The earliest inhabitants of Cameroon were probably the Bakas (Pygmies) who still inhabit the forests of the Southern and Eastern provinces. Linguistic evidence however indicates that the area now known as Cameroon and eastern Nigeria was the place of origin of the Bantu people.
- After the 12th century AD, the organized Islamic states of the Sudanic belt, especially those of the Kanem and Fulani peoples, at times ruled the grasslands of northern Cameroon. Small chiefdoms such as the Bamoun chiefdom led by the Sultan Ibrahim Njoya, dominated the western highlands and coastal areas.
- Cameroon derives its name from the Portuguese language. Fascinated by the large shrimps they saw on Cameroon’s coastline, 16th century Portuguese explorers named the area Rio dos Cameroes (river of prawns). However Hanno from Carthage in North Africa (Tunisia) was the first navigator who reported the sightings of Cameroon after seeing Mount Cameroon. Astounded by volcanic activity the mountain, he called it the “Chariot of the Gods.”
- 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.
- Northern Cameroon was an important part of the Muslim slave trade network. The trade was largely suppressed by the mid-19th century. Christian missions, freed Jamaican slaves from Sierra Leone established a presence in the late 19th century and continued to play a role in the Cameroonian life.In 1884 Cameroon came under German rule after the explorer Gustav Nachtigal negotiated protectorate treaties with the local chiefs.
- One key resistance leader during this period was Rudolf Duala Manga Bell, successor of Manga Ndumbe Bell. A well educated Duala King in Europe and understood the colonial system. He became the leader of a pan-Duala resistance to the policy of the German Reichstag who had developed a plan to move the riverain Duala inland to allow for wholly European riverside settlements. Manga Bell’s ferocious anti-colonial resistance culminated in martyrdom; he was hanged for high treason by the Germans.
- When World War I broke out, the territory was invaded by French and British forces. After the war, one-fifth of the former German Kamerun, which was contiguous with eastern Nigeria, was assigned to the Britain, and the remaining four-fifths was assigned to France under League of Nations mandates.
- The post-World War II period ushered in a new wave of self-governance struggles across Africa. In 1957, the French government created the autonomous state of Cameroun, and Cameroonian institutions were created along the lines of French parliamentary democracy.
- The following year, Cameroon’s Legislative Assembly of Cameroun voted for independence by 1960; France and the UN General Assembly assented. In 1959, the last step in the evolution of political institutions prior to independence took place when a government of Cameroun was formed and given full internal autonomy. Ahmadou Ahidjo became prime minister.
- Earlier in the year, on 1 January 1959, the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) had won the general elections in Southern British Cameroons, and John Ngu Foncha became prime minister. Soon Foncha and Ahidjo were discussing the possibilities of unification upon the achievement of self-governance.
- On 1 January 1960, Cameroun became an independent republic, with Ahmadou Ahidjo as the elected president.
- During 1960, consultations between Foncha and Ahidjo continued, and a proposed federation was tentatively outlined. On 11 February 1961, separate plebiscites were held in the Southern and Northern British Cameroons under the auspices of the UN. The voters in Southern Cameroons chose union with the Cameroun Republic, while those in Northern Cameroons opted for union with Nigeria.
- A draft constitution for the federation was approved by the Cameroun National Assembly on 7 September 1961, and the new federation became a reality on 1 October. The Cameroun Republic became the state of East Cameroon, and Southern British Cameroons became the state of West Cameroon in the new Federal Republic of Cameroon. Ahmadou Ahidjo was president and John Foncha his number two.
- A proposal to replace the federation with a unified state was ratified by popular referendum on 20 May 1972.
- By constitutional amendment, the office of prime minister was created 2 months later and Paul Biya was appointed to the post.
- In November 1982 he resigned and was succeeded by Biya. Ahidjo remained head of the ruling party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM).
- Following allegations of a military coup plot allegedly masterminded by Ahidjo, the former president retired to France in August 1983 and Biya became party chairman. Ahidjo was sentenced to death (later commuted to life imprisonment) in absentia in February 1984. Biya suppressed a military attempt to overthrow him and later abolished the prime ministerial role.
- Despite the launch of democratic reform in 1990 political power remains firmly within President Biya’s oligarchic system.
Mountain: Mount Cameroon, 13,350 ft
National Name: République du Cameroun / The Republic of Cameroon
President: Paul Biya (1982)
Prime Minister: Ephraim Inoni (2004)
Population: 18,467,692 (2008 est)
Provinces: 10 namely: Adamawa (1), Centre (2), East (3), Far North (4), Littoral(5), North (6), North West (7), South (8), South West (9), West (10).
Largest City / Economic Capital: Douala
Monetary Unit: CFA Franc
Languages: French & English (Both official) plus 24 major African language groups.
Ethnicity/Race: Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwest Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less lan 1%
Religion: Indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Islam 20%
Main Rivers: Benue, Nyong & Sanaga
Echoes memories of your school days, stuck in histoire geo class?