Cameroon Profile (A Brief History)
Updated: Oct 31, 2020
Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon, is located in central Africa off the coast of Gulf of Guinea, and is bordered by Nigeria to the north, Chad to the northeast, the Central Africa Republic to the east, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo to the south. Cameroon has an ethnically diverse population of 25 million people who make up over 200 different ethnic groups and speak over 250 languages. The capital city of Cameroon is Yaoundé located in the south-central of the coast of Guinea. The official national languages of Cameroon are French and English.
Early history of Cameroon
Generally, There are three major linguistic groups in the country; the Sudanic-speaking people of the northern area, the Bantu-speaking group of the southern area, and the people of the west who speak a semi-Bantu dialect. The largest tribes in Cameroon include the Maka, Duala, Ndjem, Fang, Beti, Sao, Fulani, Kanuri, Bamileke, and Tikar.
Forest People of Central Africa
The area known today as Cameroon had been settled as early as 12,000 years ago during the Neolithic era. The earliest inhabitants of the Cameroon were the Pygmies, whose adult males grew less than 5.9 feet in height. They are known in the local dialect as the Babinga and Baguielli groups, and dwelled as small bands of hunter-gatherers in the rain forest of Southern Cameroon, they still dwell in the forests of the South and Eastern provinces of Cameroon to this day
In anthropological literature they are described as “pygmies” for their short stature, are assumed to be descended from the original Middle Stone Age expansion of anatomically modern humans to Central Africa. Most modern Pygmy groups are only partially foragers and partially traders with neighboring farmers to acquire cultivated foods and other materials. A total number of about 900,000 Pygmies are estimated to be living in the Central African forests and about 60% are believed to be in the Central Republic of Congo.
Various hypotheses have been proposed to explain the short stature of the Forest People of Central Africa, the two most widely accepted include adaptation to significantly lower average levels of ultraviolet light available beneath the rain forest and the lesser availability of protein-rich food sources in rainforest environments.
The Bantu groups were among the first to invade the territory, and by 1500 were joined by the Mandara Kingdom, and between the 18th and 19th century the Aro people of Nigeria settled in the territory as well.
The Bantu expansion refers to the migrations of the original Bantu speaking group of migrants roughly about 3,500 years ago, from West Africa into Sub-Saharan Africa. In the process the Bantu speaking settlers displaced or absorbed the inhabitants of Central Africa. The primary evidence of expansion lies in the linguistic core of the Bantu languages, which comprises of languages originating from Cameroon and Nigeria, West Africa.
The expansion is believed to have taken place between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago into two main waves, the first proceeding directly east towards East-Africa, and the second and largest went south along the African coast towards Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and as far south as South Africa.
By the early 19th century, a Jihad by Fulani soldiers would solidify the establishment of the Adamawa Emirates, with many of the initial settlers displaced from northern Cameroon.
Arrival of the Europeans in Cameroon
In 1472, Portuguese sailors arrived at the coast primarily for local goods trading, and the abundance of shrimps in the Wouri river prompted them to tag it as the Shrimp River. However, malaria would discourage the Portuguese from settling and conquering the territory; until the later end of the 19th century when the malaria drug, quinine, became available.
Other European explorers continued to engage West Africa in trade, and by 1868 Germany had established substantial roots in the region and built a warehouse on the estuary of the Wouri River. The territory was later annexed by the German emperor with a treaty made with one of its local rulers. In 1884 the German empire laid claim over Cameroon as its territory and began to establish their rule over the land. The native Cameroonians resisted the Germans who were high-handed in their administration and used forced labor to cultivate the lands.
Colonialization of Cameroon
Kamerun, as the German colony was called, following the end of World War I would become territories of France and Britain following a League of Nations Mandate. In 1919, Cameroon was divided into two territories with France controlling half of the country and Britain controlling the other half. The economy and infrastructure of the French Cameroon was improved with its integration with French West Africa, and modification of the forced labor system improved working conditions.
The administration of the British Cameroon (divided as Northern Cameroon and Southern Cameroon) was made from neighboring Nigeria, where the British had already colonized Nigeria. After the British takeover there would be an influx of workers from Nigeria into Cameroon, the presence of these migrant workers from Nigeria eradicated the need for the forced labor system. However, the natives felt neglected and were irritated by the presence of non-indigenes in their land.
Independence of Cameroon
After World War II the conversion of the League of Nations Mandate into the United Nations Trusteeships in 1946 brought up the quest for Independence by French Cameroon nationalists. In 1955 a pro-independence political party, the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) was formed, with Ruben Um Nyobe as its leader. The Union was outlawed and repressed by France and the Bamileke War would be waged by the UPC, several leaders of the party would be assassinated by the French military.
Meanwhile, in 1960 the British Cameroon was contemplating between re-uniting itself with its French Cameroon half or joining forces with Nigeria which also became independent that same year. The Southern area voted to re-join French Cameroon while the Northern area who were mainly Muslims opted to be united with Nigeria. The Northern Cameroon became the Sardauna Province of Northern Nigeria in May of 1961.
On the 1st of January 1960, France granted the French Cameroon independence, and subsequently the British Southern Cameroon gained independence by vote of a United Nations General Assembly.
Both former colonies united to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon, with Ahmadou Ahidjo as its first president and Yaounde as its capital city. In 1982 Ahidjo stepped down and handed over the reins of power to Paul Biya who is still the president to-date, winning multiple times in multiparty elections that were grossly flawed.
In 2016, there were serious protests from the English-speaking regions of Cameroon who were seeking to separate from Cameroon. This former British Southern Cameroon region is asking for greater autonomy and, possibly, full secession from Cameroon to stand alone as the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
Economy of Cameroon
One of the main gateways into Central African countries of Chad, Congo, and the Central African Republic, Cameroon has turned into an economic powerhouse with a GDP of 40 billion dollars. Its diverse economy is heavily affected by global pricing of commodity goods that country exports.
With an abundance of natural resources Cameroon is a major producer of agricultural products that accounts for 14% of GDP and employs almost 50% of the country’s workforce. Cameroon produces cocoa, coffee, banana, palm products, tobacco, rubber, cotton, and other products.
The industry sector is 35% of GDP and employs 14% of the workforce and powered by an oil and gas industry that is in the early stages of production. Other industry sectors include food processing, sawmills, and the manufacturing of consumer goods and textiles.
The services industry accounts for 50% of GDP and employs 40% of the workforce.The industry is powered by the telecommunications, banking, and transport.