Cameroon History


Figure 1.--This postcard was taken in Cameroon during the 1910s. The writing is in English, but the name still has the German spelling (Kamerun). We can assume that the photo was taken just after Versailles Treaty in the British zone. Because the form of huts, the photo was probablhy taken in the south. In southern Cameroun and in neighboring Gabon there are rectangular-plan huts. In northern Cameroon there are round-plan huts.

Cameroon is a political entity created by the colonial powers (England, France, and Germany) with no regard for tribal/ethnic boundaries or topographic features. European contact with Cameroon began when Portuguese explorers sailed up the Wouri River (1472). They named the river the Rio dos Camarőes (River of Prawns). At about the same time, Fulani pastoral nomads began moving from from what is now Nigeria began to migrate in Cameroon (anout 1500). This forced the indigenous forest peoples southwards. The Fulani migration accelerated slave traders supplying Dutch, Portuguese and British slavers (early-17th century). Germany signed a treaty with the chiefdoms of Douala and central Bamiléké Plateau (1884). This essentially blocked expanding Britih influence. The British occupied Cameroon during World War I. After World War I, as part of the Versailles Peace Treaty (1919), the German protectorate of Kamerun was parfitioned between France and Britain. Revolts against French control were supressed by French authorities (1950s). By this time, the independence movement throughout Africa was too strong for France and the other European powers to resist. The French granted self-government (1958) and then independence (1960). The boundaries of Cameroon changed during the colonial period and did not assume the modern configuration until independence (1961). As a result of the boundary and territorial shifts, Camerron achieved independence as a mixed Anglophone, Francophone nation. This dichotomy has affected post-indepemdence development.

Pre-History

The original inhabitants of what is now Cameroon were the small-statured Pygmie people.

Ancient History

The explorer Hanno from Carthage in North Africa (modern Tunisia) appears to have been the first individual from north of the Sahara to report seeing Mount Cameroon (500 BC). Trade developed across the Sahara between the clasical world and West Africa. Products included ivory, gold, slaves and other items. Some of this trade originated in northern Cameroon. As far as we know, there was no seaborn trde as far as Cameroon, at least there is no record of it. The first Bantu-tribes migrated from what is now northern Nigeria to Cameroon (200-100 BC). Bantu speaking people were primarily agriculturalists. They required large areas of land which is probably why they were migrating. The Bantu forced the more primitive Pigmy people into marginal land, primarily the forrests. The Sao culture developed to the south of Lake Chad.

African Empires


European Maritime Expanion

The Portugues in an effort to open trade with the East began sailing down the coast of Africa. Sucessive navigators moved fyrther abd further down the coast. A Portuguese expedition lead by Fernando Po reached the coast of Cameroon (1472). They reached Douala and then sailed up the Wouri River. They name it Rio dos Camarőes (Prawn/Shrimp River). To this date the shrimp fishery is important to the local economy. This would be the origins of the name of the future colonies and ultumately the country. A major development was that the centuries old slave trade was no longer only a trans-Saharan caravan trade, but now a maritime trade as well which shifted the trade from the north to the south. Chiefs on the coast increased their wealth and power by participating in the slave trade. They made agreements with the Portuguese. Similar arrangements were also made with other Europeans when they arrived, including the English, Dutch, French, and Spanish. The Cameroon chiefs served as middlemen between the Europeans and up-country tribes with provided the trade goods, largely slaves and ivory. The Europeans exchanged them from cloth and metal-products.

The Fulani

Fulani pastoral nomads, at about the same time the Portuguese reached West Africa, began moving from from what is now Nigeria began to migrate in Cameroon (anout 1500). This forced the indigenous forest peoples southwards. The Fulani migration accelerated slave traders supplying Dutch, Portuguese and British slavers (early-17th century).

Colonial Era

Gradually the Eropeans expanded their activities along the coast beyond mere training. A small numbers of Portuguese settlers start plantations (1520). The Trans-Atlantic slave trade begins to develop as Native Americans in the Caribbean begin to die in large numbers and workers were needed to replace them. Pastoral Nomads continue immigrating from Nigeria. The continuing conflict between the migrating and indigenous tribes produces captives as well as refugees vulnerable for the mostly Arab slave traders. The Dutch come to dominate the slave trade in Cameroon (17th century). British Christians begin protesting the slave trade (18th century). The London Baptist Missionary Society (LBMS) was particulary active in the British Abolition Movement. The LBMS estanlished a Christian colony in Victoria (modrn Limbe). Freed sleaves from Jamaica, Ghana, and Liberiawere sttled there. Also local people who converted to Christianity settled there. The British Royal Navy plays a centrl role in ending the Atlantic slave tade. Christian missionaries played an important role in the colonial era. Cameroon is a political entity created by the colonial powers (England, France, and Germany) with no regard for tribal/ethnic boundaries or topographic features. Germany signed a treaty with the chiefdoms of Douala and central Bamiléké Plateau (1884). This essentially blocked expanding Britih influence. The British occupied Cameroon during World War I. After World War I, as part of the Versailles Peace Treaty (1919), the German protectorate of Kamerun was partitioned between France and Britain.

World War II

The British and French when they occupied German Kamerun durung Workd war I did not confiscate the possessiuoins of the German settlers, many of who stayed on after the War. These settlers operating plantations and business become supportive of the new NAZI Government in Germany (1930s). Many hoped that the new militarized Germany might eventually reclaim the colony. When Hitler launched World War II by invading Poland, British and French officials seize the remaining German-owned plantations (1939-40). After the fall of France (June 1940), the country's colonial dependencies proclaimed loyalty to Marshal Petain' new Vichy regime. Central Africa was an exception. As soon as it was clear that the British would and could continue to resist the Germans, the French Central African colonies began going over to the Free French. Chad was the first to declare loyalty to the Free French (August 26, 1940). The other colonies quickly followed suit: Cameroon (August 27). French Congo (August 29), and Ubangi-Shari (August 30). Only Gabon retained its ties to Vichy. The allies occupied it (October 27 - November 12). After the War, the British and French League of Nations mandates to the Cameroon are olonies are renewed by the new United Nations. The British continues to rule Cameroon from Nigeria. The confiscated German plantations are turned over to a new Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) (1947). The CDC is today one of the largest companies in Cameroon.

Independence

Througout Africa after World War II interest in political activity and the idea of inpendence grew among the colonial peoples. Allied leaders spoke of democracy and freedom throughout the War. This could not but affect the colonial peoples ruled by the Europeans. And some Africans now had European educations. With the outbreak of the Cold war, Communist thought also entered political ferment. The French and British were not at first receptive. Political parties begin to emerge in both the French and British sectors of Cameroon. Most of the parties demand independence. Some wants the British and Frence colonies to be united. Some in British Cameroon want to join (English-speaking) Nigeria which was also moving toward ndeoendence. Pne of the most imporant new parties was the Union des Populations Camerounaises (UPC). The UPC organizes a revolt in the major towns of French Cameroon (1955). French authorities supress the revolt. everal hundred lives are lost and considerable destruction occurs in the towns where the revolt broke out. The French ban the UPC (1956). The party continues to operate underground as a covert freedom movement. Demand for independence grows. By this time, the independence movement throughout Africa was too strong for Britain and France to resist. The French granted self-government (1958). Ahmadou Ahidjo forms the l'Union Camerounaise (1958). He becomes prime minister of the new Assemblée Legislative du Cameroun. He works closely within self-rule French system, but advocates independence and reunification of the two colonies. France grants independence. Ahidjo proclaimed independence of the Republic of Cameroon in the former French Cameroon (January 1960). He is inaugurated president and as his priority effort begins working on the unification of the British and French colonies. The British oversee a referendum in their Cameroon colony with the support of the United Nations (October 1961). The Northern part of British Cameroon votes to join Nigeria with its Muslim mjority. The Chritian south votes to join the largely Christian French speaking Cameroun. The British respect the will of people expressed in the the referendum although there was some disagreement over the results. It is at this time that the modern configuration of the county appear. As a result of the boundary and territorial shifts, Camerron achieved independence as a mixed Anglophone, Francophone nation, a rare development in Africa. This dichotomy has affected post-indepemdence development. Frequent disorders occur in the new united country, They are supressed with assistance of the French military (1961-63).

United Republic of Cameroun








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Created: 10:26 AM 11/22/2009
Last updated: 9:52 PM 5/23/2012