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History

Pre-colonial history

Little is known about the early history of Cameroon, as the "discoverer" and later colonizers neither understood nor were interested in the history and traditions of the local peoples. Thus in almost all countries this part of African history was unexplored.
But many discovered stones testify that the country was inhabited since prehistoric eras. Since ancient times, the people traded with the Mediterranean and mainly goods like ivory, exotic skins and feathers, as well as Natron were exported. Imports from the North African countries were beads, bronze, salt and textiles. At the time Pygmies lived in Cameroon as the real natives. In the 10th century, Sao people came down from Chad and developed a culture that was known especially through numerous terracotta and bronze jewellery findings. In the 14th and 15th century the Sao were chased into the Adamaoua highlands. The Massa, Moundang and Toupouri, coming out of the Sudan and Abyssinia, partly settled in Cameroon and mixed with the local population. At the same time Bantu Bamiléké, Banen and Bassa from the upper Nile originating moved into the central highlands of Cameroon. A second wave of immigration of Bantu took place in the 17th Century from the South, mainly Douala people. 1805 a group of the Islamic Peul from Nigeria extended the "holy war" to northern Cameroon, where it turned against the indigenous, animistic tribes. After the overwhelming, the Adamawa kingdom was grounded under the Islamic leaders Adama as the merger of peulistic principalities. In the 19th century Fang people followed and settled in the south of Cameroon. Over the centuries due to immigration the diverse culture of Cameroon was created.

Colonial History

1472 the Portuguese navigator Fernaô Dô Pôô anchored at the Wouri River. Because of the large number of shrimp it was called "Rio dos Camaroes". Later, the name was also transferred to the city Douala and finally to the whole country. The various traders, missionaries and colonial powers adjusted the name to today's spellings Cameroun (French), Cameroon (English), and Cameroon (German).
First, the Portuguese traded successfully with the princes of Douala, especially ivory, pepper, palm oil and slaves were needed. Slowly, the English extended trade relations along the Nigerian-Cameroonian coast and declared 1807 slavery as illegal. Only in 1840, the Douala rulers Beleb a Doo and Ngand'a Kwa, called "King Bell" and "King Akwa" because of their great authority, signed a formal agreement about the ban. Shortly thereafter the first mission station was founded by the English Baptist Joseph Merrick in Bimbia, West Cameroon. His colleague Alfred Saker founded the city of Victoria in 1858.
The Germans won influence since 1868, especially through the relations of the trading houses C. Woermann and Jantzen & Thormählen. On 12th July 1884 the two rulers of Douala signed a contract of protection with the German government, represented by Dr. Gustav Nachtigal, and Cameroon became German protectorate. Probably the Douala done this to mainly secure their immediate and exclusive trade relations. The colonial power, however, was more interested in economic exploitation, resulting in exploitation of all resources. With the German colonial period began tapping the country under Eugen Zintgraff, and setting the boundaries. In the 20th Century, the administration and the economy expanded, encouraged by the issue of land concessions. Until then followed the establishment of plantations, road and rail network, schools and hospitals. The plantations meant for many peoples expropriations and the involuntary recruitment of workers which decimated entire country strokes.
1914 Germany declared war to France and that also extended to African. On 20th February 1916 the German captain von Raben surrendered in Cameroon. 2000 Germans and 100,000 Cameroonians could not longer resist against the English coming from Nigeria and the French coming from Chad and Gabon. 30,000 Cameroon fought without firearms for the German Reich and died.
The Treaty of Versailles divided Cameroon into two unequal parts, where England received the smaller, but much richer part with all German plantations in 1919. The Anglophone part was organized like decentralize Nigeria, divided into two provinces: British Northern Cameroon and British Southern Cameroon.
France transferred a centralized system and built on schools, hospitals, road and rail network and invested mainly in African family farms rather than large plantations.
With the Second World War the criticism of the colonial methods and especially the military involvement of the locals became stronger. Cameroon won the status of the "Communauté Française d’outre Mer" and was represented through two Cameroon senators in the National Assembly from 1946. This was Cameroon but too little. In 1948 the "Union des Populations du Cameroun" (UPC) was founded under Ruben Um-Nyobé that asked the immediate independence and reunification of Cameroon. France tried to maintain its power by a Franco-Cameroonian Parliament for drafting the constitution and in 1957 André-Marie Mbida was appointed as the first Cameroon Prime Minister. But until Charles de Gaulle’s inauguration, the new constitution was installed and Cameroon became independent on 1st January 1960.
In western Cameroon the process was differently. In 1946 England decided to join Cameroon to Nigeria, since they did there was no budget for the colony. The Nigerian governors took over the country's administration. In 1954, the southern province of Cameroon on the basis of a constitutional amendment received internal autonomy. The northern part, rich of resources, was now governed directly from Nigeria and only got its independence until 1957. In February 1961 a referendum on reunification with the Francophone Cameroon took place in both parts. 70% of the southern province voted for that. In the Northern Province approximately 60% decided for the affiliation of Nigeria. It is alleged that the elections were rigged, so that the profitable north should not return to Cameroon. On 1st October 1961, British Southern Cameroon and the independent French-speaking Cameroon were reunified.

Development after independence

With the reunification and the establishment of the Republic of Cameroon 1961 the regime of the dictator El Hadj Ahmadou Ahidjo Babatoura, shortly Ahidjo, began. The Communists supported UPC denied him and his party the right to lead Cameroon. Particularly in the south of Cameroon it had a broad ethnic support against the president from the north. Ahidjo turned to the French, who supported him militarily in the fight against the rebels, but also called long gratitude. With the founding of the Union Nationale Camerounaise (UNC) in 1966 Ahidjos power widened, because it was the leading party in Cameroon, and all opponents were reprisals or silenced.
With the reunification and the establishment of the Republic of Cameroon 1961 the regime of the dictator El Hadj Ahmadou Ahidjo Babatoura, shortly Ahidjo, began. The Communists supported UPC denied him and his party the right to lead Cameroon. Particularly in the south of Cameroon it had a broad ethnic support against the president from the north. Ahidjo turned to the French, who supported him militarily in the fight against the rebels, but also called long gratitude. With the founding of the Union Nationale Camerounaise (UNC) in 1966 Ahidjos power widened, because it was the leading party in Cameroon, and all opponents were reprisals or silenced.
Surprisingly in 1982 Ahidjo joined back of his office and his Prime Minister Paul Biya took over the governance. The following year Ahidjo wanted to return, but this sparked protests and an early election in the year 1984, from which Biya, with almost 100% confirmation emerged as the winner. As chairman of the UNC Paul Biya changed the name in RDPC (Rassemblement du Peuple Camerounais Démocratique) in 1985.
Due to a general amnesty and a new law concerning political parties, in 1990 emigrants gradually returned and about 160 new parties were created, including the main opposition party SDF (Social Democratic Front). After protests and demonstrations where around 300 people died a new election law and constitutional reforms were drawn in 1991. In the following spring the RDPC won in the parliamentary elections with a relative majority, but only on the boycott of the opposition parties. In 1996, a constitutional amendment extended the presidency to seven years. Until today, Paul Biya and his party RDPC were in repeatedly confirmed in the parliamentary and presidential elections, in part under boycott of the major opposition parties and irregularities.
According to Freedom House, nowadays Cameroon is politically not free. The dominant position of the president in the constitution, irregularities in the elections, little influence of the parliament and the opposition parties on the policies, high corruption, repressive regime against journalism, and the oppression of women and ethic groups are the reasons for that.
Cameroon is part of the Commonwealth of Nations, though it never was fully British colony. It now consists of 10 provinces.
The distinction in ethnic background would be: highland peoples (31 %), the equatorial Bantu (19 %), the Kirdi (11 %), Fulani (10 %), the north-western Bantu (8 %), the Nigritic (7 %) in the east and other smaller peoples, which together sum up to 14 %.