust that together as one we shall be able to reach out effectively to those who stammer in our part of the world." Jonas is a member of the newly formed Speak Clear Association of Cameroon (SCAC).
Some Past Stories On Prevention And Cause Of Stammering In The Nso Land In Cameroon
About the presenter: Joseph Lukong is the Coordinator General of the Speak Clear Association of Cameroon, a support organization for people who stutter. He is a member of International Fluency Association since February 2002. He writes, "I have stuttered all through my life as have several members of my family. I hold a BA in Law from the University of Yaounde Cameroon and have worked in a law firm in Douala and now I work as a consultant for CAJUREC a debt recovery and legal counseling enterprise in Douala. I also serve as a volunteer worker in a local NGO called SHUMAS that works for the marginalized and less privileged members of society. This NGO also fights to improve the living conditions of people here. I am a Roman Catholic Christian and enjoy reading the Bible and attending ecumenical church services."
Stuttering In The Lukong Family. Is It Natural Or A Curse From The Gods?
About the presenter: Acheng Moungui Thomas writes, "I am a Cameroonian and the 9th child in a family of 25 of which 15 stutter. I am also the Public Relations Officer of SPEAK CLEAR ASSOCIATION OF CAMEROON (SCAC). This is my very first time of participating in this wonderful Online Conference. I hope other participants will learn something from this paper as I know I am learning from other papers. I am bilingual and can speak and write English and French."
Ideas In Our Country, Culture, Family About What Causes Stuttering And What Should Be Done About It.

You can post Questions/comments about the following papers to the authors before October 22, 2002.


by Jonas Berinyuy
from Cameroon, Africa

The Nso land is located about 700 KM North of Douala and is part of the defunct Southern Cameroonian state under British colonial administration. This tribe has a very rich cultural heritage which is still maintained today.

The problem of stammering in Cameroon is serious and the few who go for treatment limit themselves to the traditional types available in our country. This is typical because of their culture and beliefs. The idea that "modern therapy:" can be effective is in direct conflict with the very strong traditional beliefs in "powers," still very evident in our society.

In our traditional society, the first diagnosis of any disorder is done by consulting a witch doctor who then consults his spider. These spiders live in holes in the ground and are found by lucky hunters who dig for them. They are brought to the house and kept with special ceremonies. Witch doctors consult the spiders by putting various small objects carrying the name of different suspected witches and wizards around the hole where it lives. An object is also always in the name of the gods because the gods are many times blamed. The witch doctor speaks aloud in front of the hole explaining the problem calling one the spider to show who is guilty of the crime. The spider will then come out and take the object containing the name of the one guilty of the crime returning with it into its hole. It is quite funny that the results of these consultations have always been that "A" has been bewitched by "B."

Some past stories of prevention, cause, and treatment of stammering


It was believed stammering in young children was due to eating grasshoppers. Parents were advised to make sure that children from 0 - 2 years did not eat grasshoppers. During one period (in 1912) many births suffered from stammering, It was discovered that many children who took care of their baby brothers and sisters when everyone had gone to farm, spent a great deal of their time hunting grasshoppers in the little bushes around the compound. They both ate them and fed them to the babies. I know this is true because I myself did the same thing when I was young. Today the eating of grasshoppers by children has mostly stopped and coincidentally the number of stammering children has seemingly reduced.

Adult stammerers on the contrary were advised to eat a certain green grasshopper called "kimem". This grasshopper is very difficult to find. It lives permanently inside green grass. To find it, you must choose a thick grass field, clearing and searching under the grass at the same time. Some times people used to clear about a hecta of land before they managed to catch just one of these grasshoppers.


My brother and I stammered severely at very young age. We were also very unscrupulous, troublesome and quick tempered (perhaps because of our stammering). Both our stammering and our misbehavior were abnormal and led our parents to try to find the cause. After consulting a handful of fortunetellers, it became clear to them that our stammering was curse from the gods of my mother's compound. The gods became angry that my mother's dowry (bride prize) was only partially paid. When the dowry was completed, it was observed that our life changed and our stammering improved. However, it was believed that the stammering would gradually disappear altogether. It did not. Perhaps I was helped a bit by this payment because today my brother stammers more than I do..

Another case of stammering in our family is also believed to revolve around a problem with a dowry. My uncle was delegated by the family to go and pay the dowry of my grandfather's new wife. When he took the money, he grumbled to himself why as old as his father was, his new wife's dowry could be paid when his own was still pending. Instead of paying the dowry for his father's wife, he took the money and dowered his own wife. He lied that he had been sent only to make arrangements for his father's wife's dowry to be paid after one year. These arrangements were agreed upon and he returned reporting he had done everything and all had ended well. A year later, when the appointed time came, the bride's family waited but saw no one forthcoming with the dowry. They waited three more months. Still nothing. Anger grew and the bride's family delegated ten healthy men to come and seize their daughter from my grandfather. They arrived at the compound early in the morning when the woman was harvesting vegetables by the side of the house. They caught her immediately and wanted to take off. Children in the compound shouted as they saw what was happening and my grandfather came out and met them on the way. He called for them, calmed them and pleaded with them to come with him to the house. He sent for my uncle and many other people. In a short while the house was full. The people said they were to his wife away if money for the dowry was not provided as previously arranged.

My grandfather pointed at my uncle to ask how he carried out his assignment. When my uncle opened his mouth to speak, he froze in fear and shame. He stumbled over the first word, repeating it several times with his lips shaking. This formerly fluent speaker began stammering from this moment on. It grew severe and is very severe still today. It is dangerous and very untraditional to tamper with money in this way and my uncle's stammering is believed to be a curse from the gods of the land.

Herbal treatments

The Nso tribe is well known in the field of traditional medicines in Cameroon. At the level of my research, no very effective stammering therapy had ever been found. It is said that the following traditional herbs -- kighavir, ghay kiyon, Maro-oh, ghan kidzem with the lungs of the cow (boofu) boiled together with palm wine helped a great deal to improve stammering in children. The combination of the medicines was renewed every two weeks. This therapy was difficult because a complete dose was taken for one year by drinking this mixture from a calabash every morning and before sunset. (A Calabash is a container made from ta vegetable plant mostly found in the tropics called pumkin. Some are round in shape. The inner part is removed and the skin is shaped with an opening like a bowl. Some species of Pumkin is long and easily shaped into a cup. All drinking during traditional festivities is done with a calabash.)

One man named Boi was a severe stammerer, of quick temper, very dangerous at times and acted at times like an insane person. The state of Boi caused him and his family to seek treatment. He tried many treatments but there was no change. The combination of several of these treatments instead rendered him deaf and unable to speak at all. The last treatment he tried was a species of herb that he prepared and drank like tea. It is suspected today that he took an overdose of the treatment.

In summary, stammering disorders have never made any good news in the Nso land.

Hope on the Horizon

A lot of information I have recently discovered, demonstrates that there are therapies available that have transformed the lives of many stammerers. It is worthwhile mentioning that most cases of stammering begin in childhood. To build a better future for stammerers in Cameroon we have to begin with the children. I quite remember when I was in primary school, I feared so much answering questions in class that I always sat at the back bench. This made me to grow dull and I only learned when I was under pressure. Statistics show that less than 10% of stammerers in Cameroon go beyond the secondary school level. In the Nso tribe the situation is even worse. This is where the poorest Cameroonians live. About 97% of the people are farmers and are still unable to produce food enough for their families. More than 65% of the stammerers here have never seen the four walls of a classroom. Many young stammerers drop out of school very early due to too much anxiety, torment and misery. Some of them get to big towns to seek their livelihood, while some get involved in informal technical training at home which is not helpful in our world of today.

The ability to speak fluently is a great asset in our society and in our personal lives. My association has as one of its projects to award scholarships to deserving young Cameroonian stammerers to study in their various disciplines. There is a proverb that charity begins at home, but some of us grumble that it should not end there. And although we are in the stammering market with nothing to sell, SCAC is glad today to be in the ISA family. The Bible says seek and ye shall find. I believe that your compassion and trust in us is a guarantee that stammerers in Cameroon and in the Nso tribe in particular shall never be the same again.

I want to congratulate heartily everyone joining to celebrate the ISAD 2002 online conference and send my best wishes of success and God's blessings for this great event.


by Joseph Lukong
from Cameroon, Africa

I am Lukong Joseph Tardzenyuy a stutterer since birth and father of two children who stutter. Many of my brothers, sisters, half brothers, half sisters as well as several of my nephews and nieces also stutter. Many of my paternal cousins and some of their children stutter. The above mentioned relations of mine and I are citizens of the Republic of Cameroon a country found in the Central African sub region. All of us are natives of the Banso tribe that live in the grass fields of the North Western part of Cameroon. Many of us were born and raised in our village called Kuintar Mbam a rural village without electricity, telephone or portable water. All of us were breastfed by our mothers for a period of over 2 years as is the custom and we were very attached to our mothers. In our region, the main staple food is corn fufu that we eat with huckleberry (vegetables). We typically eat this for 5 of the 7 days of the week.

I have to mention here that my late father, Sebastain Lukong was a polygamist having a total of three wives and 21 children. All of these children, I am told by reliable sources, stuttered when they were young and as they grew up some recovered from this disorder while others did not. At present 17 of the 21 children stutter severely, three have mild stutters, one is a fluent speaker. Of the 21 of us children of my father, 13 are boys and 8 are girls. All of the boys stutter severely while only 4 of the 8 girls stutter severely. Paradoxically, neither my father nor any of his wives stutter. From the investigations that I have done on my mother's family, none of her relations stutter. In the family of my first step mother nobody stutters, while in the family of my second step mother, one person stutters. Though my father was not a stutterer, the investigations I carried out showed that there is a history of severe stuttering in his family. All this information comes from my paternal grandmother who was called Baty whom I am told was not a stutterer nor was my grandfather.


My grandmother was called Baty. She was an animist (a person who does not belong to a religious organization) and married to a FAI (a sub chief) in our village who was called Ngitir. A Fai in our village is a traditional ruler who ascends to the throne through succession and inherits all the assets and liabilities of the deceased Fai. My grandfather had to inherit the wives of his deceased father and ended up having a total of 17 wives with my grandmother Baty being the youngest. My grandmother bore 4 children to my grandfather. They were as follows: Felix was the first and was not a stutterer. Felix had three daughters. They are Adela, Ita, Emelia. Of these, only Ita is a stutterer. Ita has five children and two of her children are stutterers. Felix's other children are Adela and Emelia who are not stutterers and have a total of 8 children of which 3 stutter.

My grandmother's second child was called BIH who was a stutterer and had only one child, Charles, who is not a stutterer. Charles married 2 wives and now has a total of 14 children of which 3 are stutterers.

My grandmother's third child was called Odilia whom I knew very well and who was a severe stutterer. She had 5 children of which 2 stutter. Some of my aunt Odilia's grandchildren stutter.

My grandmother's fourth child was my father whom as I earlier said had 3 wives with a total of 21 children. My mother has six children 4 boys and 2 girls. All the boys are stutterers while one of the girls is a stutterer. My father's second wife has 8 children- 5 boys who are all stutterers and three girls of which 2 are stutterers. My father's third wife has 7 children- five boys who are all stutterers and three girls of which 1 is a severe stutterer and the 2 others have mild and occasional stuttering. This is a brief description of stuttering in our family and I want now to examine the legends that circulate in our village concerning the cause of stuttering in our family


People have often insulted and teased us as to the cause of stuttering in our family. I had never paid particular attention to all these and of late I had to confront my mother and some elderly members of our family to throw more light on this. At first they were not open to this issue and the reason is the untold shame and disgrace that stuttering in our family has brought to us as we are often looked upon as outcasts in our village.

The first legend associated with stuttering in our family is that it was a mystical and magic curse inflicted on my grandmother by the one of her maids. I am told my grandmother was the youngest of my grandfather's wives and it is suspected that she received particular attention and care from my grandfather. This resulted in hatred and jealousy from her maids. One of her maids by the name of Dinyuy is believed to have once quarreled with my grandmother and cursed her using her magical powers that she was going to give birth to 'abnormal children'. This was when my grandmother had her second pregnancy after delivering her first son. When she gave birth to her second child, this child stuttered, as did all her subsequent children. It was therefore believed strongly that it was the fulfillment of DINYUY's magical curse. It is even said that DINYUY at the moment of her death confessed to the evil deed she had done to my grandmother.

The second legend that I learned from one elder member of our extended family is that my grandfather as landlord of a large piece of land in our village, allocated a certain piece of that land to my grandmother for farming. This was a very fertile piece of land that was reserved only for traditional sacrifices. It is then believed that the gods of our land got very annoyed by this and cursed the children of my grandmother by turning them into stutterers.


To counter the action that DINYUY had done, many traditional sacrifices were offered by my grandfather and other members of my family. Palm wine, hens, goats and other articles were sacrificed to wipe away the curse. It would appear the sacrifices yielded no results as the stuttering in our family continues.

The first method that my elder brother and I went through ourselves was prescribed by one traditional herbalist in our locality. This consisted of drinking a yellowish liquid substance that comes from the roots of the rafia palm called in the Banso dialect, 'KILU' This liquid has a kind of grayish layer on top indicating the presence of some rusted iron. This liquid is drunk every day at sunrise and at sunset for an uninterrupted period of six months. I remember myself and my elder brother being forced out of bed as early as 5.30 a.m. in the cold harmattan dry season of our village to trek the 8 kilometers that separated our compound and the rafia palm bush with this liquid. I believe this did not yield any fruitful results for us but many stutterers in my area of origin are said to have been cured by this practice.

After failing to be cured using this method my parents resorted to the other methods. We had to travel out of our village during the long summer vacation to go to one village called Vekovi situated some 30 km from our village where one traditional herbalist was charged with the duty of treating us. His treatment is one that still frightens me to this day. His treatment consisted of squeezing the leaves of the cola nut trees to get a yellowish liquid This liquid is inserted to our head through the nostril while we lie down. In the evenings the outer layer of the cola nut seeds are burnt in a small hut constructed with bamboos and mud with no windows. The smoke from the burnt seeds are inhaled through our mouth and nose.

Another form of treatment which we would use in our family consisted of eating a greenish insect called KIBEM in our dialect. I as well as many relations of mine ate this insect but no good results were obtained.

The last form of traditional help I had for my stuttering was when I was 17 years old when one of my cousins who had traveled to the coastal area of Cameroon brought a new method of treatment which consisted of drinking water from the shell of the snail that our cousin had brought from the coastal resort town of Victoria (Limbe) in the South west province of Cameroon. We drank water from this object for a period of 2 months and yet no good results were brought to our speech.


by Acheng Moungui Thomas
from Cameroon, Africa



Cameroon, my fatherland, is a country where stuttering is well known, but very misunderstood by those who live here. It is generally believed that stuttering is hereditary and come either from the maternal or paternal family. In my own family, it appears to have originated from my mother's side. I have 24 siblings, and 15 of us stutter. We often tell our mother that stuttering came from her family because her 4 sisters stutter, her grandmother stuttered, unfortunately she is also stuttering lately. After some interviewing with other Cameroonians, I discovered that this belief is generally shared.


Because it is very diversified in almost every sphere, Cameroon has been called "Africa in miniature." Our nation has many cultures some of which are interwoven. Before the coming of the Western culture, our forefathers believed much in many different "gods". Some still hold these beliefs in the "god of the Tongues," the "god of the Mountain," the "god of the Forest," the "god of Thunder," the "god of Lightning" and many others. Many people feel they have to live accoring to the norms of the varying "gods" and if they don't something evil will happen to them. It is therefore believed that anything abnormal happening to any person might be a curse from one of the "gods". And when this happens, cleansing might take place which of course is typically unsuccessful in "curing" the mishap. For example the "Upper Ngemba" people in the southwestern part of Cameroon believe that if the "god of the Tongues" is offended, their children could be afflicted with stuttering, for making the god angry. Once the god is angry, there is nothing that can appease him. The curse from this particular god has the potential to affect the continual family chain. Therefore, most people in this region of Cameroon rarely ever offend this god for fear of having children who stutter. This was an ancient belief even though it has never been proven wrong or right. It still exists today and has been passed from generation to generation.


In Africa and Cameroon in particular, most believe that some people have supernatural powers. They are called witches and wizards. Sometimes because of hatred, jealousy, differences, love, power and other social issues a witch or wizard can decide to destroy your off-spring by rendering them stutterers. This belief is very current in our society. Since speech is indispensable to any human being, the witches and wizards know that by cursing your child in such a way is another way of killing you. This type of curse is called the magical curse. This is a very disastrous practice and these witches and wizards often end up being excommunicated from the village. This is usually done by the elites of that particular village. For those who practice these evil acts, their families also end up being isolated. This potential isolation is powerful because each and every friend of yours will think that being together can still put the same curse on your children. You can imagine how painful it is to render your child a stutterer because of jealousy. Many people feel that what should be done about this can only be to send off or excommunicate these mischievous people from society. Feeling isolated automatically implies society doesn't want you because you are wicked and destructive. In this case, one person in the family generates hatred from outside to all other innocent family members. This is because when it is realized that the witch or wizard comes from a particular family, all the family is hated without taking into consideration that others might be innocent. The general belief is that other family members might be accessories. The only good thing is that not all the family is excommunicated but only that particular person. At the same time, it is unfortunate that the whole family is shunned.


The word environment implies here peer group socialization. It is believed by some Cameroonians that the type of environment your child gets used to can affect him in one-way or the other. For instance in a peer group where one member is a stutterer it can easily affect the others because they will try to mimic him. You know that with children, mimicking is often considered a joke, forgetting that by so doing, he/she might become one. This is very common with children because either they will mock at you or insult you as if stuttering were your "fault." It is therefore sometimes believed that stuttering can be caused by the fact that a child might mimic his friend who stutters. This is precarious in social gatherings such as in schools, churches, parties and simple come-togethers. This sometimes causes the problem of discrimination because non-stuttering children will typically avoid having friends who stutter. Stuttering children are always isolated in social gatherings for fear of passing it to others. Most stuttering children are isolated as if they did something evil against society. Others often consider them social outcasts. This problem with adults is not very different. Thus most non-stuttering children who encounter stuttering ones are scared to mimic them for fear of becoming stutterers. They consider mimicking a stutterer as a taboo. With these ideas in their heads, it is totally forbidden to mimic a stutterer irrespective of age, or you risk becoming a stutterer yourself. Thus, the only thing to do here in order not to become a stutterer is to totally absent yourself from any situation that will involve the possibility of mimicking or mocking a stutterer. Even if you do not become a stutterer yourself, your children might suffer the consequences of your inhuman behaviour.

CURES As for some of the cures we believe in (which to my knowledge have never succeeded in curing stutterinng) some say to stop stuttering, you must drink "Sea Water" which is salty. Others say you must consistently drink water from a "Snail shell" for the rest of your life. Others say you must drink water from the "shoot of a fresh spring" (a new fountain of spring water that has just been discovered). You can see that everything revolves around drinking water from something or somewhere. Many people have practiced all of the above to no avail. Disturbed by the non-curative effects of the above, many feel very helpless and have finally given up of finding any help or, feeling helpless, decided to abandon those who stutter. This is the prevailing situation in Cameroon now.

Note: the map above is included with permission of World Atlas (www.worldatlas.com).

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the presenters before October 22, 2002.

April 21, 2002