- History of Cameroon
This article documents the History of
The earliest inhabitants of
Cameroonwere 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 kingdomin the Mandara Mountainswas founded around 1500and erected magnificent fortified structures, the purpose and exact history of which is still unresolved. The Aro Confederacyof Nigeria, may have had presence in Western (likely British) Cameroon due to migration in the 18th and 19th centuries.
During the late
1770sand early 1800s, 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 coast in the
1500s, malariaprevented 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 missions established a presence in the late 19th century and continue to play a role in Cameroonian life.
German Kamerun, French Cameroun, British Cameroons"
July 5, 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of several of its neighbours became a German colony, Kamerun, with a capital first at Bueaand later at Yaoundé.
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 Sanaga Southbranch. Hospitals were opened all over the colony, including two major hospitals at Douala, one of which specialised in tropical diseases (the Germans had discovered the Cholera Bacillus). Karl Ebermeir, who became governor in 1912, wrote in an official report in 1919 that the population of Kamerun had increased significantly. However, the indigenous peoples proved reluctant to work on these projects, so the Germans instigated a harsh and unpopular system of forced labour. [DeLancey and DeLancey 125.] In fact, Jesko von Puttkamerwas relieved of duty as governor of the colony due to his untoward actions toward the native Cameroonians. [DeLancey and DeLancey 226.] In 1911 at the Treaty of Fezafter the Agadir Crisis, France ceded a nearly 300,000 km² portion of the territory of French Equatorial Africato Kamerun which became Neukamerun, while Germany ceded a smaller area in the north in present day Chadto France.
World War Ithe British invaded Cameroon from Nigeriain 1914 in the West Africa 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 a June 28, 1919League 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 Nigeriafrom the sea to Lake Chad, with an equal population was ruled from Lagosas 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 realise 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."
1955, the outlawed Union of the Peoples of Cameroon(UPC), based largely among the Bamilekeand Bassaethnic groups, began an armed struggle for independence in French Cameroon. This rebellion continued, with diminishing intensity, even after independence. Estimates of death from this conflict vary from thousands to hundreds of thousands.
Cameroon since independence
French Cameroons achieved independence in
1960as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year, on October 1, 1961, the largely Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroonsvoted to join Nigeria; the largely Christian southern third, Southern Cameroons, voted to join with the Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The formerly French and British regions each maintained substantial autonomy. Ahmadou Ahidjo, a French-educated Fulani, was chosen president of the federation in 1961. Ahidjo, relying on a pervasive internal security apparatus, outlawed all political parties but his own in 1966. He successfully suppressed the continuing UPC rebellion, capturing the last important rebel leader in 1970. 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.
Ahidjo resigned as president in
1982and was constitutionally succeeded by his Prime Minister, Paul Biya, a career official from the Beti-Pahuinethnic group. Ahidjo later regretted his choice of successors, but his supporters failed to overthrow Biya in a 1984 coup. Biya won single-candidate elections in 1983and 1984when the country was again named the Republic of Cameroon. Biya has remained in power, winning flawed multiparty elections in 1992, 1997, and 2004. His Cameroon People's Democratic Movement(CPDM) party holds a sizeable majority in the legislature.
August 15, 1984, Lake Monounexploded in a limnic eruptionthat released carbon dioxide, suffocating 37 people to death. On August 21, 1986, another limnic eruption at Lake Nyoskilled as many as 1,800 people and 3,500 livestock. The two disasters are the only recorded instances of limnic eruptions.
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 Quarter Finals to England.
* [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26431.htm Background Note: Cameroon] from the U.S. Department of State.
* Bullock, A. L. C. (1939). "Germany's Colonial Demands",
Oxford University Press.
* DeLancey, Mark W., and DeLancey, Mark Dike (2000): "Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon" (3rd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.
* Schnee, Heinrich (1926). "German Colonization, Past and Future: The Truth about the German Colonies." London:
George Allen & Unwin.
* [http://unimaps.com/cameroon1914/index.html Map of German Cameroon (Kamerun) in 1914]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/africa/cameroon.html History of Cameroon]
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