Cameroon History Timeline


Early history

The earliest inhabitants of Cameroon were probably the Baka (Pygmies). They still inhabit the forests of the south and east provinces.[1] Bantu speakers originating in the Cameroonian highlands were among the first groups to move out before other invaders. The Mandara kingdom in the Mandara Mountains was founded around 1500 and erected fortified structures, the purpose and exact history of which are still unresolved. The Aro Confederacy of Nigeria had a presence in western (later called British) Cameroon due to trade and migration in the 18th and 19th centuries.

During the late 1770s and the early 19th century, the Fulani, a pastoral Islamic people of the western Sahel, conquered most of what is now northern Cameroon, subjugating or displacing its largely non-Muslim inhabitants.

Although the Portuguese arrived on Cameroon's doorstep in the 16th century, malaria prevented significant European settlement and conquest of the interior until the late 1870s, when large supplies of the malaria suppressant quinine became available. The early European presence in Cameroon was primarily devoted to coastal trade and the acquisition of slaves. The northern part of Cameroon was an important part of the Muslim slave trade network. The slave trade was largely suppressed by the mid-19th century. Christian missionaries established a presence in the late 19th century and continue to play a role in Cameroonian life.


Beginning on July 5, 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of several of its neighbours became a German colony, Kamerun, with a capital first at Buea and later at Yaoundé.

The imperial German government made substantial investments in the infrastructure of Cameroon, including the extensive railways, such as the 160-metre single-span railway bridge on the South Sanaga River branch. Hospitals were opened all over the colony, including two major hospitals at Douala, one of which specialised in tropical diseases. However, the indigenous peoples proved reluctant to work on these projects, so the Germans instigated a harsh and unpopular system of forced labour.[2] In fact, Jesko von Puttkamer was relieved of duty as governor of the colony due to his untoward actions toward the native Cameroonians.[3] In 1911 at the Treaty of Fez after the Agadir Crisis, France ceded a nearly 300,000 km² portion of the territory of French Equatorial Africa to Kamerun which became Neukamerun, while Germany ceded a smaller area in the north in present-day Chad to France.

In World War I, the British invaded Cameroon from Nigeria in 1914 in the Kamerun campaign, with the last German fort in the country surrendering in February 1916. After the war, this colony was partitioned between the United Kingdom and France under June 28, 1919 League of Nations mandates (Class B). France gained the larger geographical share, transferred Neukamerun back to neighboring French colonies, and ruled the rest from Yaoundé as Cameroun (French Cameroons). Britain's territory, a strip bordering Nigeria from the sea to Lake Chad, with an equal population was ruled from Lagos as Cameroons (British Cameroons). German administrators were allowed to once again run the plantations of the southwestern coastal area. A British parliamentary publication, Report on the British Sphere of the Cameroons (May 1922, p. 62-8), reports that the German plantations there were "as a whole . . . wonderful examples of industry, based on solid scientific knowledge. The natives have been taught discipline and have come to realize what can be achieved by industry. Large numbers who return to their villages take up cocoa or other cultivation on their own account, thus increasing the general prosperity of the country."

Towards Independence (1955-1960)

On 18 December 1956, the outlawed Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), based largely among the Bamileke and Bassa ethnic groups, began an armed struggle for independence in French Cameroon. This rebellion continued, with diminishing intensity, even after independence until 1961.[4] Some tens of thousands died during this conflict.[5][6]

Legislative elections were held on 23 December 1956 and the resulting Assembly passed a decree on 16 April 1957 which made French Cameroon a State. It took back its former status of associated territory as a member of the French Union. Its inhabitants became Cameroonian citizens, Cameroonian institutions were created under the sign of parliamentary democracy. On 12 June 1958 the Legislative Assembly of French Cameroon asked the French government to: 'Accord independence to the State of Cameroon at the ends of their trusteeship. Transfer every competence related to the running of internal affairs of Cameroon to Cameroonians`. On 19 October 1958 France recognized the right of her United Nations trust territory of the Cameroons to choose independence.[7] On 24 October 1958 the Legislative Assembly of French Cameroon solemnly proclaimed the desire of Cameroonians to see their country accede full independence on 1 January 1960. It enjoined the government of French Cameroon to ask France to inform the General Assembly of the United Nations, to abrogate the trusteeship accord concomitant with the independence of French Cameroon. On 12 November 1958 having accorded French Cameroon total internal autonomy and thinking that this transfer no longer permitted it to assume its responsibilities over the trust territory for an unspecified period, the government of France asked the United Nations to grant the wish of French Cameroonians. On 5 December 1958 the United Nations’ General Assembly took note of the French government’s declaration according to which French Cameroon, which was under French administration, would gain independence on 1 January 1960, thus marking an end to the trusteeship period.[8][9] On 13 March 1959 the United Nations’ General Assembly resolved that the UN Trusteeship Agreement with France for French Cameroon would end when French Cameroon became independent on 1 January 1961


Cameroon after independence

French Cameroon achieved independence on January 1, 1960 as La Republique du Cameroun. After Guinea, it was the second of France's colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa to become independent. On 21 February 1960, the new nation held a constitutional referendum. On 5 May 1960, Ahmadou Ahidjo became president. On 11 February 1961, a plebiscite organised by the United Nations was held in the British controlled part of Cameroon (British Northern and British Southern Cameroons). The pleibiscite was to choose between free association with an independent Nigerian state or re-unification with the independent Republic of Cameroun. On 12 February 1961,the results of the plebiscite were released and British Northern Cameroons attached itself to Nigeria, while the southern part voted for reunification with the Republic Of Cameroon. To negotiate the terms of this union, the Foumban Conference was held on 16–21 July 1961. John Ngu Foncha, the leader of the Kamerun National Democratic Party . The British Southern Cameroons was to be referred to as West Cameroon and the French part as East Cameroon. Buea became the capital of the now West Cameroon while Yaounde doubled as the federal capital and East Cameroon. Ahidjo accepted the federation, thinking it was a step towards a unitary state. On 14 August 1961, the federal constitution was adopted, with Ahidjo as president. Foncha became the prime minister of west Cameroon and vice president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon. On 1 September 1966 the Cameroon National Union (CNU) was created by the union of political parties of East and West Cameroon. Most decisions about West Cameroon were taken without consultation, which led to widespread feelings amongst the West Cameroonian public that although they voted for reunification, what they were getting is absorption or domination".[11]

On October 1, 1961, the largely Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroons voted to join Nigeria; the largely Christian southern third, Southern Cameroons, voted, in a referendum, to join with the Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The formerly French and British regions each maintained substantial autonomy. Ahidjo was chosen president of the federation in 1961. In 1962, the Francs CFA became the official currency in Cameroon.

Ahidjo, relying on a pervasive internal security apparatus, outlawed all political parties but his own in 1966. He successfully suppressed the continuing UPC rebellion, capturing the last important rebel leader in 1970. On 28 March 1970 Ahidjo renewed his mandate as the supreme magistracy; Solomon Tandeng Muna became Vice President. In 1972, a new constitution replaced the federation with a unitary state called the United Republic of Cameroon. Although Ahidjo's rule was characterised as authoritarian, he was seen as noticeably lacking in charisma in comparison to many post-colonial African leaders. He didn't follow the anti-western policies pursued by many of these leaders, which helped Cameroon achieve a degree of comparative political stability and economic growth.

On 30 June 1975 Paul Biya was appointed vice president. Ahidjo resigned as president in 1982 and was constitutionally succeeded by his Prime Minister, Paul Biya, a career official. Ahidjo later regretted his choice of successors, but his supporters failed to overthrow Biya in a 1984 coup. Biya won single-candidate elections in 1983 and 1984 when the country was again named the Republic of Cameroon. Biya has remained in power, winning flawed multiparty elections in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011. His Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) party holds a sizeable majority in the legislature.

By April 6, 1984, the country witnessed its first coup d'état headed by col. Issa Adoum. At about 3 am rebel forces mostly of the Republican guard under the orders of colonel Ibrahim Saleh, attempted to unseat Biya's government. The rebels took charge of the Yaounde airport, national radio station and announced the takeover of government. They attacked the presidency. The civilian northerner who was manager of FONADER Issa Adoum was expected to become the new interim president. Unfortunately, many reasons led to its failure. The principal coup plotters had been arrested by April 10, 1984 and President Biya addressed the nation that calm had been restored.

On August 15, 1984, Lake Monoun exploded in a limnic eruption that released carbon dioxide, suffocating 37 people to death. On August 21, 1986, another limnic eruption at Lake Nyos killed as many as 1,800 people and 3,500 livestock. The two disasters are the only recorded instances of limnic eruptions.

In May 2014, in the wake of the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping, Presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon and Idriss Déby of Chad announced they were waging war on Boko Haram, and deployed troops to the Nigerian border.[12][13]

In early 2006 a final resolution to the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula was expected. In October 2002, the International Court of Justice had ruled in favour of Cameroon. Nonetheless, a lasting solution would require agreement by both countries’ presidents, parliaments, and by the United Nations. The peninsula was the site of fighting between the two countries in 1994 and again in June 2005, which led to the death of a Cameroonian soldier. In 2006, Nigerian troops left the peninsula.



VIVID TIMELINE 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: Limbe). The first inhabitants of Limbe 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.

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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.


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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 labour (thereby also slowing down the development of the area). French Cameroon continues to use forced labour 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.

1930s: Many German settlers joins their plantations and business in support of Nazi-Germany.

February 13, 1933: The second president of cameroon, Paul Biya, is born in Mvomeka.

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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.

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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: Limbe.

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.

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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:

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 Bakassi 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.