Reunification should precede independence. Dr. Félix Roland Moumié (1948)
Cameroon: Timeline from 1200 to 1900s
Written history was first recorded in the north in the eighth century and increased after the arrival of arabized peoples in the late 1200s. Written records of developments in the south, however, did not begin until the end of the fifteenth century and the arrival of the first Europeans. The organized states that developed in the Sudanic belt — a region running across Africa south of the Sahara and north of Lake Chad — had a direct influence only on the northern half of the country.
By the early 1200s the Bornu, living west of Lake Chad, had fallen under the hegemony of the Kanem empire east of the lake.
In 1386 attacks from the east forced the mai to relocate west of Lake Chad, and by bringing some of his more loyal followers with him he was able to transfer the dynasty and the basic socio-political order associated with it to the new geographic base. The Sefuwa dynasty maintained its dominant position by means of a feudalistic hierarchy, which by the end of the eighteenth century had been transformed into a centralized bureaucracy.
After the early 1800s and until defeat by the Europeans at the end of the nineteenth century, the Fulani controlled the region running from the east of Nigeria to the Chad Basin. Their superior organization, religious zeal, and skill as mounted warriors enabled them to establish a state.
1884 the Germans claimed the region as Kamerun, in spite of the predominant role of the British along the coast. The explorer Gustav Nachtigal arrived in July 1884 to annex the Douala coast.
1916 Cameroon ceased to be a German possession after Germany lost her colonies during the First World War (1914-1918)
1919, the country was given the status of a League of Nations mandate administered by Britain and France.
During the 1990s, anglophone Cameroonians felt they were politically and economically at a disadvantage, and the tensions rose with their francophone compatriots.
A controversial independence
In 1919, after the First World War, France and Britain each got a piece of formerly German Cameroon. in 1946 Jeucafra, which had survived the war, was reorganized into the Union Camerounaise Francaise (Unicafra). The new party failed as it offered no agenda for Cameroon’s political future.
Established in 1948 by Reuben Um Nyobé, the UPC was determined “to group and unite the inhabitants of the territory in order to permit the most rapid evolution of the peoples and the raising of their standard on living. Even more worrying for the French, the UPC leaders managed to make themselves heard outside the country — in France, but also in New York, where Um Nyobè traveled on three occasions to make the case for Cameroonian independence before the United Nations. Each time he returned to Cameroon, those who openly defied the French regime eagerly welcomed him. His moderate and determined speeches to the Trusteeship Council and the General Assembly were duplicated and distributed throughout the country.
The UPC, the National Union of the Peoples of Cameroon under the leadership of Félix Roland Moumié, now argued that both Cameroon should first be reunited before they became jointly independent. But then Prime Minister Ahmadou Ahidjo saw independence as the country’s primary goal. This led Moumié to found the Cameroonian Liberation Army in May 1959. It consisted of UPC fighters who had already rebelled against the French government months earlier.
On New Year’s Eve of 1959, shots rang out in the city. The next morning, President Ahidjo proclaimed independence. South Cameroonians, controlled by the British, were watching very closely what was happening on the French side.
After independence was declared on January 1, 1960, an Orwellian silence descended on the state. In the decades that followed, the slightest evocation of the liberation movement that France had helped the postcolonial state to repress resulted in arrest, interrogation, imprisonment, or worse. Judges in military tribunals sentenced dissidents to years of imprisonment in the regime’s ominous internment camps. Cameroon’s liberation movement leaders could only be honored clandestinely, out of sight of security forces as brutal as they were omnipresent.
British South Cameroon gained independence in a UN referendum on February 11, 1961. It was immediately attached to the former French Cameroon, while the British northern part was annexed to Nigeria. The Republic of Cameroon and South Cameroon became federal states. Nine months later, on October 1, 1961, they formed the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The federation of two states became the United Republic of Cameroon after a second referendum on May 20, 1972.
40 years of separate history under two different “lords”, as well as the circumstances and consequences of this “unification” have left their mark to this day. Official bilingualism, different school and judicial systems and a separatist movement are the most obvious evidence of this.
In 1984, the young President of the Republic, Paul Biya, decided by decree to rename the country the Republic of Cameroon. The Anglophone population of Cameroon felt excluded and systematically oppressed in a country they had not wanted to belong to from the start.
The central government in Yaounde is trying to defuse the tension through measures like decentralization and the recognition of a special status for the English-speaking regions. But three years of war have done much damage. So far the civil war started by Anglophone secessionists has claimed 3000 lives. Thousands were displaced. Almost the entire economy of the English-speaking part of the country has been badly affected. Sixty years after independence, Cameroon has yet to shed the burden of the past.
From united Cameroun to Cameroon
In Cameroon, there has been a surge in protests by the English speaking minority against the dominance of the francophone majority. Understanding the country’s colonial past helps explain the depth of this animosity.
There are two English-speaking regions in Cameroon, but eight French-speaking ones. Anglophone Cameroonians complain to this day that English speakers are underrepresented in key government positions and that ordinary people are marginalized because they lack a good command of the French language.
In 1995, the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) came to fore with the demand for the creation of an independent state called Southern Cameroons. That was the term for the southern part of British Cameroons. A government crackdown on the SCNC ensued. In one incident, Amnesty International reported in 2002 that six members of the SCNC had been detained without charge at.
In 2017, some firebrands are agitating for secession from francophone Cameroon, but more moderate Anglophones favor the federalism that existed from 1961 to 1972 when Ahmadou Ahidjo was president.
The surge in protests by the anglophone minority, which began as lawyers and teachers strikes in October 2016, is an expression of perceived economic injustice as well ass cultural and linguistic discrimination. Cameroon is rich in oil and is among the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa, but the English-speaking community complains that the wealth hasn’t been shared out fairly.
Cameroon is endowed with abundant mineral wealth. Large amounts of Kyanite (an aluminum silicate) and bauxite at Minimmartap and Ngaoundéré and cameroon’s deposits are significant enough to make it a major world producer. There is also some gold in the eastern Cameroon and Cassiterite occurs in the Darlé River valley in the Northeast. Cameroon is also full of other resources including iron at Kribi, uranium, rutole, nickel, and manganese. Petroleum deposits are also part Cameroon geological advantages since 1950 and has been the country’s most important export.
Hydroelectricity provides the vast majority of Cameroon’s power supply located in Sanaga River. This minerals potential is what really attract others countries explaining the dependent relation between Cameroon and Western countries.
Cameroon is France’s fifth largest commercial partner in the whole Sub-Saharan Africa. And France being Cameroon’s first trading partner (559 million dollar) followed by China (488 million dollar), Italy (392 million dollar), Belgium-Luxembourg (359 million dollar) and Netherlands (356 million dollar). Cameroon exports to France in 2008 is about 370 million Euros of petroleum products, aluminium and fruits.
Furthermore many French companies are implanted in Cameroon and are into petroleum exploitation, Gas and most of those companies have the monopoly in the country. In 2018 France imported from Cameroon about 31.9% of petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals. Cocoa butter, fat and oil is about 19.7%. It is also important to note that until recently the Douala Port was managed by France company.
This attitude toward Cameroon is rooted in the political strategy France has towards its colonies. Indeed since independence, the access to some strategical resources has always being the priority of France. In 1961 Charles de Gaulle stated: “our strategy is the one based one protecting our interests. And what are our interests? Our interests is the free exploitation of petroleum oil and Gas that we discovered and will discover in the years to come”.
CURRENT POLITIC OF DEVELOPMENT
Cameroon’s long term development vision by 2035 is to make Cameroon an emerging, democratic and united country in its diversity. Indeed by 2035, Cameroon envision to have a sustainable economy and social development, where manufacturing industry is very predominant. This will enable the country to have a strong integration into the world economy.
Furthermore, in the next 15 years, the democratic Cameroon envisioned will be effective through very strong and stable institutions with an independent judiciary system. This can only be possible with a law-governed state, where authority is rooted into popular legitimacy of its elected leaders, and where Individual and collective freedoms are also respected.
Finally, National unity and integration will be the cornerstone of the politic of development of the country. Due to the diversity within the population, it will be very important to have a Cameroon very united where values such as patriotism, merit, and respect for authority, peace, solidarity, integrity, hard work and pride are measuring rods of individual and collective behaviors.
According to the National Strategic plan for development, the economy of the country will be boosted up to 8% and favorable conditions will be set to develop the secondary sector. The National strategic plan also envision to bring better conditions to the population and ease access to the necessary services and facilities in other to significantly reduce the rate of poverty in the country to 25% in 2030.
Cameroon, a difficult journey towards women’s emancipation and gender equality.
The movement for the empowerment and autonomy of women in Cameroon, and the improvement of their political, social, economic, and health status, has walked a long distance, but is still far from reaching its intended destination. Discrimination between girls and boys, women and men remain a major obstacle to human development in Cameroon.
The SDG5 aims to encourage equal opportunities for men and women in economic development, to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, including early and forced marriage, and to promote equitable opportunities for participation at all levels. At its national voluntary review of SDGs in June 2019, Cameroon contextualized the implementation of the SDG5 at the national level in five mains points:
- Target 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against women and girls
- Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, including trafficking and sexual and other forms of exploitation, from public and private life
- Target 5.3: Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child marriage, early or forced marriage and female genital mutilation
- Target 5.4: Take into account and value unpaid care and domestic work, through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibilities in the household and family, according to the national context.
- Target 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal access to leadership positions at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.
Considering the national strategy, the country is far from reaching these main challenges by 2030.
Rudolf Duala Manga Bell
Rudolf Duala Manga Bell (1873 – 8 August 1914) was a Duala king and resistance leader in the German colony of Kamerun (Cameroon). After being educated in both Kamerun and Europe, he succeeded his father Manga Ndumbe Bell on 2 September 1908, styling himself after European rulers, and generally supporting the colonial German authorities. He was quite wealthy and educated, although his father left him a substantial debt. In 1910 the German Reichstag developed a plan by which the river in Duala would be moved inland to allow for wholly European riverside settlements. Manga Bell became the leader of pan-Duala resistance to the policy. He and the other chiefs at first pressured the administration through letters, petitions, and legal arguments, but these were ignored or rebutted.
Delphine sanga Zanga Tsogo
Delphine sanga Zanga Tsogo was born in 1935 in the town of Lomié in eastern Cameroon. After her studies at the modern college of young girls of Douala (now New-Bell High School) until 1955, she flies to France where she obtains a diploma of state nurse in the city of Toulouse. Back in Cameroon in the 1960s, she worked in several public hospitals and also became involved in politics where she was elected as a member of parliament. She became national president of the Cameroonian Women’s Council in 1964. She was later the first woman to enter the government, first as deputy minister of health, then as deputy minister of health and later as minister of social affairs (1970-1975).
Koyo kouoh, born in 1967 is an independent Cameroonian curator, museum curator and cultural producer who has been serving as Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa since 2019. In 2015, New York Times called her “one of Africa’s pre-eminent art curator and managers. She served as curatorial advisor for documenta 12 and documenta13, co-curated les “Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine” in Bamako and also collaborated with the Dakar Biennial. She also served as curator of the 2016 edition of EVA international, the Republic of Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art.
The essential of her art is based on questions around gender, feminism, sexuality and history of Africa. Her philosophy is based on thinking about an exhibition commissioner of decolonization, and, in more depth, the refusal to think about it in a theoretical space which has, above all, been defined by the West or, reflecting on the consequences of male dominance and misogynist transgressions existing in a professional field marked by the hierarchies of gender and race.
Mongo Beti, pseudonym of Alexandre Biyidi Awala (1932–2001), novelist writing in French. In 1972, the French government censored French Cameroonian writer Mongo Beti’s Main basse sur le Cameroun, the first work describing the atrocities of the independence war. The French government immediately banned it and destroyed all available copies.
Reve d’un Democrate Africain Roman (Französisch) 2010 de Richard Gatchoko Youaleu
Calixthe Beyala (1961– ), novelist writing in French
– We face forward: Art from west Africa today koyo (2012)
– Word! Word? Word. Issa Samb and the indecipherable form, 2013
– Body Talk: Feminism, Sxuality and the body in the Work of Six African Women Artists. (2015)
– Tôchter Afrikas: Schwarze Frauen erzâhlen, (1997)