After Pope Francis’ Same-Sex Blessings Ruling, African Countries Should Push for  Polygamy, Not Criminalize Homosexuality

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After Pope Francis’ Same-Sex Blessings Ruling, African Countries Should Push for  Polygamy, Not Criminalize Homosexuality

Colbert Gwain

Muteff may be one local village community hinged on the Ijim hill adjacent to Laikom (Kom palace) in Fundong Sub Division in the Boyo Division of the North West Region of Cameroon, but what happens there usually has unimaginable global dimensions. A true marker of respectability in Muteff has always been a man’s ability to have more than one wife. One could have all the world’s money and wealth, but if he had only one wife he would be looked down on with disdain. That’s how my late father, Bobe Jude Thaddeus Fulai Biyong, although not the village head but because he had four wives, became the de facto decision maker in that local village kaleidoscope.

People in Muteff considered any man who settled down to only one wife as an unfulfilled African and not different from an unmarried person whom they fondly refer to in Komland as ‘Kœ’, literally meaning ‘Queer’ in the LGBTQ community (and such ‘Queer’ men and women did not come in short supply in Muteff). If members of the community sat somewhere and were making decisions and a monogamist opted to talk, he would rather be derided and asked to stay quiet because real men cannot be discussing and a compound-less man (having only one house), talk too. Such a person was considered incapable of having a good sense of judgment because he lacked the experience which men with over one wife and from different backgrounds and characters, had.

It is probably to make up for this shortfall that in the mid-2000s, NGO leader, Tilda Kumichi Ndichia, sought out an innovative project to identify and award monogamous couples who had lived together uninterrupted for over 60 years in Komland. The project itself was an acknowledgment of the fact that monogamy was un-Kom and by extension,  un-African, and that the initiator was animated by Eurocentric and Christian values rather than the African values.

Contrary to the widely held belief in today’s society, polygamy (not monogamy), is a truly African traditional institution. It was the colonial master who used his Eurocentric prejudice to demonize it through the Christian missionaries who categorized it as ‘sin’, without substantiating with any biblical reference (just like the Pope is trying to substantiate same-sex marriages).

The fact that most of those who were blessed by God in the Bible were polygamous kings and leaders (like King David who was Jesus’ grandfather) attests to the fact that neither polygamy nor monogamy are conditions sine qua non to a person’s salvation. It also attests to the fact that if there is a form of marriage that is unnatural in the African tradition, it is monogamy.

And this begs the question. Why is it that African thought leaders, policymakers, and political leaders do not promote and protect their traditional values to the international community, and especially to the Western world, but they are ready to decimate the ‘last man standing’ to protect a European or Western heritage? Simply put, how comes it about that virtually all African leaders are ready to pass legislation criminalizing same-sex marriages under the pretext such practices are un-African when we have lived with such queer persons for generations in the Muteff community.

For all we know, virtually all African leaders are monogamous, which means they are sustaining an un-African culture. As if that’s not enough,  and also to prove that monogamy does not contribute anything to one’s salvation story,  they have squandered all their country’s natural resources and stashed all the stolen wealth in European banks. This has not been the work of polygamists or same-sex couples.

The outcome of such reckless leadership has been starvation, malnutrition, disease outbreaks,  unemployment, unequal distribution of wealth, and above all, internecine conflicts across Africa. Some leaders have even claimed they were tarring roads, only for citizens to get up one day to discover the said roads were being tarred right into the leader’s bank accounts in Europe.

Rather than criminalizing homosexuality claiming it’s un-African, African leaders could do well by marketing what is truly theirs – polygamy – to the Western world. They could do this by first institutionalizing the tradition in much the same way South Africa has done. This would entail a strict protection of the rights of co-wives in such polygamous unions. Besides passing legislation promoting and protecting polygyny (one man marrying several wives), such legislation could go further to promote polyandry (that is the possibility of a woman marrying more than one man).

Colbert Gwain is a thought leader, digital rights activist, aviation reporter, author, radio host, and content creator @TheColbertFactor

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