The commander-in-chief of the Bamum military is known as the tu panka (tu meaning 'head', pa meaning 'persons' and nka meaning 'barrier'). The role of the tu panka is to led his army to war against any forces threatening the fon (chief) of the kingdom. It is said that the name tu panka came from a war between the Bamum fon Mbuembue and the Pu people. The story goes that during the battle, the fon was cornered into a ditch by the Pu army. To protect their fon, the Bamum army formed a protective barrier around him; they became known as the panka. The fon, thus saved, elected a tu panka to lead his army in future battles.
The tradition of selecting a tu panka remains. During installation ceremonies, the elected tu panka walks out of the fon's palace carrying a tu mola headdress on his head as his soldiers follow him, beating sticks, out in celebration. An important emblem of the tu panka's position, the tu mola (meaning 'head of the child of the land') headdress is a sculptural representation of the commander-in-chief. It, along with a stiff beaded neck ring (katandu), a leopard skin bag, a buffalo drinking horn (ndu nyiet), a bronze gong (nsüre), spears and a sword (nyi) are presented to the tu panka by the ruling fon.