History of Cameroon

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[edit] Early history

Image:German building at Ambam.jpg
German-built building at Ambam, today used as a school

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 magnificent fortified structures, the purpose and exact history of which is still unresolved. The Aro Confederacy of Nigeria, had presence in Western Cameroon due to migration in the 18th and 19th centuries.

During the late 1770s and 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, 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 missions established a presence in the late 19th century and continue to play a role in Cameroonian life.

[edit] Colonization

Image:Cameroon boundary changes.PNG
Changes in the borders of Cameroon.

Beginning on July 5, 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of several of its neighbors became the German colony of Kamerun, with a capital first at Buea and 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 South branch. 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.<ref>DeLancey and DeLancey 125.</ref> In fact, Jesco von Puttkamer was relieved of duty as governor of the colony due to his untoward actions toward the native Cameroonians.<ref>DeLancey and DeLancey 226.</ref>

In World War I the British invaded Cameroon from Nigeria in 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, 1919 League of Nations mandate. France gained the larger geographical share, transferred outlying regions 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."

In 1955, the outlawed Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), based largely among the Bamileke and Bassa ethnic 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.

[edit] Cameroon since independence

French Cameroons achieved independence in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year, 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 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 1982 and was constitutionally succeeded by his Prime Minister, Paul Biya, a career official from the Beti-Pahuin ethnic 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 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, and 2004. His Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) party holds a sizeable majority in the legislature.

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.

Cameroon has received some international attention following the realtive success of its football team. It has qualifed for the FIFA World Cup on a number of occasions. It's most notable performance being at Italia 90, beating Argentina the then reigning Champions in the opening game, and eventually losing in extra time in the Quarter Finals to England.

[edit] References

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • 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.

[edit] Notes

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[edit] External links

[edit] See also


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