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A time line overview of big and small events in the history of Cameroon.
500 BC: The explorer Hanno from Carthage in North Africa (Tunisia) is the first foreigner who reports seeing Mount Cameroon. In the following centuries a trade of slaves and goods develops from northern Cameroon across Sahara to North Africa.
200-100 BC: The first Bantu-tribes immigrates to Cameroon from North (Nigeria). Bantu speaking tribes are traditionally agricultural requiring lots of space for farmland. The original inhabitants, the so-called "Pygmies", are gradually being forced deeper into the forests by the newcomers. The Sao culture develops in the area south of Lake Chad and more than 150 different ethnic groups inhabits Cameroon (Today it is approximately 250 different groups!).
1472: A Portuguese expedition lead by Fernando Po are the first Europeans to reach the coast of Cameroon. They reach Douala and then sails up the Wouri River. They name it "Rio dos Camarões - the Prawn River -by that giving the name to the country. With the arrival of Europeans the focus of slave trade shifts to the Coastal areas. Local chiefs on the coast increase their power by making agreements with the Portuguese. Deals are also made with traders from England, Holland, France and Germany. The chiefs serves as middlemen between Europeans and up-country tribes with something to sell. Mostly slaves and ivory are exported from Cameroon. The Europeans brings cloth and metal-products.
1520: A few Portuguese settlers starts plantations and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Pastoral Nomads are still immigrating from Nigeria again pushing the indigenous people. The constant fight for territory produces refugees vulnerable for the slave traders.
1600's: The Dutch takes over the slave trade in Cameroon.
1700's: British missionaries starts protesting against the slave trade. The London Baptist Missionary Society creates a Christian colony in Victoria (Today: Limbé). The first inhabitants of Limbé are freed slaves from Jamaica, Ghana and Liberia. Also Africans who has converted to Christianity settles in Victoria.
1863: The slavery is abolished in America. The Europe nations had done this several years earlier, but illegal slave trade continued for several years.
1845: The trade between Cameroon and Europe gradually changes and develops. The first larger European settlement is founded by the English navy engineer and missionary Alfred Saker. Saker starts building schools and churches in Douala at the mouth of Wouri River.
1858: Alfred Saker founds the first European settlements in Victoria. He sees great strategic/financial possibilities in the settlements and tries to convince the English government for making the area a crown colony.
When the slavery finally dies out, trade changes to natural resources like palm oil, ivory and gold. The Europeans starts moving deeper into the country and a s a result the Douala chiefs lose some of their influence. The King of Douala (Douala Manga Bell) writes to Queen Victoria, inviting England to form an official relationship with Douala, when he was told about the British post in Lagos, Nigeria.
The British Queen and government have their hands full in Nigeria, East Africa and other places in the world. They are reluctant in making Cameroon a British protectorate. As a result of this hesitation the Germans "wins" the territory.
July 12, 1884: Gustav Nachtigal signs a treaty with the Chiefs of Doula on behalf of the German Kaiser Wilhelm. In return for trade advantages the chiefs accept a German protectorate. The names of the chiefs (Bell, Akwa and Deïdo) lives on in Cameroon today
1886: The European colonial powers divides Africa between them at a conference in Berlin. The Europeans agrees to the new borders for the entire African continent. The borders are drawn without considering differences in culture and language for the inhabitants.
1885: Baron von Soden becomes governor of the new German colony: "Kamerun". His biggest task is fighting rebellious tribes inside the country.
1888:Explorer Georg Zenker founds the German settlement in the mountains later developing to the Capital of Yaoundé.
1907: The second German Governor, Von Puttkamer, constructs a railway into the country. With brutality and forced labour he also starts developing the colony with roads, schools and hospitals. The major town changes name from Kamerunstadt to Douala.
1914: Chief Rudolph Douala Manga Bell and military officer Martin-Paul Samba, two early nationalists resisting the German power, are executed.
1916: World War I breaks out putting a temporary stop to the development of the German colony. As a result of the war and battles in Kamerun, Britain and France finally forces Germany out of the territory.
1919: Following the war, a declaration splits up Cameroon between Britain and France. The border is drawn roughly following the line of mountains. This administrative and linguistic division of the country has been the cause of tensions and problems up until today.
Administration in British Cameroon stops the use of forced labor (thereby also slowing down the development of the area). French Cameroon continues to use forced labor until 1945.
1922: Cameroon is now officially shared between Britain and France. France now occupies the largest area and Britain keeps the area bordering their colony in Nigeria. British Cameroon and Nigeria are now being administered as one colony, but most British attention and efforts goes to development of Nigeria. British Cameroon is neglected and German settlers returns to Victoria making private plantations. The French colony continues to grow with infrastructure, a bigger port in Douala and more export. But the brutal French rule also becomes increasingly unpopular.
1924: The first president of Cameroon, El Hajj Ahmadou Ahidjo, is born in Garoua, northern Cameroon.
Many German settlers joins their plantations and business in support of
1939/1940: As World War II breaks out, all German plantations are confiscated.
1945: The British and French mandates to the colonies in Cameroon are renewed by UN after WWII. British Cameroon continues to be ruled from Nigeria.
1947: The confiscated German plantations are made into the Cameroon Development Corporation. CDC remains today on of the largest companies in Cameroon.
After WWII political parties starts to emerge in both the French and British sector of Cameroon. Most of them demands independence and some parties wants the two parts of the country to be united. Other movements in British Cameroon seeks to join the (English-speaking) Nigerian state.
1955: A revolt starts in the major towns of French Cameroon. The uprising is organised by Union des Populations Camerounaises (UPC). The revolt is put down by the French with the loss of several hundred lives and massive destruction in the towns. Obviously, these events only triggers more violence by UPC and a growing demand of independence.
1956: UPC is banned by the French government. The party continues as an illegal freedom movement.
1958: Ahmadou Ahidjo forms the party l'Union Camerounaise. He becomes prime minister of the Assemblée Legislative du Cameroun. He works closely within the French system, but calls for complete independence and reunification of the two colonies.
January 1, 1960: Ahidjo proclaims independence of the Republic of Cameroon in the former French Cameroon. He is inaugurated as president and starts working to reunite the British and French territories.
October, 1961: A unique referendum in British Cameroon is carried out with support from UN. The Northern part of British Cameroon votes to join Nigeria, while the South wants to join the French speaking Cameroun. The will of the referendum is respected, though disagreements still exists.
1961-1963: Frequent riots and uproar are stopped with help from French military.
May 20, 1972: The federal structure is dissolved and a new constitution is made with the formation of the United Republic of Cameroon.
1973: Saxophone player and singer Manu Dibango releases the album "Soul Makossa". The music is influenced by jazz and soul and has not much to do with traditional Makossa from Cameroon. But the album is a hit makes way for more exportable dance rhythms from Cameroon.
1970's: With success, Ahidjo develops agriculture in Cameroon and then focuses on industry. This development together with the discovering of oil makes way for economical and political stability. The country is rich on natural resources (oil, cocoa, coffee, timber) and has fertile soil. Cameroon are doing better than most of the neighbouring countries and a favourite to the European governments. Human rights abuses and political arrests are mostly ignored or tolerated. Ahmadou Ahidjo, like many other African presidents, starts clinging to the power and becomes unwilling to make way for reforms and true democracy. Corruption grows in Cameroon.
November, 1982: Without prior notice Ahidjo leaves his post as president. The reason is informed to be bad health. The 49 year old Prime Minister, Paul Biya, takes over presidency. Biya has worked close together with Ahidjo and has a reputation for honesty and competence.
1983: The old colonial town of Victoria gets its current name: Limbé.
1983: The people of Cameroon starts seeing a new side of Paul Biya, which emerges with his increased power. The Prime Minister and several others in the government are fired. They are said to have plotted against him. Ahidjo moves to an exile in France after similar accusations from the presidential office.
From his domicile in France, Ahidjo re-enters the political scene. He openly criticises the new President of making Cameroon a police state. Ahidjo now claims that he was forced away from Presidency by Paul Biya. The events remains unclear, but according to many sources the reason for the critique was that Biya did not allow the ex-president to take his giant fortune out of Cameroon. Ahidjo is sentenced to death in absentia!
1984: Ahidjo is again pardoned by Biya. A military coup is attempted, but fails after three days of fighting in the streets of Yaoundé. Behind the revolt are military forces still loyal to Ahidjo. People in the government suspects involvement from France in planning the revolt. An estimated death toll of the coup attempt is 1000. The political scene in Cameroon is more chaotic than ever, but after a few months everything has again calmed down. Cameroon still has a relative good and stable economy with one the highest GNPs in Africa.
1984: An explosion of CO2 from lake Monoun kills 37 people, but the accident are almost unnoticed leaving Cameroon unprepared for next big disaster in 1986.
1984: Paul Biya gets 99.98 percent of the votes in a Presidential Election where he is the only candidate.
1985: President Biya pays a visit to France. He seeks better and stronger connections to both Europe and USA.
1986: Biya is still not allowing registration of opposition parties, but small democratic changes are made. The name of his own party is changed from UNC to Rassemblement Démocratigue du Peuple Camerounias (RDPC). The new name was probably to distance himself further from ex-president Ahidjo.
1986: Cameroon becomes the fourth African nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The reason for this act is probably to please USA.
August 21, 1986: Almost 1,800 people are killed in the Lake Nyos disaster in the North Western Province. A cloud of deadly gasses suddenly erupted from the lake suffocating all life up to 25 km away from the lake. For more information visit: Degassing Nyos.
1987: The oil boom is over. This is one of the events leading to an economic crisis for Cameroon.
1988: French director Claire Denis premieres the film Chocolat. The film is inspired by her own childhood in Cameroon and delas with the relations between black/white, man/woman, child/adult.
April 24, 1988: Presidential Election. Again Paul Biya is the only candidate. This time he "wins" with 98.75 percent of the votes and continues for a new term in the office.
November 30, 1989: Ahmadou Ahidjo dies.
As a reaction to the crisis several pro-democracy movements are formed. Amnesty International publishes a report on the human rights situation in Cameroon. Torture and political arrests are criticised.
July 1, 1990: The national football (soccer) team "The Cameroon Lions" reaches quarterfinals in the World Cup. Only football is able to remove attention from the political problems ...for a while.
1990: New oil resources are found in Cameroon.
May 26, 1990: The Social Democratic Front is formed without permission from the government. Around 30,000 attend a peaceful founding rally in Bamenda. Police tries to get people away from the streets. Riots breaks out and shots are fired into the crowd killing 6 and injuring several others.
December 1990: A draft for a multiparty system is laid out by the president. After a few months more than twenty parties has registered -all in strong opposition to the ruling party. The plans for a multiparty system are dismissed when the president sees his opponents forming coalitions and growing stronger. 7 provinces in Cameroon are placed under military rule. Opposition rally's are once again banned.
July 1991: All over Cameroon a campaign of civil obedience is launched under the name "Operation Ghost Town". The general strike effectively closes down the ports and stops all transports on weekdays. Business stops all over Cameroon except from the weekends, allowing people to get what they need. Several opposition parties are banned and their leaders arrested.
November 1991: the strike finally ends when the government agrees to support the work of a constitutional committee. The committee is supposed to discuss the political future of Cameroon. All political prisoners are freed and the opposition are allowed to meet.
February 1992: Legislative elections in Cameroon. Opposition parties are allowed, but some coalitions are still denied. Independent newspapers are closed down and Paul Biya does all he can to ensure his re-election.
October 11, 1992: Presidential election. Paul Biya wins with 39,9 % of the votes, but the opposition leader John Fru Ndi gets 35,9 %. Observers from USA reports of election fraud and demonstrations break out. Soon a state of emergency is declared in the western provinces. Thousands are arrested and many people dies in the riots. Also Journalists are arrested and tortured. John Fru Ndi and other opposition members are put under house arrest.
January 1993: John Fru Ndi is released and travels to America. He is invited for the inauguration of President Clinton. The new American government imposes economic sanctions on the Cameroon government.
1994: Growing tensions between Nigeria and Cameroon in the border areas.
1994: Economic crisis leads to increased prices and devaluation of the Central African Franc.
1994: Les Têtes Brulées releases a CD with Bikutsi inspired pop-music. A few hits reaches Europe when the band tours with the national football-team.
1995: Cameroon is reluctantly accepted into the Commonwealth. The West is concerned by the human rights situation in Cameroon, but compared to the other countries in Central and West Africa, Cameroon is still a relative stable and reliable partner.
1995: Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) is formed and demands independence from Cameroon.
1996: Clashes with troops from Nigeria about the border on the Bakassa Peninsula which is rich on oil. Finally the countries accept a mediation by UN.
1997: Legislative elections. The oppositions parties calls for a boycott of the undemocratic elections, but they no longer have support from USA and France. The opposition is split and Biya is re-elected.
1998 and 1999: The business organisation Transparency International gives Cameroon the non-flattering classification as "the most corrupt country in the world". For more information visit: Transparency International.
1998: Nigeria and Cameroon agrees to exchange hundreds of war prisoners from the border conflicts.
The state of Cameroon remains with a relative healthy economy, but the rate of violent crimes increases as the population faces huge economic and social problems.
June, 2000: The World Bank supports the plans for an oil pipeline in Cameroon and Chad. For more information visit: The World Bank Group.
2000: The Catholic Church of Cameroon criticises the high level of corruption of over the country.
2001: Environmental organisations protests over the pipeline project and the general deforestation of Cameroon.
February 14, 2003: The CO2 level is critical in Lake Monoun and a new degassing project starts.