The earliest inhabitants of Cameroon were probably the Baka (Pygmies). They still inhabit the forests of the south and east provinces. Bantu speakers originating in the Cameroonian highlands were among the first groups to move out before other invaders. The Mandara kingdom in the Mandara Mountains was founded around 1500 and erected fortified structures, the purpose and exact history of which are still unresolved. The Aro Confederacy of Nigeria had a presence in western (later called British) Cameroon due to trade and migration in the 18th and 19th centuries.
During the late 1770s and the early 19th century, the Fulani, a pastoral Islamic people of the western Sahel, conquered most of what is now northern Cameroon, subjugating or displacing its largely non-Muslim inhabitants.
Although the Portuguese arrived on Cameroon's doorstep in the 16th century, malaria prevented significant European settlement and conquest of the interior until the late 1870s, when large supplies of the malaria suppressant quinine became available. The early European presence in Cameroon was primarily devoted to coastal trade and the acquisition of slaves. The northern part of Cameroon was an important part of the Muslim slave trade network. The slave trade was largely suppressed by the mid-19th century. Christian missionaries established a presence in the late 19th century and continue to play a role in Cameroonian life.
Germany is particularly interested in Cameroon's agricultural potential and entrusts large firms with the task of exploiting and exporting it. Chancellor Bismarck defines the order of priorities as follows: first the merchant, then the soldier. It was under the influence of businessman Adolph Woermann, whose company set up a trading house in Douala, that Bismarck, initially sceptical about the interest of the colonial project, was convinced. Large German trading companies (Woermann, Jantzen und Thoermalen) and concession companies (Sudkamerun Gesellschaft, Nord-West Kamerun Gesellschaft) established themselves massively in the colony. Letting the big companies impose their order, the administration simply supports them, protects them and tries to eliminate the indigenous rebellions.
The imperial German government made substantial investments in the infrastructure of Cameroon, including the extensive railways, such as the 160-metre single-span railway bridge on the South Sanaga River branch. However, the indigenous peoples proved reluctant to work on these projects, so the Germans instigated a harsh and unpopular system of forced labour. In fact, Jesko von Puttkamer was relieved of duty as governor of the colony due to his untoward actions toward the native Cameroonians. In 1911 at the Treaty of Fez after the Agadir Crisis, France ceded a nearly 300,000 km² portion of the territory of French Equatorial Africa to Kamerun which became Neukamerun, while Germany ceded a smaller area in the north in present-day Chad to France.
In World War I, the British invaded Cameroon from Nigeria in 1914 in the Kamerun campaign, with the last German fort in the country surrendering in February 1916. After the war, this colony was partitioned between the United Kingdom and France under June 28, 1919 League of Nations mandates (Class B). France gained the larger geographical share, transferred Neukamerun back to neighboring French colonies, and ruled the rest from Yaoundé as Cameroun (French Cameroons). Britain's territory, a strip bordering Nigeria from the sea to Lake Chad, with an equal population was ruled from Lagos as Cameroons (British Cameroons). German administrators were allowed to once again run the plantations of the southwestern coastal area. A British parliamentary publication, Report on the British Sphere of the Cameroons (May 1922, p. 62-8), reports that the German plantations there were "as a whole . . . wonderful examples of industry, based on solid scientific knowledge. The natives have been taught discipline and have come to realize what can be achieved by industry. Large numbers who return to their villages take up cocoa or other cultivation on their own account, thus increasing the general prosperity of the country."
The French administration, reluctant to return their pre-war possessions to German companies, reassigned some of them to French companies. This is particularly the case for the Société financière des caoutchoucs, which obtained plantations put into operation during the German period and became the largest company in Cameroon under French mandate. Roads are being built to link the main cities together, as well as various infrastructure such as bridges and airports. The Douala-Yaoundé railway line, begun under the German regime, has been completed. Thousands of workers are forcibly deported to this site to work fifty-four hours a week. Workers also suffer from lack of food and the massive presence of mosquitoes. In 1925, the mortality rate on the site was 61.7%. However, the other sites are not as deadly, although working conditions are generally very harsh.
French Cameroon joined the Free France in August 1940. The system established by free France is similar to a military dictatorship. Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque established a state of siege throughout the country and abolished almost all public freedom. The objective is to neutralize any potential feelings of independence or sympathy for the former German colonizer. Indigenous people known for their Germanophilia are executed in public places. In 1945, the country was placed under the supervision of the United Nations. Despite this, in 1946 it became an "associated territory" of the French Union.
In 1948, the Union des populations du Cameroun (UPC), a nationalist movement, was founded and Ruben Um Nyobe took over as its leader. In May 1955, the arrests of independence activists were followed by riots in several cities across the country. The repression caused several dozen (the French administration officially lists twenty-two, although secret reports acknowledge many more) or hundreds of deaths. The UPC is banned and nearly 800 of its activists are arrested, many of whom will be beaten in prison. Wanted by the police, UPC activists take refuge in the forests, where they form maquis, or in neighbouring British Cameroon. The French authorities repress these events, and make arbitrary arrests. The party receives the support of personalities such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Kwame Nkrumah and France's action is denounced at the UN by representatives of countries such as India, Syria and the Soviet Union.
An insurrection broke out among the Bassa people on the night of 18 to 19 December 1956: several dozen anti-UPC figures were murdered or kidnapped, bridges, telephone lines and other infrastructure were sabotaged. Units of the Cameroonian guard violently repressed these events, which led to the rallying of the peasants to the maquis. Several UPC maquis are formed with their "generals" and "captains" leading "regiments" (150–200 guerrillas) and "battalions" (50 guerrillas). The weapons are very basic: a few stolen guns and pistols, but mainly machetes, clubs, bows and arrows. To isolate the rebellion from the Bassa civilian population, who are suspected of being particularly independentist, they are deported to camps along the main roads. General Lamberton, in charge of the French forces, ordered: "Any huts or installations remaining outside the assembly areas must be completely razed and their surrounding crops destroyed. "Villagers are subjected to forced labour on behalf of Razel, particularly in road construction. The Bassa living in the city are expelled to their region of origin to prevent the "virus of protest" from spreading. This rebellion continued, with diminishing intensity, even after independence until 1961. Some tens of thousands died during this conflict.
Legislative elections were held on 23 December 1956 and the resulting Assembly passed a decree on 16 April 1957 which made French Cameroon a state. It took back its former status of associated territory as a member of the French Union. Its inhabitants became Cameroonian citizens, and Cameroonian institutions were created under a parliamentary democracy. On 12 June 1958, the Legislative Assembly of French Cameroon asked the French government to: "Accord independence to the State of Cameroon at the ends of their trusteeship. Transfer every competence related to the running of internal affairs of Cameroon to Cameroonians". On 19 October 1958, France recognized the right of her United Nations trust territory to choose independence. On 24 October 1958, the Legislative Assembly of French Cameroon solemnly proclaimed the desire of Cameroonians to see their country accede full independence on 1 January 1960. It enjoined the government of French Cameroon to ask France to inform the General Assembly of the United Nations, to abrogate the trusteeship accord concomitant with the independence of French Cameroon.
On 12 November 1958, having accorded French Cameroon total internal autonomy and thinking that this transfer no longer permitted it to assume its responsibilities over the trust territory for an unspecified period, the government of France asked the United Nations to grant the wish of French Cameroonians. On 5 December 1958, the United Nations’ General Assembly took note of the French government’s declaration according to which French Cameroon, which was under French administration, would gain independence on 1 January 1960, thus marking an end to the trusteeship period. On 13 March 1959, the United Nations’ General Assembly resolved that the UN Trusteeship Agreement with France for French Cameroon would end when French Cameroon became independent on 1 January 1960.
During the First World War, it was occupied by British, French and Belgian troops, and a later League of Nations Mandate to Great Britain and France by the League of Nations in 1922. The French mandate was known as Cameroun and the British territory was administered as two areas, Northern Cameroons and Southern Cameroons. Northern Cameroons consisted of two non-contiguous sections, divided by a point where the Nigerian and Cameroun borders met. In the 1930s, most of the white population consisted of Germans, which were interned in British camps starting in June 1940. The native population of 400,000 showed little interest in volunteering for the British forces; only 3,500 men did so.
When the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946, most of the mandate territories were reclassified as UN trust territories, henceforth administered through the UN Trusteeship Council. The object of trusteeship was to prepare the lands for eventual independence. The United Nations approved the Trusteeship Agreements for British Cameroons to be governed by Britain on 6 December 1946.
French Cameroun became independent, as Cameroun or Cameroon, in January 1960, and Nigeria was scheduled for independence later that same year, which raised question of what to do with the British territory. After some discussion (which had been going on since 1959), a plebiscite was agreed to and held on 11 February 1961. The Muslim-majority Northern area opted for union with Nigeria, and the Southern area voted to join Cameroon.
Northern Cameroons became the Sardauna Province of Northern Nigeria on 31 May 1961, while Southern Cameroons became West Cameroon, a constituent state of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, later that year on 1 October 1961.
French Cameroon achieved independence on January 1, 1960 as La Republique du Cameroun. After Guinea, it was the second of France's colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa to become independent. On 21 February 1960, the new nation held a constitutional referendum. On 5 May 1960, Ahmadou Ahidjo became president. On 11 February 1961, a plebiscite organised by the United Nations was held in the British controlled part of Cameroon (British Northern and British Southern Cameroons). The pleibiscite was to choose between free association with an independent Nigerian state or re-unification with the independent Republic of Cameroun. On 12 February 1961,the results of the plebiscite were released and British Northern Cameroons attached itself to Nigeria, while the southern part voted for reunification with the Republic Of Cameroon. To negotiate the terms of this union, the Foumban Conference was held on 16–21 July 1961. John Ngu Foncha, the leader of the Kamerun National Democratic Party . The British Southern Cameroons was to be referred to as West Cameroon and the French part as East Cameroon. Buea became the capital of the now West Cameroon while Yaounde doubled as the federal capital and East Cameroon. Ahidjo accepted the federation, thinking it was a step towards a unitary state. On 14 August 1961, the federal constitution was adopted, with Ahidjo as president. Foncha became the prime minister of west Cameroon and vice president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon. On 1 September 1966 the Cameroon National Union (CNU) was created by the union of political parties of East and West Cameroon. Most decisions about West Cameroon were taken without consultation, which led to widespread feelings amongst the West Cameroonian public that although they voted for reunification, what they were getting is absorption or domination".
During the first years of the regime, the French ambassador Jean-Pierre Bénard is sometimes considered as the true "president" of Cameroon. This independence is indeed largely theoretical since French "advisers" are responsible for assisting each minister and have the reality of power. The Gaullist government preserves its influence over the country through the signing of "cooperation agreements" covering all sectors of Cameroon's sovereignty. Thus, in the monetary field, Cameroon retains the CFA franc and entrusts its monetary policy to its former guardian power. All strategic resources are exploited by France, French troops are maintained in the country, and a large proportion of Cameroonian army officers are French, including the Chief of Staff.
On October 1, 1961, the largely Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroons voted to join Nigeria; the largely Christian southern third, Southern Cameroons, voted, in a referendum, to join with the Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The formerly French and British regions each maintained substantial autonomy. Ahidjo was chosen president of the federation in 1961. In 1962, the Francs CFA became the official currency in Cameroon.
The authorities are multiplying the legal provisions enabling them to free themselves from the rule of law: arbitrary extension of police custody, prohibition of meetings and rallies, submission of publications to prior censorship, restriction of freedom of movement through the establishment of passes or curfews, prohibition for trade unions to issue subscriptions, etc. Anyone accused of "compromising public safety" is deprived of a lawyer and cannot appeal the judgment. Sentences of life imprisonment at hard labour or death penalty – executions can be public – are thus numerous. A one-party system was introduced in 1966.
Ahidjo successfully suppressed the continuing UPC rebellion, capturing the last important rebel leader in 1970. On 28 March 1970 Ahidjo renewed his mandate as the supreme magistracy; Solomon Tandeng Muna became Vice President. In 1972, a new constitution replaced the federation with a unitary state called the United Republic of Cameroon. Although Ahidjo's rule was characterised as authoritarian, he was seen as noticeably lacking in charisma in comparison to many post-colonial African leaders. He didn't follow the anti-western policies pursued by many of these leaders, which helped Cameroon achieve a degree of comparative political stability and economic growth.
Cameroon became an oil-producing country in 1977. Claiming to want to make reserves for difficult times, the authorities manage "off-budget" oil revenues in total opacity (the funds are placed in Paris, Switzerland and New York accounts). Several billion dollars are thus diverted to the benefit of oil companies and regime officials. The influence of France and its 9,000 nationals in Cameroon remains considerable. African Affairs magazine noted in the early 1980s that they "continue to dominate almost all key sectors of the economy, much as they did before independence. French nationals control 55% of the modern sector of the Cameroonian economy and their control over the banking system is total
On 30 June 1975 Paul Biya was appointed vice president. Ahidjo resigned as president in 1982 and was constitutionally succeeded by his Prime Minister, Paul Biya, a career official. Ahidjo later regretted his choice of successors, but his supporters failed to overthrow Biya in a 1984 coup. Biya won single-candidate elections in 1983 and 1984 when the country was again named the Republic of Cameroon. Biya has remained in power, winning flawed multiparty elections in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011. His Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) party holds a sizeable majority in the legislature.
By April 6, 1984, the country witnessed its first coup d'état headed by col. Issa Adoum. At about 3 am rebel forces mostly of the Republican guard under the orders of colonel Ibrahim Saleh, attempted to unseat Biya's government. The rebels took charge of the Yaounde airport, national radio station and announced the takeover of government. They attacked the presidency. The civilian northerner who was manager of FONADER Issa Adoum was expected to become the new interim president. Unfortunately, many reasons led to its failure. The principal coup plotters had been arrested by April 10, 1984 and President Biya addressed the nation that calm had been restored.
On August 15, 1984, Lake Monoun exploded in a limnic eruption that released carbon dioxide, suffocating 37 people to death. On August 21, 1986, another limnic eruption at Lake Nyos killed as many as 1,800 people and 3,500 livestock. The two disasters are the only recorded instances of limnic eruptions.
In May 2014, in the wake of the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping, Presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon and Idriss Déby of Chad announced they were waging war on Boko Haram, and deployed troops to the Nigerian border.
In early 2006 a final resolution to the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula was expected. In October 2002, the International Court of Justice had ruled in favour of Cameroon. Nonetheless, a lasting solution would require agreement by both countries’ presidents, parliaments, and by the United Nations. The peninsula was the site of fighting between the two countries in 1994 and again in June 2005, which led to the death of a Cameroonian soldier. In 2006, Nigerian troops left the peninsula.
In 2014, the Boko Haram insurgency spread into Cameroon from Nigeria. Cameroon announced in September 2018 that Boko Haram had been repelled, but the conflict persists in the northern border areas nonetheless.
In November 2016, major protests broke out in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. In September 2017, the protests and the government's response to them escalated into an armed conflict, with separatists declaring the independence of Ambazonia and starting a guerilla war against the Cameroonian Army.
Cameroon has received some international attention following the relative success of its football team. It has qualified for the FIFA World Cup on a number of occasions. Its most notable performance was at Italia 90, when the team beat Argentina, the then reigning Champions in the opening game; Cameroon eventually lost in extra time in the Quarterfinals to England.
Media related to History of Cameroon at Wikimedia Commons1984 Cameroonian coup attempt
An attempted coup d'état occurred in Cameroon in 1984; presidential palace guards unsuccessfully tried to overthrow President Paul Biya, resulting in fighting that began on April 6, 1984, and ended several days later. The coup attempt is widely viewed as one of the most crucial events in the history of Cameroon since independence in 1960.Adamawa Emirate
The Adamawa Emirate (German: Adamaua; French: Adamaoua) is a traditional state located in Fombina, an area which now roughly corresponds to areas of Adamawa State and Taraba state in Nigeria, and previously also in the three northern provinces of Cameroon (Far North, North, and Adamawa), including minor Parts of Western Chad and the Central African Republic. It was founded by Modibo Adama, a commander of Sheikh Usman dan Fodio, the man who began the Fulani jihad in 1809. The capital was moved several times until it settled in Yola, Nigeria on the banks of the Benue River in Nigeria around 1841. At the time of Adama's death his realm encompassed parts of modern Nigeria and much of north Cameroon. It was technically part of the Fulani Empire, and it had to pay a tribute to the leaders in Sokoto.Agadir Crisis
The Agadir Crisis, Agadir Incident or Second Moroccan Crisis (also known as the Panthersprung in German) was a brief international crisis sparked by the deployment of a substantial force of French troops in the interior of Morocco in April 1911. Germany did not object to France's expansion but wanted territorial compensation for itself. Berlin threatened warfare, sent a gunboat, and stirred up angry German nationalists. Negotiations between Berlin and Paris resolved the crisis: France took over Morocco as a protectorate in exchange for territorial concessions to Germany from the French Congo, while Spain was satisfied with a change in its boundary with Morocco. The British cabinet, however, was alarmed at Germany's aggressiveness toward France. David Lloyd George made a dramatic "Mansion House" speech that denounced the German move as an intolerable humiliation. There was talk of war, and Germany backed down. Relations between Berlin and London remained sour.Aro Confederacy
The Aro Confederacy (1690–1902) was a political union orchestrated by the Aro people, Igbo subgroup, centered in Arochukwu in present-day southeastern Nigeria. Their influence and presence was all over Eastern Nigeria, lower Middle Belt, and parts of present-day Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Arochukwu Kingdom was an economic, political, and an oracular center as it was home of the powerful Ibini Ukpabi oracle, High Priests, the Aro King Eze Aro, and central council (Okpankpo).British Cameroons
British Cameroons was a British Mandate territory in British West Africa. Today, the territory forms parts of Northern Nigeria in West Africa and Cameroon in Central Africa.French Cameroons
French Cameroons (French: Cameroun), or Cameroun, was a League of Nations Mandate territory in Central Africa. It now forms part of the independent country of Cameroon.French Equatorial Africa
French Equatorial Africa (French: Afrique équatoriale française), or the AEF, was the federation of French colonial possessions in Equatorial Africa, extending northwards from the Congo River into the Sahel, and comprising what are today the countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.German West African Company
The German West African Company, in German Deutsch-Westafrikanische Gesellschaft / Compagnie, was a German chartered company, founded in 1885. It exploited the two German protectorates in German West Africa (Togo and Cameroon) but did not actually govern them — unlike its counterpart in German East Africa.Kamerun Campaign
The Kamerun Campaign took place in the German colony of Kamerun in the African theatre of the First World War when the British, French and Belgians invaded the German colony from August 1914 to March 1916. Most of the campaign took place in Kamerun but skirmishes also broke out in British Nigeria. By the Spring of 1916, following Allied victories, the majority of German troops and the civil administration fled to the neighbouring neutral colony of Spanish Guinea (Río Muni). The campaign ended in a defeat for Germany and the partition of its former colony between France and Britain.Kanem–Bornu Empire
The Kanem–Bornu Empire existed in areas which are now part of Chad and Nigeria. It was known to the Arabian geographers as the Kanem Empire from the 8th century AD onward and lasted as the independent kingdom of Bornu (the Bornu Empire) until 1900. The Kanem Empire (c. 700–1380) was located in the present countries of Chad, Nigeria and Libya. At its height it encompassed an area covering not only most of Chad, but also parts of southern Libya (Fezzan) and eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. The Bornu Empire (1380s–1893) was a state in what is now northeastern Nigeria, in time becoming even larger than Kanem, incorporating areas that are today parts of Chad, Niger, Sudan, and Cameroon. It existed from 1380s to 1893. The early history of the Empire is mainly known from the Royal Chronicle or Girgam discovered in 1851 by the German traveller Heinrich Barth.Kingdom of Bamum
The Kingdom of Bamum (also spelled Bamoum, Bamun, Bamoun, or Mum) (1394–1884) was a pre-colonial Central African state in what is now northwest Cameroon. It was founded by the Mbum, a Bantu ethnic group from northeast Cameroon. Its capital was the ancient walled city of Fumban.List of colonial governors of Cameroon
This article lists the colonial governors of Cameroon. It encompasses the period when the country was under colonial rule of the German Empire (as Kamerun), occupation of the territory by the Allies of World War I (during the Kamerun Campaign of the African theatre), as well as the period when it was under the League of Nations and the UN administration of France (as French Cameroons) and the United Kingdom (as British Cameroons) respectively.Mandara Kingdom
The Mandara Kingdom (sometimes called Wandala) was an African kingdom in the Mandara Mountains of what is today Cameroon. The Mandara people are descended from the kingdom's inhabitants.National Archives of Cameroon
The National Archives of Cameroon (French: Archives nationales du Cameroun) (est. 1966) is the national archives of Cameroon. Its main location is in Yaoundé and has a library which holds 64,000 volumes. There is an annex in Buea with early material. Maintenance of the National Archives falls within the responsibilities of the Ministry of Arts and Culture. The archive closed in 2016 for what promises to be a long running reorganization and digitization of its files. Researchers can still request access by writing to the director with a list of specific documents they wish to access. It is also possible to order digital photos of documents for a fee.Neukamerun
Neukamerun (German for New Cameroon) was the name of Central African territories ceded by France to Germany in 1911. Upon taking office in 1907, Theodor Seitz, governor of German Kamerun, advocated the acquisition of territories from the French Congo. Germany's only major river outlet from its Central African possessions was the Congo River, and more territories to the east of Kamerun would allow for better access to that waterway.France and Germany were rivals for Morocco, and in 1911, the Agadir Crisis broke out over the question of possession of that kingdom. France and Germany agreed to negotiate on 9 July 1911, and on 4 November, they signed the Treaty of Fez. France agreed to cede part of the French Congo to Germany in exchange for German recognition of France's rights to Morocco and a strip of land in northeastern Kamerun between the Logone and Chari rivers. The Kamerun colony grew from 465,000 km² to 760,000 km². Otto Gleim was governor of Kamerun at the time. The expanded colony became known as Grand Kamerun.The exchange sparked debate in Germany; opponents argued that the new territories presented little opportunity for commercial exploitation or other profit. The German colonial secretary eventually resigned over the matter.During World War I, France was eager to regain the territories. In 1916, France seized the territories after the fall of German forces in western Africa. France took control of Cameroun as a League of Nations mandate (although it was not integrated into French Equatorial Africa). The boundary was placed back at its pre-1911 line and Neukamerun ceased to exist. The territory today forms part of Chad, Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.Postage stamps and postal history of Cameroon
Postage stamps have been used in Cameroon or Cameroun since the nineteenth century.Sao civilisation
The Sao civilisation flourished in Middle Africa from ca. the sixth century BC to as late as the sixteenth century AD. The Sao lived by the Chari River Around Lake Chad in territory that later became part of Cameroon and Chad. They are the earliest people to have left clear traces of their presence in the territory of modern Cameroon. Sometime around the 16th century, conversion to Islam changed the cultural identity of the former Sao. Today, several ethnic groups of northern Cameroon and southern Chad, but particularly the Sara, Kotoko, claim descent from the civilization of the Sao.Southern Cameroons
Southern Cameroons was the southern part of the British Mandate territory of British Cameroons in West Africa. Since 1961 it has been part of the Republic of Cameroon, where it makes up the Northwest Region and Southwest Region. Since 1994, pressure groups in the territory have sought independence from the Republic of Cameroon, and the Republic of Ambazonia was declared by the Southern Cameroons Peoples Organisation (SCAPO) on 31 August 2006.Timeline of Yaoundé
The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Yaoundé, Cameroon.
States with limited