Of all the peoples in Cameroon, the pygmy
people baka (or bakola) have lived the longest in the
area. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, many slaves
were brought from the area to America. In 1884 Cameroon
became a German protectorate. The Germans were driven
away during the First World War and Cameroon was divided
into a French and a British zone. French Cameroon became
independent in 1960 and the following year the current
Republic of Cameroon was formed.
Archaeological finds in various parts of Cameroon
indicate that people lived there already 50,000 years
ago, but little is known about this period. The first
known residents were pygmy people. Later, Diet-speaking
people immigrated from the south. They settled in the
area of today's southern and western Cameroon. In the
11th century AD, the Muslim Fulani people from the Niger
basin in the northwest came to the northern part of
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Cameroon, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Portuguese sailors arrived in the area of today's
Cameroon in 1472. In the Wouri River they discovered
river crayfish which they mistakenly believed were
shrimp - on Portuguese camarőes - and so the
country got its name. With the arrival of Europeans, a
lively trade started on the coasts. Cameroon became a
major supplier to the slave trade across the Atlantic.
Inland there were kingdoms that sold slaves to European
merchants, who shipped them to America. At the beginning
of the 19th century the slave trade went back. Instead,
Europeans started trading rubber and palm oil.
A French and a British zone
In the 1880s, the European superpowers competed to
seize land in Africa. In Cameroon, the Germans came
before the British and made the area a German
protectorate in 1884. The Germans laid the foundation
for a school system and built roads and railways at the
price of many Africans' lives. The workers succumbed to
illness, overwork, and malnutrition to such an extent
that the colonial administration suggested plantation
owners to build special cemeteries for them.
During the First World War, French, British and
Belgian forces jointly expelled the Germans from
Cameroon. After the end of the war in 1918, the area was
divided into a French and a British zone. France took
four-fifths of the land area, while the British received
the fifth that ran along the border with Nigeria in the
northwest. The division was confirmed in 1922 when the
United Nations' forerunner of the League of Nations
instructed Britain and France to manage their respective
French Cameroon was placed directly under French rule
and the cultural influence of the colonial power became
strong. The road network and the railways were expanded
with the help of forced labor, and the coffee and cocoa
cultivations developed into bearing export industries.
The British did not invest as much in developing British
Cameroon, but administered the area as part of their
colony of Nigeria with local chieftains who were allowed
to implement British policy.
The Republic of Cameroon is formed
After World War II, both French and British Cameroon
demanded independence and a reunification of the
country. In French Cameroon, a number of political
parties were formed. In 1948, the Cameroonian People's
Union (UPC) was founded, which stood for "unifying and
immediate independence". In 1956, the party's endeavors
culminated in a revolt that was defeated. The UPC was
banned, but launched a guerrilla war with Communist
signs. The colonial power's attempt to quell the
uprising hit the douala, baliméké and base people
In 1957, French Cameroon gained internal autonomy.
The domestic government was led by André-Marie Mbida
with Ahmadou Ahidjo as deputy head of government. The
French prohibited the new government from negotiating
with the UPC, which led to new fighting in the coming
years. The government had strong domestic support and
managed to negotiate the country's independence in
January 1960. Ahmadou Ahidjo was elected President of
the Republic of Cameroon the same year.
In British Cameroon, liberation from colonialism
slowed. It was not until 1955 that a political party
with independence and unity was founded on the program.
Following a 1961 referendum, the northern part of
British Cameroon joined Nigeria while the southern part
merged with the Republic of Cameroon in a federation.