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BBC: Cameroon’s conjoined twins help spread Islam


By Francis Ngwa Niba
Babanki Tungo, Cameroon

Cameroonian conjoined twins Pheinbom and Shevoboh were seen as a bad omen when born, but their successful separation by Saudi surgeons has changed their lives – and the faith of some in their village.

 They were joined at the chest, abdomen and pelvis when born and some of the delivery nurses in Babanki Tungo, a village in north-west Cameroon, were so shocked by the “strange birth” that they ran out of the small clinic.

The basic medical services in Babanki Tungo were ill-equipped to care for the girls and, following an internet appeal, the Saudi king agreed to pay for them to be flown to Saudi Arabia for surgery in 2007.

The 16-hour operation succeeded in separating the twins and now they each have their own stomach.

 However, nearly three years on from the surgery, serious physical challenges remain.

After the separation, the girls were left with one leg each, and they are now waiting to return to Saudi Arabia to be fitted with artificial limbs and begin the arduous task of learning how to walk.

At the moment, they can only crawl. Even so, the twins are playful, talkative and mischievous – typical four-year-old girls, in fact.

But when they were born, they were anything but typical.

Islamic conversions

Some people in Babanki Tungo – a farming village known for producing many of Cameroon’s vegetables – thought they were “satanic gifts” sent to punish their father, who already had 13 other children by two different wives.

 Others believed that Pheinbom and Shevoboh were sent to punish the whole village, after a traditional leader in the region was burnt alive by his angry subjects.

“It was very difficult when the babies were still joined together,” the girls’ mother Emerencia Nyumale remembers.

“People used to see me carrying them and run away and I felt so guilty and alone,” she says.

“Thank God all that has ended now since their separation.”

The girls’ story has had another importance consequence for the people of Babanki Tungo.

 The Saudi government is funding an Islamic centre in the village consisting of a mosque, nursery, primary school and health centre.

This has led some village elders to predict that the largely Christian Babanki Tungo will be slowly Islamised.

The twins’ parents have taken the lead.

As a mark of appreciation to their daughters’ Saudi benefactors, they have converted to Islam.

The girl’s father, Ngong James Akumbu, now calls himself “Abdallah”, Emerencia goes by “Aisha”, and five or their children attend the Islamic primary school.

Blessing or curse?

Kum Edwin, a teacher at the school, has also converted.

“Before the school was opened, I was unemployed, had many girlfriends and drank a lot,” says Mr Edwin, who has changed his name to “Abdallah Wagf”.

“When I heard an Islamic school will be opened here, I did a three-month Islamic studies [course]… I no longer drink a lot and I am now searching for a wife because having lots of girlfriends is not good.”

Many people in Babanki Tungo now see the birth of Pheinbom and Shevoboh as a blessing rather than a curse.

The sight of the twins crawling around the village no longer attracts mistrustful looks, as once it did.

“I always tell every parent to be patient because God always tempts people by showing them bad things which are good things in the future,” muses the girls’ father.

Indeed, the twins have seen a remarkable change in their fortunes.

From outcasts at birth, they now have their own, separate lives and have played an important part in changing the lives of the people around them.

After all that, learning to walk may prove to be easy.

Source: BBC News

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Mariam is of Middle Eastern origin, raised in North America, not quite settling in one specific place. After living up in the North of North America, she has shifted continents and currently residing in a rapidly flourishing, historical city located in the desert of Arabia. She is a recent graduate of the American Open University, with a Bachelors in Islamic Studies. She believes that regardless of where a person is, writing is a tool to reach out and express that which inspires, touches and affects them. So she writes; perhaps that which inspires her will be a source of good for at least one other person.



  1. Middle Ground

    April 26, 2010 at 8:28 AM


    A lot of us bash the Saudi rulers, but all kudos to them here. An extremely generous act of charity leading to so much… I once said that if all rich Arabs would really show the generosity that some of them are famous for, the whole world would become muslim.

    • Abd- Allah

      May 5, 2010 at 6:41 PM

      I once said that if all rich Arabs would really show the generosity that some of them are famous for, the whole world would become muslim.

      I disagree with that brother, because rich people are expected to donate and be generous, and even a lot of rich non-muslims are famous for their generosity, so it is nothing unusual for rich people to donate. Howver, if all Muslims show generosity and selflessness regardless of whether they are rich or poor, then the whole world would become Muslims when they see the good that Islam encourages people to do. Having poor people give generously from the little which they have is much more unusual and intriguing than having rich people do so.

      The Saudi government is funding an Islamic centre in the village consisting of a mosque, nursery, primary school and health centre.

      On another note, the Saudi government and rulers do a lot of good, but just because it is not publicized people think that they don’t do anything. That is not to say that the Saudi government (or any other government for that matter) is perfect or has no mistakes, but some people always rush to bash them for their mistakes where as no one shows appreciation or gratitude for the many other good things which the Saudi government does, and the lack of comments on this article shows exactly what I mean.

  2. Sayf

    May 5, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    Mash’Allah that was a heartwarming article, so many positive stories in such a short read. Alhamdulillah.

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