Cameroon gained its name from what Portuguese settlers had named
the River of Shrimp, Rio dos Camarões, after they reached the
coast in 1472. The history of Cameroon pretty much followed the
usual course over the subsequent centuries with slavery and trade
being the main focus of the land's contact with the west.
In 1884 the German
Empire claimed the territory during the scramble for Africa and it
became known as the Colony of Kamerun. After Germany's defeat in
World War I Kamerun became a League of Nations Mandate territory
being split into British Cameroon and French Cameroun in 1919.
Whilst the French adopted their
part of Cameroon into France, the British merely administered their mandates of
Northern Cameroons and
Southern Cameroons from
their other nearby colony of Nigeria, effectively making the British Cameroons a colony of a
colony. This did not go down well with their new 'subjects'. By 1946 when both mandates were renewed as UN Trusteeships, French Cameroun
was pressing hard for independence a movement coordinated by the Union of
the Peoples of Cameroon which was founded on April 10, 1948, whilst the
British, aware that the political tide was turning, pondered whether to let
their part of the country merge with that held by the French or to incorporate
it within Nigeria.
In the event, French Cameroun gained independence from France
on 1st January 1960 as the Republic of Cameroun under President Ahmadou Ahidjo and, the following year Northern Cameroons voted to be integrated into the newly
independent Nigeria, whilst Southern Cameroons opted to be part of the newly
Republic of Cameroon under the stewardship of President Ahmadou Ahidjo, the
then leader of French Cameroun. Despite independence the country was still marred by
guerrilla tactics from the rebel Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) and
President Ahidjo used this conflict as a means to strengthen the presidency
making his party, the Cameroon National Union (CNU), the country's only
political force in 1966. The federal system of government which had given the
former Southern Cameroons relative autonomy was abolished in 1972
and the country was reborn as the United Republic of Cameroon in that year.
loss of autonomy for Southern Cameroons created a strong movement there to break away and form the independent Republic of Ambazonia.
Indeed this was proclaimed in 1999 but has gained no recognition either within
and outside of Cameroon. President Ahmadou Ahidjo was re-elected president in 1965, 1970, 1975 and
1980 however he resigned on 4 November 1982 citing health issues. He was
succeeded by his prime minister Paul Biya, however they soon fell out and Ahidjo
was forced into exile the following year, dying in Senegal in 1989. During this
period, Biya effectively wiped his predecessor's rule from history removing his
supporters from office and replacing all images of the country's first president
with his own. Biya
remains in office to this day and he maintains a firm grip on power however
there has been movement towards democratic reform with the introduction of
multi-party politics. The video below gives a fascinating insight into colonial
Cameroon during the period of French rule.