Title Page
 Country summary
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 List of Tables
 General character of the socie...
 Historical setting
 Geography and population
 Ethnic groups and languages
 Social systems
 Living conditions
 Education and the arts and...
 The governmental system
 Political dynamics, attitudes and...
 Foreign relations
 Mass communications
 Character and structure of the...
 Agriculture and industry
 Trade and transportation
 National security

Title: Area handbook for the United Republic of Cameroon
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053793/00001
 Material Information
Title: Area handbook for the United Republic of Cameroon
Physical Description: xiv, 335 p. : maps. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Nelson, Harold D
American University (Washington, D.C.) -- Foreign Area Studies
Publisher: For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
Place of Publication: Washington;
Publication Date: 1974
Edition: 1st ed.
Subject: Cameroon   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 299-318.
Statement of Responsibility: Co-authors: Harold D. Nelson and others
General Note: "DA Pam 550-166."
General Note: "One of a series of handbooks prepared by Foreign Area Studies (FAS) of the American University."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053793
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000217792
oclc - 01013316
notis - AAY4884
lccn - 73600274 //r83

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Country summary
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
    Table of Contents
        Page xi
    List of Illustrations
        Page xii
    List of Tables
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
    General character of the society
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Historical setting
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
    Geography and population
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
    Ethnic groups and languages
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
    Social systems
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
    Living conditions
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
    Education and the arts and sciences
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
    The governmental system
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
    Political dynamics, attitudes and values
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
    Foreign relations
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
    Mass communications
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
    Character and structure of the economy
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
    Agriculture and industry
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
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        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 249
        Page 250
    Trade and transportation
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
    National security
        Page 281
        Page 282
        Page 283
        Page 284
        Page 285
        Page 286
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 289
        Page 290
        Page 291
        Page 292
        Page 293
        Page 294
        Page 295
        Page 296
        Page 297
        Page 298
        Page 299
        Page 300
        Page 301
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        Page 303
        Page 304
        Page 305
        Page 306
        Page 307
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        Page 310
        Page 311
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        Page 313
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        Page 329
        Page 330
        Page 331
        Page 332
        Page 333
        Page 334
        Page 335
Full Text


for the


Harold D. Nelson
Margarita Dobert
Gordon C. McDonald
James Mc Laughlin
Barbara Marvin
Philip W. Moeller

Research was completed March 1973

First Edition

Published 1974

DA Pam 550-166

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 73-600274

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402 Price $6.65


This volume is one of a series of handbooks prepared by Foreign
Area Studies (FAS) of The American University, designed to be useful
to military and other personnel who need a convenient compilation of
basic facts about the social, economic, political, and military institu-
tions and practices of various countries. The emphasis is on objective
description of the nation's present society and the kinds of possible or
probable changes that might be expected in the future. The handbook
seeks to present as full and as balanced an integrated exposition as
limitations on space and research time permit. It was compiled from
information available in openly published material. An extensive bib-
liography is provided to permit recourse to other published sources for
more detailed information. There has been no attempt to express any
specific point of view or to make policy recommendations. The contents
of the handbook represent the work of the authors and FAS and do not
represent the official view of the United States government.
An effort has been made to make the handbook as comprehensive as
possible. It can be expected, however, that the material, interpreta-
tions, and conclusions are subject to modification in the light of new
information and developments. Such corrections, additions, and sug-
gestions for factual, interpretive, or other change as readers may have
will be welcomed for use in future revisions. Comments may be ad-
dressed to:

The Director
Foreign Area Studies
The American University
5010 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20016


Independent since January 1, 1960, Cameroon is the only country in
all of Africa that was formed by the union of French and British colo-
nial territories. Despite great ethnic and cultural diversity and an
ongoing conflict of old and new perspectives and ways of life, Came-
roonians are striving to build a unified nation-state.
The Area Handbook for the United Republic of Cameroon seeks to
provide a compact and objective exposition of the dominant social, poli-
tical, and economic aspects of Cameroonian society. It is designed to
give the reader an understanding of the forces operating within a de-
veloping country that hopes to serve as a bridge between French-
speaking and English-speaking Africa. There remain, however, a
number of gaps in information on certain subjects to which the reader's
attention has been called. Most of these have resulted from a general
scarcity of available source materials.
The spelling of place names and proper names follows the usage of
the United States Board on Geographic Names in its gazetteer pub-
lished in 1962 and the supplement published in August 1972. The
metric system has been used for tonnages, unless otherwise noted.
Conversion factors for Cameroonian currency appear in the Glossary,
which is included as an appendix for the reader's convenience. English
spelling follows Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary.
The authors wish to thank those persons in various governmental
and international organizations who gave of their time, documents,
and special knowledge of the country to help improve the work. Chap-
ter 7, Education and the Arts and Sciences, was prepared by Janet I.


1. COUNTRY: Full name, United Republic of Cameroon; short form,
Cameroon; former United Nations trust territory of French Cameroun
and southern part of trust territory of British Cameroons; date of
independence, January 1, 1960; capital, Yaound6.
2. SIZE: 183,500 square miles; maximum north-south length, 700 miles;
east-west, 450 miles.
3. TOPOGRAPHY: Four natural regions: northern plains, central and
southern plateaus, western highlands and mountains, and coastal
plains along Gulf of Guinea.
4. CLIMATE: Subarid and hot in northern plains area, with seven-
month dry season; central plateaus and western highlands are slightly
cooler because of elevation and have much shorter dry season, shading
into year-round rainfall in southwest; coastal lowlands monotonously
warm and humid throughout the year.
5. POPULATION: 6.1 million estimated in 1973. Heaviest concentra-
tions in southwest and in Maroua-Garoua area of Northern Province.
Densities per square mile ranged from less than fifteen in Eastern
Province to 194 in Western Province. Rapid urbanization, with about
25 percent in urban areas in 1973. Approximately 200 ethnic groups.
6. LANGUAGES: Twenty-four major languages and numerous dia-
lects; official languages are French and English; French is dominant
in government, commerce, and mass media.
7. RELIGION: Muslims predominate in north, Christians in south;
about half of the population adheres to indigenous beliefs and practices.
8. EDUCATION: Between 65 and 70 percent of school-age population
in primary and secondary schools. In former West Cameroon most
schools are private institutions; in former East Cameroon majority are
public institutions, and private schools are decreasing. New inte-
grated educational system being started throughout country to serve
needs of national development and unity. Educational advancement
limited by shortage of qualified teachers. Increasing number of gradu-
ates from University of Cameroon. Literacy rate estimated at about 15
percent for total population; lowest rates in northern area.
9. HEALTH: Fairly high incidence of disease reflects nutritionally in-
adequate diets, insufficient medical care, and poor sanitation practices.
Endemic diseases include malaria, various parasitic infestations, and
kwashiorkor. Malaria and tuberculosis are chief health problems.

Health services are capable of coping with major epidemics and provid-
ing fairly good modern medical care in southern urban centers, but
only limited care available elsewhere.
10. GOVERNMENT: Unitary national government with highly cen-
tralized administration. All seats in unicameral national assembly,
which has little real power, held by members of a single unifiedparty
led by President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Most authority vested in president.
11. JUSTICE: Independent judiciary and considerable protection for
civil rights provided by constitution. Court system in 1973 not yet re-
organized; was still divided along lines of earlier federal administra-
tive structure. Courts of former West Cameroon functioned under
British system; those in former East Cameroon functioned according
to French tradition; both applied national codes but used different
legal procedures. Both systems had three levels of courts; highest level
was single national Supreme Court, which heard final appeals and had
limited responsibilities for ensuring constitutionality of legislation.
12. ECONOMY: One of most advanced in Black Africa. Small-scale
crop production for subsistence and export predominates; modern
sector, including manufacturing, grew rapidly in 1960s, provided half
of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1970. Dependence on France de-
clining, but economy still vulnerable to trends in industrial countries.
13. PRINCIPAL EXPORTS: Cocoa beans and cocoa products, coffee,
logs, aluminum, cotton, rubber, bananas, palm products, groundnuts
14. PRINCIPAL IMPORTS: Machinery and transport equipment; in-
termediate goods for industry.
15. CURRENCY: Uses African Financial Community franc (Commu-
naut6 FinanciBre Africaine franc-CFAF) tied to French franc
(CFAF50 equal 1 French franc). Exchange rates determined by relative
values of French franc and United States dollar. Rates of exchange per
United States dollar were: 1958-68, CFAF246.8; August 10, 1969,
through November 1971, CFAF277.7; from December 1971 through
January 1973, CFAF255.8.
16. COMMUNICATIONS: Postal service provided by central govern-
ment, telecommunications services by mixed government-private firm.
Major towns connected by fully automatic telephone links. Overseas
connections via France and telecommunications satellite. Government-
owned and -operated radio broadcasting system; no television as of
1973. Three daily newspapers in English and French languages.
17. RAILROADS: Major extensions to 420-mile rail system underway
in 1973. Congestion on existing line impeded development, was to be
eliminated in 1970s.
18. INLAND WATERWAYS: B6nou6 River barge route through north
and into Nigeria to be reduced in importance by extensions of railroad
in 1974.

19. PORTS: Douala-Bonab6ri and Tiko are only deepwater ports; Dou-
ala, having 90 percent of traffic, is badly congested; to be expanded in
two stages during 1970s.
20. ROADS: About 18,000 miles of roads in early 1970s; maintenance
and flooding a problem. Main arteries established in south by 1969;
connections with north under expansion in 1970s. Rural feeder roads
21. CIVIL AVIATION: Relatively large volume of air traffic, mostly
passenger flights. Facilities include three jet-capable airports, six
medium airfields, forty lesser airstrips. Regularly scheduled interna-
tional flights to and from Douala. National airline, Cameroon Airlines
(CAMAIR), established 1971.
ber of United Nations and its specialized agencies; associated member
of European Economic Community (Common Market). Interafrican
memberships include African, Malagasy, and Mauritius Common Or-
ganization, Organization of African Unity and its African Liberation
Committee, Commission for Technical Cooperation South of the Sa-
hara, African Development Bank, and African Civil Aviation Organi-
zation. Belongs to several regional organizations: Central African
Economic and Customs Union, Bank of the States of Central Africa,
Lake Chad Basin Commission, and Niger River Commission. Defense
and technical assistance agreements with France, signed in 1960, being
renegotiated in 1973.
23. SECURITY FORCES: Total regular armed forces, about 4,400;
various reserves, about 8,500; National Gendarmerie, which has para-
military capability, 3,000; National Police, 2,200. Program being initia-
ted in 1973 required two years' military service as prerequisite to civil
service jobs. All security forces centrally controlled and directly re-
sponsible to president.



FOREWORD ......... ........... ... .................... ........ iii
PREFACE ............. .. ............................................ v
COUNTRY SUMMARY .............. ................. ......... i


Chapter 1. General Character of the Society ........................... 1
2. Historical Setting.. .................... ................. 7
Precolonial History-German Colonial Rule-The Mandate
Period-Beginning of Modern Nationalism-The Coming of
Independence-Political Development and Unification
3. Geography and Population .............................. 35
Physical Setting-Population
4. Ethnic Groups and Languages.............. ........... 59
Peoples of the North-Peoples of the Western Highlands-
Peoples of the Southern Forests-Foreigners-Interethnic
5. Social Systems .......................................... 79
Fulani Society-Bamil6k6 Society-Pahouin Society-Mod-
ern Social Trends.
6. Living Conditions ......................................... 97
Patterns of Living-Housing-Clothing-Diet and Nutri-
tion -Health -Welfare
7. Education and the Arts and Sciences ....................... 115
Education-Artistic Expression and Society


Chapter 8. The Governmental System ................................ 133
The Constitutional System-The National Government-
Legal Systems and the Courts-The Civil Service-Govern-
ment at Subnational Levels
9. Political Dynamics, Attitudes, and Values ................... 147
Political Developments-The President and His Political
Party-Divisive Interests and Opposition Forces
10. Foreign Relations ........................................ 165
Major Elements of Foreign Relations-The Foreign Ministry
and Diplomatic Ties-Relations with Western States-Rela-
tions with African Countries-Relations with Communist
States-International Organizations

11. Mass Communications ...................................... 177
Traditional Channels of Communication-The Modern Media

Chapter 12. Character and Structure of the Economy .................... 187
Pattern of Resource Allocation and Output-Labor-Devel-
opment Planning and Investment-Public Finance-Monetary
and Banking System
13. Agriculture and Industry ................................. 211
Land Use-Subsistence and Cash Agriculture-Cultivation
Practices-Land Tenure-Crop Production-Stockraising-
Agricultural Development Programs-Marketing and Prices-
Forestry-Fishing-Mining-Manufacturing-Electric Power
14. Trade and Transportation ................................ 251
Foreign Economic Relations-Domestic Trade-The Trans-
portation System-Communications
Chapter 15. National Security ......................................... 281
Armed Forces-Public Order and Security
BIBLIOGRAPHY ................... .. .......... .............. 299
GLOSSARY ........................ ........ .................... 319
INDEX ............................................... 323

Figure Page
1 The United Republic of Cameroon ................................. xiv
2 Mandate Territories of British Cameroons and French Cameroun, 1922 .... 17
3 Federal Republic of Cameroon, 1961 ................................ 32
4 Administrative Divisions of Cameroon, 1973 .... ....................... 37
5 Physical Features of Cameroon ................................... 40
6 Cameroon, Vegetation and Rainfall ................................ 43
7 Cameroon, Population Density by Province, per Square Mile, 1970 ........ 53
8 Selected Ethnic Distribution in Cameroon 1973 ....................... 61
9 Area of Maximum Production of Principal Cash Crops of Cameroon, 1973 225
10 Location of Multipurpose Rural Development Projects of Cameroon, 1972 239
11 Cocoa Price, Total Merchandise Imports, and Total Exports, Cameroon,
1959-71 ................................. .............. 256
12 Transportation System of Cameroon, 1972 ........................... 270

Table Page
1 Major Towns of Cameroon, Estimated Population Growth,
1970,1973, and 1975 ................. ...... .... .. ........... 55
2 Estimated Size of Major Ethnic Groups, Cameroon, 1960-66 .............. 60
3 Number of Students and Teachers, Cameroon, 1969 ...................... 118
4 Principal Newspapers and Periodicals of Cameroon, 1972 ................. 184

11. Mass Communications ...................................... 177
Traditional Channels of Communication-The Modern Media

Chapter 12. Character and Structure of the Economy .................... 187
Pattern of Resource Allocation and Output-Labor-Devel-
opment Planning and Investment-Public Finance-Monetary
and Banking System
13. Agriculture and Industry ................................. 211
Land Use-Subsistence and Cash Agriculture-Cultivation
Practices-Land Tenure-Crop Production-Stockraising-
Agricultural Development Programs-Marketing and Prices-
Forestry-Fishing-Mining-Manufacturing-Electric Power
14. Trade and Transportation ................................ 251
Foreign Economic Relations-Domestic Trade-The Trans-
portation System-Communications
Chapter 15. National Security ......................................... 281
Armed Forces-Public Order and Security
BIBLIOGRAPHY ................... .. .......... .............. 299
GLOSSARY ........................ ........ .................... 319
INDEX ............................................... 323

Figure Page
1 The United Republic of Cameroon ................................. xiv
2 Mandate Territories of British Cameroons and French Cameroun, 1922 .... 17
3 Federal Republic of Cameroon, 1961 ................................ 32
4 Administrative Divisions of Cameroon, 1973 .... ....................... 37
5 Physical Features of Cameroon ................................... 40
6 Cameroon, Vegetation and Rainfall ................................ 43
7 Cameroon, Population Density by Province, per Square Mile, 1970 ........ 53
8 Selected Ethnic Distribution in Cameroon 1973 ....................... 61
9 Area of Maximum Production of Principal Cash Crops of Cameroon, 1973 225
10 Location of Multipurpose Rural Development Projects of Cameroon, 1972 239
11 Cocoa Price, Total Merchandise Imports, and Total Exports, Cameroon,
1959-71 ................................. .............. 256
12 Transportation System of Cameroon, 1972 ........................... 270

Table Page
1 Major Towns of Cameroon, Estimated Population Growth,
1970,1973, and 1975 ................. ...... .... .. ........... 55
2 Estimated Size of Major Ethnic Groups, Cameroon, 1960-66 .............. 60
3 Number of Students and Teachers, Cameroon, 1969 ...................... 118
4 Principal Newspapers and Periodicals of Cameroon, 1972 ................. 184

Table Page
5 Origin and Use of Gross Domestic Product and Other Resources, Cameroon,
1966-71 ........... ........................................ 190
6 Consolidated Budgets, Treasury Operations, and Financing of the Deficit,
Cameroon, July 1968-June 1972 ............................... 204
7 Area and Output of Selected Agricultural Products, Cameroon,
1961-65 Average and 1970-72 .................................. 226
8 Direction of Trade, Cameroon, 1965-71 .................................. 254
9 Exports of Principal Products, Cameroon, 1965-71 ...................... 257
10 Imports by Category of End Use, Cameroon, 1965-71 .................... 260
11 Selected Transportation Data, Cameroon, Fiscal Years 1965 Through 1970 272

12 16

1 2I i For *Hf,' l.

S, 4IFt l \1-

8- 4 / f

I ....... AFRICAN

... ..f V .. f PEPU"lK

1 ,. NI* T H4

D 0 3 f 4 T
i i ^ i / "H '/ *EPUI I-

GUF.., ) J..u/

12 6 .

Figure 1. The United Republic of Cameroon
D i t ,N,/ .....I,- P/E
o \(


.12.;12 / ~ -.-.16



Cameroon joined the family of sovereign African states on Janu-
ary 1, 1960, after a checkered history of European administration that
spanned more than three-fourths of a century (see ch. 2). A German
protectorate during the scramble for colonies in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, the area-then known as Kamerun-
was occupied in World War I by the victorious military forces of France
and Great Britain. The resulting de facto partition of the territory into
French and British spheres of influence was given formal recognition
in 1922 when the two segments became League of Nations mandates
under the separate administration of France and Great Britain. The
larger of these, comprising the eastern four-fifths of the territory, was
designated French Cameroun. The western one-fifth, consisting of two
unconnected strips of land along the eastern Nigerian border, became
known as British Cameroons. In 1946 the mandates were converted
into United Nations trust territories.
In 1958 the United Nations granted autonomy to the French trust
territory amid a rising tide of Cameroonian nationalism. A year after
the independence of French Cameroun, the United Nations supervised
a plebiscite in the segmented British trust territory, offering the people
a choice of uniting with one of the two neighboring states. The elec-
torate of the northern segment opted to join Nigeria, and the southern
segment chose union with the new Cameroonian republic. On Octo-
ber 1, 1961, in a move unique in Africa, the small British-influenced
southern segment joined the larger French-influenced polity as the
federated states of West Cameroon and East Cameroon, respectively.
Differences between the two states of the new federal republic in politi-
cal outlook and practice, trade orientation, educational systems, and
administration remained to be accommodated. Problems imposed by
the union of these two political entities divided the republic along
the lines of regionalism, ethnicity, language, religion, and colonial
Adjustments were undertaken through the personal guidance and
effective leadership of President Ahmadou Ahidjo, who immediately
embarked on a course that aimed for true national unity. The frame-

work for its eventual achievement was forged in May 1972, when feder-
alism was abandoned in a move the president and his political party
termed reunification. The country was proclaimed the United Republic
of Cameroon; internal state subdivisions were abolished in favor of a
provincial system; and a new constitution was adopted to support the
changes (see ch. 8; ch. 9).
A country with an area of approximately 183,500 square miles,
Cameroon is often referred to as the hinge between West and Central
Africa, as it incorporates many of the physical and human features of
both. It is roughly triangular in shape, having a wide basin in the
south, where it borders Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the People's
Republic of the Congo (Congo-formerly, Congo Brazzaville). Its apex
extends into Lake Chad some 700 miles to the north (see fig. 1). Its
western boundary is flanked by the Gulf of Guinea and by Nigeria.
Eastern neighbors are Chad and the Central African Republic.
Cameroon is divided into four distinct topographical regions (see
ch. 3). In the southwest a low coastal plain gives way inland to plateaus
covered by equatorial rain forests. In the center of the country an ex-
tensive savanna-covered plateau rises to heights of 4,500 feet above sea
level. The west is an area of mountainous forests and the site of Mount
Cameroon, an active volcano, whose height of 13,350 feet marks it as
the loftiest peak in sub-Saharan West Africa. The northern part of the
country consists of rolling subarid savanna, gradually sloping to a
marshy flood plain along Lake Chad and the Chari and Logone rivers.
The country's climate is as varied as its topography. The coastal
plain is characterized by heavy rainfall, high humidity, and tropical
temperatures throughout the year. Inland, on the central plateau,
rainfall diminishes, the temperature undergoes seasonal variations,
and humidity declines. In the extreme north, near arid conditions exist.
In 1973 Cameroon was the home of approximately 6.1 million people,
and its population was increasing at an annual rate of about 2.1 per-
cent. Located at the geographical and ethnic crossroads of the African
continent, it has great ethnic diversity, which has resulted from the
process of intermingling and assimilation that occurred through a his-
tory of countless human migrations (see ch. 4). The twenty-four major
languages and numerous dialects spoken by the country's 200 ethnic
groups have served as a divisive element, discouraging interethnic
relations. In the modern sector both French and English have official
status, a situation unparalleled in any other African country. Inter-
regional communication is aided by the use of Wes Cos, a form of
pidgin English.
According to data compiled in the 1960s during the republic's
only census, the people were grouped generally along regional lines-
a division traced throughout the history of the area. Although the
government has made an effort to deemphasize ethnic and regional
divisions for the sake of national unity, most Cameroonians-except

members of the modern elite-still categorized themselves as resi-
dents of one of three traditional areas: the northern savanna, the
southern forested region, or the western highlands.
The north is the domain of the Muslim Fulani, who constitute only
one-third of the area's population, but it is shared with numerous other
ethnic groups. Since their Islamic holy wars of the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries, the Fulani have referred to these other peoples
simply as kirdi (pagans). The predominant peoples of the south are the
Pahouin, a designation that encompasses a large number of subgroups.
The western highlands are shared by the largest of Cameroonian
ethnic groups-the Bamilke--and numerous other peoples.
In 1973 approximately 75 percent of the population was rural, resid-
ing mainly in small villages and unplanned agricultural settlements,
or nomadic. Both groups derived a living from agricultural activities.
The rest lived in towns and larger urban centers and worked in indus-
tries, in commerce, or for the government. Although population densi-
ties were generally low throughout much of the country, an increasing
number of young people were migrating to the urban environment in
search of wage employment or education. Most of this internal flow
has been from the western highlands to the vicinity of Yaound6, the
national capital, and to settlements centered on Douala, the country's
largest city and major seaport. The influx of Bamileke has been par-
ticularly noteworthy, as they have developed a reputation among other
Cameroonians for a decided interest in the modern sector. Having
adapted readily to the cash economy, their increasing presence in
salaried jobs, commerce, the transportation sector, and the professions
is apparent in the growing towns of the southwest.
Living conditions vary considerably between rural and urban envi-
ronments and among different regions of the country, chiefly because
of marked disparities in income levels (see ch. 6; ch. 12). The subsist-
ence cultivators of the Adamaoua Plateau and the northern hills en-
dure the lowest living standards, as exemplified by an extremely high
rate of infant mortality and a frugal pattern of life in which all mem-
bers contribute to the family's survival. By contrast, life for the culti-
vators in former West Cameroon is easier than for their northern
counterparts, largely because of better soils and more favorable eco-
logical conditions. In this area almost all agricultural work is per-
formed by women. Life for the northern herders follows a typical
pattern of nomadic or seminomadic activity. It offers the opportunity
for occasional socioeconomic interchange with the cultivators but is
frequently subject to the grim consequences of climatic adversities.
For those herders on the fertile central plateau, life is comparatively
In contrast with the general living standards of rural inhabitants,
income levels are generally much higher in the urban centers, accord-
ing to government statistics. Nonetheless, even here sharp contrasts

exist between the educated and economic elite, who can rely on com-
fortable and well-paying jobs, and the migrants, who have abandoned
their traditional existence in the search for a better way of life only to
discover that their agrarian talents are seldom marketable. This fact
of life often underlies the increasing crime rate in the larger cities
(see ch. 15).
A relatively high incidence of disease is attributable to diets low in
nutritional value, insufficient modern medical care in outlying areas,
low standards of sanitation except in the major cities, and, at times,
difficult ecological conditions. In the early 1970s most of the modern
medical facilities were located in the cities, although government
efforts to improve health care for rural Cameroonians were increasing.
Large numbers of rural people, however, still relied on traditional
diagnosis and treatment in times of illness.
The great Cameroonian ethnic diversity is further reinforced by the
persistence of a variety of traditional societal patterns (see ch. 5). Dif-
ferences in social structures and values among Cameroonians in dif-
ferent areas of the country have only begun to be eroded within the
modern sector. Even there, the development of a national conscious-
ness is affected by aspects of the traditional ways of life.
For the vast majority of people in the traditional sector, interethnic
relations have been impeded by such factors as enmities arising from
ancient warfare, language barriers, religious convictions, and jeal-
ousies over access to educational and economic opportunities. An ex-
ample of existing interethnic tensions can be seen in attitudes toward
the Fulani, who have dominated the north-initially through conquest
and subjugation-and who have achieved political prominence in the
modern state. Similarly, the Bamilek6 are disliked by many other
groups because of their aggressive attitudes and their superior eco-
nomic position. Although there is a certain unity among peoples of the
western highlands and among those of the southern forested region, a
degree of cleavage created by Roman Catholic and Protestant religious
competition still exists in the south.
Tensions between Cameroonians on a regional scale have also devel-
oped over the years. The basic schism has been between northerners
and southerners, who in this context include all the peoples of former
West Cameroon, the western highlands, and the southern forested
region. Religious and cultural differences augmented by a long history
of conflict between northerners and southerners are largely respon-
sible for the animosity. Southerners resent the feudal values of north-
ern society, which they feel provide the Fulani with monolithic support
for their political objectives. Northerners, in turn, resent the favored
treatment given the south during the colonial period in terms of educa-
tional benefits and economic development (see ch. 9).
By 1973, after fifteen years in office as the republic's first and only
chief executive, President Ahidjo had achieved wide support from the

Cameroonian people, and the country had achieved a high degree of
political stability. This position was greatly enhanced after the suc-
cessful containment during the early 1960s of the long and costly rebel-
lion by supporters of the outlawed Union of Cameroonian Peoples
(Union des Populations du Cameroun-UPC). The violence that began
as a protest against French administration in the mid-1950s was sup-
ported by radical African regimes and several communist nations,
including the People's Republic of China (PRC) (see ch. 2; ch. 15).
In a series of political moves since independence, Ahidjo and his
Cameroonian National Union (Union Nationale Camerounaise-UNC)
have achieved the formation of a unitary state, helped in part by the
dissolution of all political parties except the UNC. Espousing a prag-
matic political philosophy, the president has reordered the structure of
government-an action that has resulted in the elimination of dupli-
cated functions previously performed at federal and state levels. He
and his party have attempted to assure the Cameroonian people that
the new form of government, under a strong and viable leader, has
precedents in the traditional sociopolitical structures to which so many
of them have been accustomed. As a vital part of his quest for national
unity, he thus symbolizes to the people the chief of a single community.
Other symbolic elements of traditional society have been adopted, and
Ahidjo's support throughout the country has increased steadily.
Considerable progress has been made in improving the economy and
narrowing the regional disparities in development and incomes that
existed at independence (see ch. 12). Following a relatively centrist
economic policy in comparison with other French-speaking African
countries, Cameroon has encouraged foreign investment for economic
development in the national interest. Increasingly the government has
sought to break away from complete interdependence with France and
other franc area countries. Instead the Ahidjo administration has
attempted to diversify the country's external economic contacts while
increasing effective Cameroonian involvement and control in develop-
ment matters. In the early 1970s Cameroon had achieved the enviable
position of being one of Black Africa's most economically advanced
In the predominantly agricultural economy, small-scale family farm-
ing units provided both subsistence food staples for the Cameroonian
people and most of the cash crops-primarily cocoa and coffee-for
national export earnings (see ch. 13). Commercial-scale plantation
activity was largely confined to the area of former West Cameroon, but
a series of agricultural development projects sponsored by the govern-
ment were expected to increase eventual production in other areas.
The country thus far had been largely self-sufficient in staple foods,
but at times the government had been obliged to import meat and rice
to keep up with demands of the rapidly increasing urban population.
Additional efforts were being made to increase Cameroonian partici-

pation in the growing industrial sector, which was largely influenced
by foreign-owned firms. The advancement of this sector-occupied
mainly with the processing of agricultural products grown domesti-
cally, the manufacture of aluminum products, and the assembly of
consumer goods-has been spurred by ample hydroelectric power
facilities and a French-owned aluminum smelter, which were already
established before independence.
In keeping with its goal of national unity, the government was striv-
ing to maintain a fair balance in the economic development of all areas
of the country, particularly in view of the divergent colonial heritages
of former West Cameroon and East Cameroon. Moreover, it has sought
to enhance the economic well-being of the more remote areas by im-
proving and extending the national transportation system, which
gradually should provide better access to markets for small-scale pro-
ducers. At the same time, improvement of links with African neighbors
had been forged through active membership in regional organizations,
such as the Central African Economic and Customs Union (Union
Douanibre et Economique d'Afrique Centrale-UDEAC), and the
development of the Trans-Cameroon Railroad. In addition to valuable
domestic use, the railroad will also provide needed routes to the sea for
Cameroon's landlocked neighbors (see ch. 14).
The president and his government exercised a pragmatic philosophy
in relations with foreign nations (see ch. 10). Although officially non-
aligned, Cameroon had sought relations with as many nations as pos-
sible, always in an effort to benefit Cameroonian development and
stability. Close ties were maintained with France and the European
Economic Community (EEC, known as the Common Market), of which
Cameroon was an associated member. Viable relations with various
African continental and regional organizations were also of consider-
able importance. Strong opposition, however, had been voiced regard-
ing the white minority regimes of southern Africa.
Measured efforts to erase the remaining divisions in Cameroon's
-pluricultural society were continuing. To assist in the solution of its
economic development problems and to provide a means of moving
closer to national unification, the government had placed high priority
on creating an integrated educational system for the entire country
(see ch. 7). Particular attention had been given to the expansion and
upgrading of education in the north. The foundation for progress had
been laid, but true national unity-a concept fully understood only by
the educated and economic elite of the society-was yet to be fully


In Cameroon's gradual transition from traditional village society to
statehood, its history has been marked by a human diversity that has
fostered uneven rates of social, political, and economic development.
In the years before its recorded history, the area that was later to be-
come the United Republic of Cameroon was the meeting ground for
many of the major ethnic groups of the African continent: Bantu-
speaking peoples who dominated central and eastern Africa, peoples
of the great Sudanic plains south of the Sahara Desert, and peoples
from the coasts of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean along the
West African bulge (see ch. 4). Not only did these diverse peoples differ
notably in language and culture, but they also introduced into the area
a variety of traditional social and political systems that included egali-
tarian village societies, socially stratified kingdoms, and portions of
vast, feudally organized empires.
The territorial boundaries established in the area by European
powers in their race for colonies at the end of the nineteenth century
and during the early years of the twentieth century did not take into
account the region's long history of ethnic and political differences.
Peoples were split and regrouped according to the convenience such
boundaries offered the political and' military interests of the European
powers. After thirty years as a German colony, the area containing
Cameroon and portions of present-day Nigeria was divided after World
War I between the British and the French. First the area was adminis-
tered as two mandates under the League of Nations and later as two
trust territories of the United Nations. The cultural and political tra-
ditions as well as the colonial policies of the British and the French
were as different from one another as they were from those of the
earlier German administration.
The growth of African political awareness among Cameroonians in
the 1950s resulted in demands for self-government, independence in
1960, and eventually for reunification of the two territories. Tradi-
tional ethnic hostilities and divergent political traditions, which at
times had led to violence, continued to impede the government's quest
for national unity.
Although archaeological evidence indicates the early presence of

man in the Cameroonian area, little is known concerning the origins of
the peoples who compose the population. Attempts to learn of their
beginnings have been complicated by a general lack of written history
and countless migrations as a result of wars, famines, and general
population pressures. Most authorities, however, agree that these early
migrations began from a point along the present border with Chad.
Over the centuries the direction and intensity of these migrations-
which lasted into the nineteenth century-varied. Along with other
dislocations in the twentieth century-some of which were caused by
population pressure-they resulted in the splitting of some groups and
the absorption of others. Conquered peoples sometimes lived side by
side with the victors but held socially and politically restricted roles.
Although some people generally developed harmonious relationships,
centuries of conflict created traditions of hostility between others.
Written history was first recorded in the north in the eighth century
and increased after the arrival of arabized peoples in the late 1200s
(see ch. 4). 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.
Early Political Institutions
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. The
most important of these were the empires of the Kanem (later Kanem-
Bornu) and Fulani peoples. Kanem was organized around a confed-
eracy of clans, which was dominated by the Magumi and this group's
senior lineage, the Sefuwa. The Sefuwa mai (king) moved from clan to
clan on a rotating basis rather than dwell in one fixed capital city. 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. A century later,
however, the political system had begun to disintegrate under the at-
tacks of the Fulani. Kanem-Bornu was saved from total destruction
by Muhammad al-Amin, a religious scholar and warrior who set him-
self up as a de facto ruler.
The Fulani were a cattle-herding people who entered the Chad
Basin-a portion of which lies in Cameroon-as early as the thir-
teenth century; they played no major political role until the nineteenth
century. Then, undertaking a holy war led by a devout Muslim, Oth-

man dan Fodio, they sought to convert others forcibly to their strict
form of Islam. They conquered the Hausa kingdoms of northern Ni-
geria and came to dominate the northern grasslands of what later
became Cameroon. Their superior organization, religious zeal, and skill
as mounted warriors enabled them to establish a state, which after the
early 1800s and until defeat by the Europeans at the end of the nine-
teenth century, controlled the region running from the east of Nigeria
to the Chad Basin.
The Fulani campaign of the early nineteenth century in the north of
present-day Cameroon was led by a native-born Fulani leader, Mobido
Adama. For his allegiance to the Fulani cause and for aiding the spread
of the empire as far south as the seventh parallel, he was granted the
title of Emir of Adamaoua, an emirate at the southern periphery of the
empire. The emirate was subdivided into smaller units, each of which
was ruled by a governor who had varying degrees of local autonomy.
Fulani attempts to expand their authority in the nineteenth century
into the small sultanates and kingdoms of the western highlands were
resisted by both the Bamoun and the Bamili6k (see ch. 4). The Bamoun
were able to withstand the initial Fulani attacks but were ultimately
conquered. The Bamil6k6, on the other hand, were able to withstand
Fulani attacks. Each Bamilik6 kingdom possessed a highly complex
social organization, marked by a ruling fon (chief) who shared author-
ity with an advisory council, and various intergroup associations and
secret societies (see ch. 4).
Political evolution in the coastal zone led to the establishment of a
multiplicity of small chiefdoms. During the last half of the eighteenth
century, however, the Douala were united in a small coastal kingdom.
At the turn of the century, competition for European trade led various
members of the ruling dynasty to break away from the king and to
form their own chiefdoms. Chiefdoms formed in this manner included
those of the Akwa, Dido, Joss, and Bonaberi. Although later in the
nineteenth century a semblance of unity was achieved with the estab-
lishment of the ngondo, a council in which various chiefs conferred,
political unity among the Douala was never again wholly achieved.

Arrival of the Europeans
Portuguese explorers employed by a rich Lisbon merchant, Fernando
Gomez, were the first Europeans to enter the coastal waters of Came-
roon. They arrived in the Bight of Biafra in the early 1470s and shortly
established a trading station on Sao Tome Island. The Portuguese were
attracted to the mainland by trading possibilities around the broad
mouth of the Wouri River, which they erroneously named Rio dos
Camaroes (River of the Prawns) after the migratory crayfish abundant
in the estuary. Thereafter the word Camaroes was used on Portuguese
maps to identify the Wouri estuary.
The Portuguese initially made Sao Tom6 the base of their operations,

servicing trade points at the mouths of various rivers. In the early
1480s a settlement was also established on Fernando Po, an island
twenty miles off the Cameroonian coast, which was named for the
Portuguese navigator often credited with the first exploration of the
For a variety of reasons the Portuguese were content with the use of
coastal lighters for conducting trade with the natives instead of build-
ing permanent shore installations. The humid coast was lined with
dense mangrove forests and tropical-disease-bearing insects. The local
Bantu-speaking peoples-including the Douala-who would have
restricted settlement, were willing to serve as middlemen. Moreover,
the Bight of Benin, a few hundred miles to the west, offered greater
potential for commercial profit. Although some traders built struc-
tures on floating pontoons or used derelict vessels at anchor for con-
ducting trade, it was not until the 1830s-when the first explorations
of the interior were initiated-that permanent facilities were con-
structed on land. At the end of the nineteenth century offshore facili-
ties were in use, and European traders continued to rely on the Douala
as middlemen.
By 1520 the Portuguese had established full-scale sugar plantations
on both Sio Tome and Fernando Po. By the next decade, however, slave
trade had displaced commodity trade and had become the most impor-
tant source of income for the Portuguese. Initially, slaves were used to
work the offshore island plantations. Eventually, the Portuguese be-
came the most important supplier of slaves for the West Indies and the
Americas. Slaves purchased at Bimbia, Douala, and Rio-del-Rey from
local peoples serving as middlemen were collected at centers on the two
islands for trans-Atlantic shipment.
In the early 1600s the Portuguese lost control of the slave trade to the
Dutch, who established a trading post on Sao Tom6 in 1642. Mean-
while, competition from Spanish, French, British, and Scandinavian
traders increased. In 1777 Fernando Po became a Spanish territory.
The Spanish did not immediately effect control over the island and in
1827 granted permission to the British-who had declared their own
slave trade illegal in 1807-to use the island as a base from which to
police the slave trade in the surrounding coastal waters. The island
thus became the major base from which operations against the slave
trade were directed.
In 1844 members of the Jamaican branch of the British Baptist Mis-
sionary Society arrived on Fernando Po and expanded the facilities
that had been established two years earlier. Although a small school
and church were established by this group on the mainland coast the
following year, they were closed in 1849. Pressure upon the local gov-
ernor by Spanish Jesuits forced the missionary settlement off the
island to the coast near Mount Cameroon in 1858. This mission com-
munity, named Victoria after the ruling British monarch, was the first
permanent settlement of Europeans on the mainland coast.

Although many aspects of local administration fell to the mission, a
court of equity was established to work out disputes between the local
chiefs and the British and German traders. Compliance with the deci-
sions of the court was usual, reflecting the general cooperation be-
tween these parties in the furtherance of their individual commercial
interests. Decisions on more serious problems, however, were some-
times held for the British consul of Fernando Po and the Oil River
Delta, who visited various settlements along the Bight of Biafra. The
authority of the British was not challenged by other European powers,
and some indigenous ethnic groups came to rely on British legitimiza-
tion of new chiefs.
The slave trade was gradually phased out, and by the 1840s palm oil
and ivory became the major interests of European traders, most of
whom were British. During the 1870s British merchants, the mission-
ary settlement, and several of the local chiefs expressed an interest in
the establishment of a British protectorate for the coastal zone. The
British foreign ministry, however, was slow to show any interest in
such a proposal. Attention focused instead on policing the coastal
waters and encouraging commercial treaties.
In the early 1880s the British foreign ministry became agitated over
increased activity by the French on the coast south of Cameroon, and
in 1882 Consul Edward Hyde Hewett was sent to negotiate the local
treaties necessary to establish the protectorate. While Hewett was in
the process of working his way up the coast in mid-1884, the British
learned that a German representative, Gustav Nachtigal, was urging
local chiefs to sign treaties with Germany. Before Hewett could arrive
in the Wouri estuary, Nachtigal had obtained the signatures of two
local chiefs and hoisted the German imperial flag on the right bank of
the Wouri River. The British and Germans engaged in a race for the
remainder of the year to obtain written agreements with coastal chiefs
and to appoint local representatives.
German authority was undermined by several factors in addition to
the uncertainty of the final outcome of the contest for treaties. The
British merchants and missionaries resented the German tactics and
felt that Great Britain had a better claim to the area. The British rep-
resentative became openly involved in advocating resistance among
the indigenous people. The German government had been able to ob-
tain parliamentary support for the annexation of Cameroonian terri-
tory only by assuring its members that the operation would not be
costly, as most administrative costs would be absorbed by the resident
German trading firms. The traders, however, refused to accept the cost
and responsibility of such an arrangement and, after the exchange of
formal notes between the German government and representatives of
the trading companies, the area was left without a local colonial ad-
ministrative system.
The uncertainty of the situation led the highly dissatisfied Douala to
revolt in December 1884. German success in putting down the rebellion

brought a visible sign of German political control, and the British
began to adopt a conciliatory attitude. By February 1885 the British
had agreed to send their representative home and had surrendered
several of their treaty claims with local chiefs. The death of Nachtigal
and his assistant's illness forced the issue of establishing a local admin-
istration. On July 3, 1885, Julius von Soden assumed responsibility as
the first colonial governor of the territory. The Germans adopted the
name originally applied to the Wouri estuary and called the colony
By January 1887 the British had abandoned all of their claims, and
German suzerainty over the coastal region of Kamerun was recog-
nized. The establishment of effective control of the interior regions and
demarcation of the borders, however, were not effected until after the
beginning of the twentieth century. Initial expeditions were designed
to promote German commercial interests rather than to achieve mili-
tary conquest in which the Germans were unwilling to invest. As the
problems of coordination and expedition security increased, however,
military expeditions were favored, and exploration spread inward in a
fan-shaped pattern from the narrow coastal holdings toward the head-
waters of the river systems of adjoining territories occupied by other
colonial powers. Although employing a strategy seemingly designed to
encroach upon these adjacent territories, the military forces of the
German colonial administration were never of sufficient size to pose a
serious threat.
Exploration of the Nyong River in 1887 led to the founding of the
town of Yaound6. An expedition in 1888 penetrated into the western
highlands and, after initial resistance by local peoples, obtained agree-
ments upon which the German administration was to base its policy of
indirect rule. As the Germans turned from exploration to the estab-
lishment of political and military control, they met varying degrees of
resistance. Campaigns, which lasted three years, were launched in
1891 against the Kpe, living between Buea and Douala, and in 1892
against the Bassa and Bakoko along the Nyong River. A two-year
military expedition to the south was sent in 1899 against the Boulou
near the present-day border with Gabon. Hostilities in the east con-
tinued until 1907 and in the region near Lake Chad until 1911. Even as
late as 1914, many areas had been pacified only on paper; the area
around Bamenda in the west had received only two visits from German
military personnel (see ch. 3).
Administration of the German protectorate was headed by a gover-
nor under the direction of a division of the German foreign ministry.
By 1907 the Germans clearly saw Kamerun as a colony and established
an office for colonial affairs independent of the foreign ministry. The
governor was granted wide powers, which included lawmaking, levying

and collecting taxes, administering the court system, and directing
military operations in the colony. Initially, the governor was required
to consult an advisory council, which was composed of resident Euro-
peans, on various issues. Its sessions, which discussed mainly the
administrative budget and local ordinances, were infrequent. The
authority of the council was never clearly defined, and it remained
solely advisory.
Although structured differently from region to region, the German
colonial administrative system was based on indirect rule and decen-
tralization of authority. The coastal and central regions were divided
into districts, each of which was protected by a small fort. Initially,
the military commander of the fort served as the district adminis-
trator. Except for the more immediate coastal areas, this continued to
be the case well into the twentieth century when civilian administra-
tors began to replace the military commanders; Bamenda, for example,
was under military authority until 1912. The district administrator
was responsible for both administrative and judicial functions as well
as the supervision of trade and transportation and the maintenance of
good relations with local chiefs. In the north there was heavy reliance
on indirect rule achieved by the placement of two German commis-
sioners over the local traditional authorities. Although often involved
in settling local disputes, the major responsibility of these commis-
sioners was to assure the loyalty of local peoples to German territorial
The German colonial administration established a judicial system
composed of two sets of courts. The system for Europeans was based
on German civil and criminal law observed in Europe and followed
German court procedure. Each district had its own court, and initially
there was a court of appeal in the newly established capital at Buea.
Later, appeals were referred to the German metropolitan court system.
Acquittals were frequent, and sentences were seldom severe. An in-
digenous court system tried minor civil and criminal cases but had no
jurisdiction over murder trials or crimes requiring the death penalty.
Appeals could be made to the governor. Local chiefs served as judges,
and traditional customary law was usually followed. Whipping was
the most common punishment.
The German administrative structure was never large. In 1890 the
governor's staff included about twelve officials. By 1900 the addition
of engineers, scientists, and other officials brought the total number of
administrators to just under 200. At the end of the German colonial
period in 1916 the administration had grown to about 240. In addition,
there were about thirty European officers administering a police force
of about 1,200 men and 160 German officers supervising about 1,500
The small number of personnel reflected the limited resources
allotted to the colony by the German home government. From the

beginning the commercial and plantation sectors competed for govern-
ment support. The traders exceeded the planters in number, were
better organized locally, and had firm contacts in the German capital.
The German metropolitan government, however, was particularly
interested in the prospects of producing commodities, such as tobacco
and rubber, in order to relieve its foreign exchange position. The under-
developed state of communications and continued unrest in the Ka-
merun interior, moreover, argued against the economic return of
investment in trade. The government, therefore, placed emphasis on
the development of plantation agriculture. By the end of the colonial
period there were fifty-eight plantations employing a total of about
18,000 local African workers.
The administration adopted a progressive approach to agricultural
development. Scientific methods were applied, and technical experts
and research commissions were established. A botanical garden was
founded in 1893 and was charged with the responsibility of conducting
soil tests, distributing free seeds, advancing animal husbandry, and
effecting a program of insect control.
The two most pressing problems relating to plantation agriculture
concerned land policy and labor competition. Upon the establishment
of suzerainty the German colonial administration had claimed all
unoccupied land as crown land and shortly afterward began to regulate
land sales. The right to expropriate large tracts of land for railroads
and urban needs was maintained by the administration. Expropria-
tions for these purposes and moves designed to obtain the fertile lands
on the slopes of Mount Cameroon resulted in the dislocation of various
local peoples. A special land commission was created in 1902 to over-
see land policy, but dissatisfaction mounted and led to unrest in the
Plantations, traders, and construction projects competed for the
limited labor force. Voluntary labor was supplemented by forced
labor, which was obtained first as a result of German conquest of re-
sisting ethnic groups and later through a labor tax system under which
local authorities were required to provide a certain number of man-
hours of labor per year. Both forced labor and contractual labor were
placed under government supervision, and after 1902 slavery was
abolished. Although the government sought to eliminate abuses of the
labor system in the early 1900s, particularly after the very high death
rate among laborers sent to the plantations came to public notice, few
groups-either European or African-were satisfied with German
attempts to supervise the labor sector.
In an effort to encourage the flow of private capital into infrastruc-
ture development in the interior, the government granted two charter
trade companies monopolies covering almost half of the territory's
land surface. The Gesellschaft Nord-West Kamerun was granted an
area of almost 2.5 million acres, and the Gesellschaft Sud Kamerun

received a territory of almost 2 million acres. In exchange for the exclu-
sive monopoly of trade within these areas, the companies agreed to
explore the region, to build bridges and roads, and to encourage settle-
ment. In actual practice, the companies did little beyond that neces-
sary for their own trade purposes. Neither was a financial success.
They did, however, provide a major injection of capital into the colony
equal to one-fifth of the total German investment during the entire
colonial period.
The development of a transportation network was one of the admin-
istration's chief interests. Although plantations and charter companies
constructed a limited number of roads, the government was the major
builder of surface transport routes. After 1900 pacified groups were
required to expand and maintain the road system and bridges in their
region. By the end of the German administration, there were about 300
miles of roads suitable for mechanized vehicles, but the country re-
mained heavily dependent upon human porters.
Railroad construction was initially totally dependent upon private
investment. Until the turn of the century, the only track was of narrow
gauge, laid by plantation owners on their holdings. In 1906 the German
government approved funding for loans aiding private construction of
100 miles of track, known as the Nordbahn, from Bonaberi near Douala
to northeast Nkongsamba. This service was opened in 1911. The gov-
ernment itself undertook construction of a railroad line-the Mittel-
landbahn-of about 225 miles from Douala east to Windenmeng, but
in 1914 less than 100 miles had been completed.
Health conditions in Kamerun during the colonial period were far
from adequate, and improvements were greatly hindered by budgetary
limitations. Facilities were limited; even as late as 1912 there were
only twenty-nine German doctors in the colony. Of these, fifteen were
attached to the military, nine served the civilian administration, and
five were working on a special campaign to eradicate sleeping sickness.
After 1900 more attention was paid to health conditions, and efforts
were made to control such diseases as leprosy, smallpox, and malaria.
The greatest progress was made among indigenous plantation workers.
Plans for expanded health facilities were drawn up during the last
years of the colonial administration but were never implemented.
During the German administration British missions were supplanted
by the German Basel Mission. Roman Catholic missions and United
States Protestant missions were established later. Although the Ger-
man colonial administration established a limited number of schools,
education during the colonial period was largely the responsibility of
mission schools under German supervision. The administration was
interested in training personnel for lower level staff positions but
favored craft and trade instruction for the general local population.
By 1907 standardization of the school curriculum had been effected,
and by 1910 all schools were required to follow government regulations

in order to obtain financial assistance. Trade schools had been opened,
and the German authorities were giving limited support to agricultural
schools. At the end of the colonial period there were four government
schools with a total of 833 pupils, as compared with 631 mission schools
with about 40,000 pupils.
A variety of factors, including an increased budget for colonial terri-
tories and internal political developments in Germany, led to increased
metropolitan control after 1907. The new Colonial Office began increas-
ing its information on the colonial situation and proposed reforms,
which-had they been implemented-would have greatly increased
administrative effectiveness in advancing economic and social develop-
ment in the protectorate. As it was, when German control came to an
end, an exchange economy based on agricultural production had been
introduced; investments had been made in infrastructure; urbaniza-
tion had commenced; and certain institutions, based on Western proto-
types, had been introduced to urban areas.

In late 1914, after World War I had begun, the British and French
launched military campaigns against the Kamerun protectorate from
bases in Nigeria and the French Congo. German resistance lasted for
somewhat more than two years and resulted in damage to roads,
bridges, and public facilities. Initially, the British and French assumed
joint administrative responsibility for the territory but later divided
it. The French regained those portions of the Congo that it had ceded
to Germany in 1911 and received about 80 percent of the remaining
territory. The British received two separate areas along the border
with Nigeria. In 1922 both powers agreed to accept administration of
these territories as mandates under the League of Nations (see fig. 2).
The major object of the mandate system as it was finally instituted
was to eliminate the abuses of colonialism rather than to further any
specific form of political development in territories held as man-
dates. The Permanent Mandates Commission, to which the mandatory
powers were required to submit annual reports, was established to
oversee the system, but the commission had no means of enforcing its
general policies or specific recommendations. Although inhibited by
the force of international opinion, the mandatory powers were largely
free to follow their own policies.

French Cameroun

The French were reluctant to accept administration over the terri-
tory, except as a colonial possession. The terms of the agreement fi-
nally made in 1922 limited legal incorporation of the territory as a
colonial possession of the French Republic. This was largely a legal
distinction, however, and the broad French interpretation of the agree-

I8 12 16
Figure 2. Mandate Territories ofBritish Cameroons and French Cameroun, 1922

ment resulted in the application of colonial policy and institutions to
the administration of French Cameroun.
French colonial policy before World War I was based on the paternal-
istic French view of the superiority of French culture. The long-term
goal was the assimilation of colonial peoples as they cast aside the
traditional social system and culture and accepted French values and
institutions. The initial group of Africans to become assimilated was
to join with French nationals in the administration of the territory.
Local and central administrative structures were to be patterned on
metropolitan models. Eventually, all colonial peoples were to become
part of the French nation.
In the early twentieth century the concept of assimilation came
under attack for both practical and ideological reasons. In pragmatic
terms cultural assimilation was not occurring rapidly enough to re-
place traditional indigenous structures with French institutions. The
alternate policy was one of association, under which traditional

institutions were to be respected. Although the French administration
was again to be aided by an indigenous assimilated elite, under the new
policy the administration was to serve as a supervisory power over a
decentralized coalition of traditional political structures. Increased
flexibility toward economic development was also advocated.
In practice, the French combined both approaches. The policy of
association became more a cover for assimilationist hopes and was
conceived of as an intermediary step to assimilation rather than a firm
commitment to the preservation of traditional culture. Indigenous
institutions were maintained-particularly in more distant regions-
for local administration (see ch. 8). These institutions were valued by
the French, however, not for their inherent merits but as a means of
effecting French control. Those practices deemed ineffective were
altered or eliminated without regard for social functions and values.
The result, by the end of the mandate period, was a system of quasi-
direct rule that failed to foresee a political evolution of the territory
independent of the French nation.
The French administration in Yaounde was placed under the direc-
tion of a governor general who was responsible to the Ministry of
Colonies in Paris. He was aided by an administrative council whose
members he selected. Initially, the council was composed entirely of
Europeans, but periodic expansion provided two indigenous represen-
tatives in 1927 and four in 1945. The governor general was not required
to accept the advice of the council, but he usually did so. Also under his
office were the heads of administrative services and the chiefs of the
internal administrative units into which the territory was divided.
Initially, there were fourteen divisions, each headed by a divisional
chief. The number was later increased to seventeen, and in 1935 they
were retitled regions. Each division was in turn divided into subdivi-
sions. The divisional chief was usually a French colonial supervisor,
but the subdivisions were sometimes directed by a French-trained
African or traditional chief. In the northern areas the Fulani lamido
(local traditional ruler) served in this capacity (see ch. 4). Variations on
the basic administrative pattern were common, particularly in more
remote areas, in areas where there was unrest, or in the case of a chief
whose continued rule was not felt to be in the interests of the French.
In 1925 a council of notables of ten to twenty members was created in
each division. Members were selected by the divisional chief from a list
of nominees representing ethnic groups in the area. Although the divi-
sional chief was required to consult the council on certain matters,
such as labor levies and head taxation, he was not obliged to follow its
advice. In actual practice the council served more to inform its indige-
nous chiefs of administrative policy than to pass on African opinions to
the French.
Under the 1922 statute that established the administrative structure,
traditional chieftaincies were separated into three categories. The

lamibe and chiefs serving as the heads of subdivisions were classed as
first-degree chiefs. Those serving as administrative assistants to the
first-degree chiefs or as heads of regional groups larger than a village
were classed as second-degree chiefs. Third-degree chiefs were the
heads of individual villages. Chiefs receiving such a classification were
granted a percentage of the local head tax they collected in exchange
for their services.
A dual legal system was structured similar to those in French West
Africa and Equatorial Africa. French citizens and assimilated Africans
were classed as citoyens (citizens) and fell under the jurisdiction of a
set of courts based upon those in metropolitan France. The various
qualifications necessary for an African to be classified as a citoyen
included general fluency in French, the rejection of polygamy, the
willingness to serve in the French armed forces, and the possession of
a skill or profession, usually associated with Western technology.
Those classified as sujets (subjects) were tried under native custom-
ary law administered by the Native Court, at least one of which existed
in each division. The divisional chief presided over each court with the
assistance of an African assessor selected by the governor general from
a list of local notables. The Native Court under local chiefs was for-
mally deprived of its judicial role but was retained to serve as a body
for local arbitration. In reality it continued to try cases under custom-
ary law. There was no statutory limit on punishment by the divisional
chief's court, but the most common form of sanctions was a fine or
incarceration. Appeal was possible to the governor general. Northern
Muslim peoples were particularly reluctant to accept the new legal
Sujets were also liable to prestation (required service) and a variety
of restrictive provisions called the indignant (civil status of a sujet).
The indiginat gave the French discretionary powers, ranging from
simple discipline to the control of population movements. Tax delin-
quency, laziness, or affronts to French dignity could all be punished
under this loosely defined legal concept.
Political development during the mandate period was marginal.
Local indignation against the French administration centered mainly
on abuses of the indiginat and forced labor edicts. Protests against
these abuses were usually presented individually. The few examples of
collective action were generally unorganized. They included a feud over
control of religious facilities between local religious leaders and return-
ing German missionaries after World War I, Douala grievances over
land expropriated by the German administration, and the issue of
taxation on women's wages. These protests were local grievances and
did not reflect the growth of national political awareness.
Until the 1930s political organizations were outlawed by the French
administration. The French Camerounian Youth (Jeunesse Camerou-
naise Francaise-JEUCAFRA), established in 1938, was the first

legally recognized political organization. JEUCAFRA was supported
by the French in a move designed to counter the international cam-
paign launched by Germany to regain its former territories. Basically
assimilationist, the organization was dominated by the leadership of a
young Douala, Paul Soppo Priso. It aimed at rallying urban French-
educated youth to the French cause but became the source from which
local leadership was to emerge after World War II.
During the early 1940s reform measures were instigated in recogni-
tion of the growth of French-speaking urban elites, composed of vari-
ous ethnic groups, but especially the Pahouin (see ch. 4). Municipal
councils (communes mixtes urbaines) were established in both Douala
and Yaound6. They offered municipal government headed by a mayor
and council appointed by the governor general. By the end of the man-
date era, plans were underway to convert these councils into elective
Economic development in French Cameroun through World War II
was limited. The needs of the French economy in the years immedi-
ately after World War I had left few funds to invest in the overseas
territories, and the local administration was forced to rely heavily upon
local sources of revenue. Budget expansion was limited also during the
1930s as a result of the worldwide economic depression. The French
applied the limited investments on infrastructure and the agricultural
sector and sought to stretch funds by restricting the use of European
personnel on development projects. The reliance upon undertrained,
indigenous personnel for supervisory positions, however, sometimes
resulted in waste and other abuses. The French have generally received
credit for the extent of economic development they were able to achieve
under such limitations.
French development policy sought the realistic exploitation of the
territory's economic potential along with the displacement of the Ger-
man commercial presence and related institutions and practices. The
holdings of private German firms and the economic operations that
had been under German administration were expropriated by the
French government. Some were sold at public auction, and others
were retained by the French. Increased earnings from the agricultural
sector were sought through increased productivity, but the major
increase in export revenue came from the introduction of timber and
coffee. The amount of commercial activity and the flow of exports
expanded substantially between the early 1920s and the late 1930s.
French investment in road construction brought the country a fair
network of all-weather roads by the 1930s. Increased efficiency in the
plantation and commercial system resulted, and a larger market was
opened for imports of manufactured items from France. The French
assumed control of the Nordbahn and Mittellandbahn railroads and
expanded the latter an additional eighty miles to Makak and Yaound6.
Expansion of port facilities at Douala was also undertaken.

The actual cost of French achievement fell heavily on the indigenous
peoples. Although the French publicly decried the German use of
forced labor, the French system of required labor was, in essence, the
very same mechanism. When criticized by the mandate commission of
the League of Nations for using forced labor-clearly forbidden under
the definitions of league mandates-the French replied that such labor
was allowed for the operation of essential public services. Initially,
labor conscription was handled through local chiefs who were given a
lump sum for all laborers. The chiefs were, in turn, to distribute the
money to the workers. Abuses of this system led the French to assume
direct responsibility after 1930. Women and children were reported to
have served under the work system, and the death rate of workers on
railroad construction was high. Although reforms were instituted,
reports of abuses continued until after the end of the mandate period.
Improvements in social services were mainly in the fields of educa-
tion and medicine. By the late 1930s there were about 100,000 pupils in
primary schools, about 90 percent of which were operated by mission-
ary and voluntary agencies. There were some state-supported second-
ary schools and limited technical and agricultural training programs.
Improvement in health facilities during the mandate era reflected a
sixfold increase in the medical budget. Public hospitals were con-
structed in larger towns, and mobile units introduced health services
to rural areas. A highly successful campaign under Eugene Janot,
a medical doctor, led to the eradication of sleeping sickness in the
British Cameroons
The British mandate consisted of two separate, narrow strips total-
ing about 20,450 square miles of land running along the northwestern
border with Nigeria. The first strip extended from the coast to the
Alantika foothills; the second strip extended from a point just above
the B1nou6 River to the shore of Lake Chad. The administrative divi-
sion of the mandated territory, however, did not directly follow this
geographic separation. The name Southern Cameroons was given to
that portion of the southern strip south of the Mambila foothills to the
coast-an area that in 1973 formed the Southwestern and North-
western provinces (see ch. 3). Northern Cameroons was the designation
given to a portion of the southern strip running north of the Mambila
foothills, as well as the entire northern strip.
The British did not establish a separate administrative structure for
the mandated territory but placed the two territories under the colo-
nial administration that operated in neighboring Nigeria. Northern
Cameroons was administered by the lieutenant governor of Northern
Nigeria; Southern Cameroons was under the supervision of the lieu-
tenant governor of the southern provinces. Both areas of the British
mandate were divided into districts headed by a district officer. The

districts were further divided into units called subdistricts, which were
headed by appointed local officials.
The British colonial administration functioned on the basis of in-
direct rule. This system operated most effectively in the Northern
Cameroons among groups, such as the Fulani, who had centralized
military and bureaucratic institutions. In the case of Southern Came-
roons, however, the application of indirect rule was complicated by the
diversity of the area's ethnic groups, most of whom lacked traditions
of centralized political authority. The British searched carefully for
the source of traditional authority in the fons of the highlands and the
chieftancies of the south and attempted to avoid the creation of arti-
ficial administrative units as had occurred in French Cameroun. The
compromises resorted to by the British for administrative efficiency
were nonetheless unpopular with indigenous peoples.
The local officials appointed by the British on the basis of traditional
roles were responsible to the district officer. They held broad author-
ity, however, over various aspects of local government, including the
police, legal jurisdiction over minor crimes tried under customary law,
the collection of taxes, health and sanitation matters, and the mainte-
nance of roads. For their services they were granted half of the revenue
from taxes and fines collected in their areas of jurisdiction.
The restricted scale of the British budget for neighboring Nigeria
resulted in minimal investment in infrastructure and social services
for the entire area. Development in the Cameroons, moreover, was tied
to the needs of Nigeria rather than to the particular needs of the man-
dated territory. The isolation of British Cameroons further restricted
government activities, and the attempt of Christian missionaries to
establish medical and health facilities was resisted by Muslim peoples
of the north. The economy of Southern Cameroons was based on plan-
tation agriculture. Most plantations were owned by German nationals.
The British had confiscated all German holdings during World War I.
These properties were offered to the public at auctions in the early
1920s. Lack of interest by British investors led to the removal of re-
strictions initially prohibiting sales to German nationals. As a result,
about 75 percent of the plantations were returned to German investors.
Economic ties remain strongest with Germany, which served as the
major trade partner of the Southern Cameroons; in contrast with
French Cameroun, the German missionaries were allowed to return to
their missions.

Political Activity
Reforms begun in French Cameroun shortly before World War II-
including official support for mixed European-African quasi-political
organizations, modifications of the administration, and the establish-

ment of municipal councils-did not reflect French interest in local
political development as much as French concern for the security of its
regional African interests. Germany had launched a major campaign
for the reestablishment of Grossdeutschland (greater Germany). This
campaign included the use of mass media as well as diplomatic pres-
sure and was supported by German plantation owners in adjoining
British Cameroons.
Events of the early war years brought a change in French attitudes.
Gratitude for support by French Camerounians and other African
peoples for the Free French cause-including military enlistments-
was reflected at the January 1944 Brazzaville Conference of French
colonial administrators. Participants not only proposed to offer Afri-
cans representation in the organs of the new Fourth French Republic
but also African participation in the structuring of its constitution. The
basic perspective, however, remained assimilationist; although Afri-
cans were to exercise increased control over local administration, politi-
cal evolution independent of the French Republic was not envisioned.
The agreement in 1946 to place French Cameroun under the trustee-
ship system of the United Nations left the political future of the terri-
tory open. Although the United Nations Charter specified that eventual
self-government was the goal of the trusteeship and established a
Trusteeship Council with more powers than its counterpart had under
the League of Nations, the manner and final form self-government was
to take was left vague as a result of divergent opinions at the 1945
Charter Conference in San Francisco. The French first agreed to trus-
teeship in early 1946 but then hesitated and delayed negotiations until
late in the year. The final terms submitted to the United Nations were
loosely structured but were accepted by that body rather than delay or
prevent international supervision.
The federal political structure discussed at the Brazzaville Confer-
ence was more decentralized than the French Union actually formed
under its 1946 Constitution. The constitution did, however, bring nu-
merous administrative and judicial reforms and moved toward repre-
sentational government. It established the French Union, composed of
the French Republic, the independent associated states, and the associ-
ated territories. Cameroun was classified as an associated territory.
All territories were granted representation in the Assembly of the
French Union, but this body had mainly an advisory role in the prepa-
ration of legislation related to overseas territories.
The dependencies were not only given local representative assem-
blies but also seats in the legislative bodies of the French Republic.
Election to the representative assemblies, enlarged and renamed terri-
torial assemblies in 1956, and to the French National Assembly was by
the vote of a dual electoral college. Under this system Europeans and
assimilated Africans voted for one group of representatives and the
African majority, for another set. Representatives sent to the Council

of State of the French Republic and to the Assembly of the French
Union were selected by the representative assembly. The role of this
body was largely advisory except in budget matters. Deliberations
were subject to veto by the Council of State of the French Republic.
Such action occurred only twice, however, between 1946 and 1956.
Under the 1946 Constitution of the French Union, the dual legal
system underwent two major alterations. The new system distin-
guished between French nationals who were considered citizens of the
French Republic and were subject to metropolitan legal codes and
Africans who became citizens of the French Union. Both were assured
the same rights, but Africans were liable to traditional legal codes.
They were no longer subject, however, to the systems of prestation or
indiginat. Citizens of the French Union were given the right to vote if
they belonged to one of several categories. By 1952 these categories
included all property holders, notables, taxpayers, heads of families,
and literate citizens.
Other reforms were initiated later. In January 1949, for example,
the membership of the Council of Notables was enlarged to include
representatives of labor unions, traditional associations, and coopera-
tives. The growth of other representative institutions, such as munici-
pal councils and the representative assembly, reduced the importance
of the council, except in the north.
As in the case of the reforms instigated just before World War II, the
various administrative changes brought about by the 1946 Constitution
reflected neither French response to nor the actual presence of growing
national political consciousness. In 1945 JEUCAFRA remained the
only political organization; although it supported the concept of self-
administration, its platform was assimilationist. Nonetheless, the
variety of external factors-including the position of French colonial
administrators at Brazzaville and reforms in other French terri-
tories-resulted in the creation of a framework in which debate could
take place, issues could emerge, and national awareness might be
The development of national consciousness shifted between parlia-
mentary maneuvers and spurts of extraparliamentary violence. Politi-
cal parties did not play an influential role during the 1940s, however,
and candidates in early elections campaigned on a popularity basis
rather than in terms of an appeal to party affiliation. The first groups
to play an organized role in local politics were labor unions.
The scarcity of goods in Cameroun in 1944, soaring inflation, and the
administration's support for the first time of the right of labor to orga-
nize and strike stimulated the formation of labor unions. The most im-
portant of these was the Cameroun Federation of Labor Unions (Union
des Syndicats Confeder6s de Cameroun-USCC). The USCC was spon-
sored by the largest of all the French metropolitan labor organizations,
the General Federation of Labor (Conf6deration Generale de Travail-

CGT), which was dominated by communist-oriented groups. The in-
ability of the USCC to obtain satisfaction through negotiation resulted
in wildcat strikes and riots in Douala. The unrest was quickly quelled
by the French.
As the 1946 elections approached, various metropolitan political
parties sought to establish local affiliates. A small local group with-
out affiliation, the Camerounian Democratic Movement (Mouvement
D6mocratique Camerounais), also was formed. The politicized Union
of French Cameroun (Union Camerounaise Franqaise-UNICAFRA),
which was formed from JEUCAFRA in 1945, also prepared to partici-
pate in the trust territory's first elections. All these groups were short
lived. They held in common the feeling that the French were not help-
ing Cameroun to develop politically, but they disagreed over tactics to
improve the situation. One camp supported evolution through the
existing framework and cooperation with France. The other adopted a
more radical approach calling for self-government outside the context
of the French Union, a proposal defined as illegal by the 1946 Constitu-
tion. This led to violent agitation, which continued into the independ-
ence period.
In early 1947 radicals disappointed with the outcome of the elec-
tions sought to convert UNICAFRA to a more radical position. They
were composed mainly of trade union members and were led by Reuben
Um Nyob6, secretary general of the USCC. Failing to convert the
UNICAFRA, which dissolved shortly afterward, the radicals formed
the Camerounian Assembly (Rassemblement Camerounais-RACAM).
RACAM was soon banned by the French for its antiassimilationist
stand. After its dissolution Um Nyobe formed the Union of Cameroon-
ian Peoples (Union des Populations du Cameroun-UPC).
Initially, UPC leadership was dominated by Um Nyobe and other
Bassa leaders. Dissatisfied Douala and Bamil6k6 were soon attracted
to the UPC. Frustration ran particularly high among the urban Bami-
l6k6 who had emigrated as a result of population pressure on dwindling
land resources and who had encountered the hostility of local peoples
with whom they competed for employment. They also complained
about the low percentage of government positions they received. The
Bassa were more optimistic about the benefit of working with the
French administration than were the Bamil6ke, who advocated radi-
cal tactics. As a result of this disagreement, UPC leadership became
Both of the leading factions sought to build local support on the basis
of traditional political institutions and social organizations. The Bassa
were more effective in mobilizing support. Bamileke efforts were
greatly hindered by the fact that the reforms of land control they ad-
vanced adversely affected the status of traditional leaders from whom
they sought assistance. For a time the UPC was supported by the

kumsze, a pan-Bamil6k6 movement that claimed traditional roots, but
this support was withdrawn in 1950.
Unable to obtain increased support for its radically phrased plat-
form, the UPC sought involvement in local issues. UPC support of
riots and other forms of violent protest agitated the French. Initially,
the French sought to counter the UPC by supporting more moderate
groups, such as the Bamilek& Union (Union Bamil6ke) and the Came-
rounian Democratic Bloc (Bloc D6mocratique Camerounais). Following
UPC affiliation with the African Democratic Assembly (Rassemble-
ment D6mocratique Africain-RDA), a sub-Saharan transnational
movement, the French took restrictive action.
Bureaucrats known to be members of UPC were transferred to re-
mote areas, public facilities were not opened to UPC activities, and the
French renewed their support for the formation of parties, such as the
Camerounian Social Evolution (l'Evolution Sociale Camerounaise-
ESOCAM), which would favor French assimilationist policy. In re-
sponse to these steps, UPC began to build itself into a sophisticated
hierarchical structure. Subsidiary groups were organized on different
social levels to serve as propaganda elements and communication links
for UPC. The overall strength of UPC, however, remained limited by
its revolutionary call for independence and its inability to win support
in the Muslim north.
More than twenty parties supporting evolutionary policies competed
with ESOCAM and UPC in the 1951 elections for the French National
Assembly and the 1952 elections for the Camerounian representative
assembly. The extension of the vote to all those literate in French or
Arabic yielded an electorate of more than half a million. Although the
personal following of men like Louis Aujoulat, Paul Soppo Priso, and
Charles Okala overshadowed party politics, the electorate obviously
supported evolutionary candidates. Although none of the evolutionary
parties drew support from an extensive area, the UPC failed to profit
from its complex organizational structure. The UPC accused the ad-
ministration of stuffing ballot boxes, but the enlarged electorate was
clearly conservative.
After the elections the UPC adopted a new attack and advocated re-
unification of the British and French mandated territories. Political
leadership in the British Cameroons became increasingly split over the
issue, and the UPC sought to exploit fears that continued association
with Nigeria would result in a loss of identity. Um Nyob6 took the issue
before the United Nations in 1952. Although his discussion focused
more on abuses of the French administration, upon his return to Came-
roun Um Nyob6 used his appearance at the United Nations as evidence
of international support for reunification.
Throughout 1953 unification became increasingly popular and was
widely adopted in the platforms of other groups. The French began
repressive actions designed to restrict UPC influence. Bureaucrats sus-

pected of UPC leanings were sent to Douala in order that they might
be kept under surveillance and their political influence might be local-
ized. In view of its visible loss of influence throughout 1954, the leader-
ship of local UPC groups debated appropriate tactics. As the radical
influence of Felix Roland Moumie, who had recently returned from
abroad, increased, less radical members left the party to join other
more moderate groups.
Having gained control of the party, Moumie led UPC to support
riots in May 1955 with the expectation that there would be a general
uprising in the country. A considerable number of deaths and property
damage resulted. The UPC was declared an illegal organization and
dissolved in July 1955. The UPC thus was no longer able to participate
in political processes--including elections and representative bodies-
in which its platform of independence and reunification had become
increasingly popular; its reliance on agitation to gain political support
had limited its constructive role in Camerounian political development.
Following the legal dissolution of the UPC the leadership split along
factional lines. The Bamil6k6 and Douala leaders fled to British South-
ern Cameroons where, under Moumi6, they sought to affiliate with the
Kamerun National Democratic Party-KNDP. Um Nyob6 took the
Bassa leadership into hiding near Es6ka. Communication between the
two was marginal, and after 1955 the two factions operated almost as
separate organizations.
After a brief pause following the 1955 elections these two factions
renewed their activities in a two-faceted civil war that was to last until
the early 1960s. Between 1956 and 1957 the major center of terrorist
campaigns was in Bassa territory, although violence also occurred in
Bamilek6 territory along the border with Nigeria. Following the death
of Um Nyob6 in 1958 at the hands of a government security patrol,
Bassa violence decreased. The major focus of violence shifted in the
next year to Bamilek& areas under the direction of a newly formed
National Liberation Army of Cameroun (Arme6 de Liberation Nation-
ale du Kamerun-ALNK). Precise figures for the total damage to
public service facilities in Cameroun were not available, but the dam-
age to churches, hospitals, and schools in the Bamilek6 region was
estimated at the equivalent of about US$6.4 million. The number of
persons who lost their lives during the rebellion was estimated by vari-
ous sources at between 10,000 and 80,000 (see ch. 15).
Economic Change
After World War II the French placed major emphasis on Came-
roun's economic development, and a series of economic plans was pre-
pared. A major industrial step occurred with the construction of a
hydroelectric power plant at Edna, and an aluminum smelting center
was erected nearby. Between 1946 and 1959 a total of US$500 million
was invested. About half of this was supplied by French aid funds

channeled principally through the Investment Fund for the Economic
and Social Development of Overseas Territories (Fonds d'Investisse-
ment pour le Developpement Economique et Sociale des Territoires
d'Outre-Mer-FIDES). Expansion of the transportation and commu-
nication sector also occurred.
Increased investment in the social sector as well as increased de-
mand for local products brought improved health and living conditions.
Drafts of required labor service were technically outlawed with the end
of the prestation system in 1946, but they were not totally eliminated
until 1952. Working conditions and welfare benefits as well as women's
rights also were advanced. Education was markedly improved, and
assimilationist policies set the goal of a primary education for every
child. Instruction followed the metropolitan pattern. Enrollment in
primary schools by the late 1950s totaled about 331,000, two-thirds of
which was in private schools. Official statistics indicated that about 50
percent of the population under the age of forty in the southern portion
of French Cameroun was literate. Urbanization advanced rapidly after
World War II. Migrations of rural groups, such as the Bamil6k6, into
urban centers resulted in ethnic tensions and new social problems for
which the French administration was unprepared.
During World War II the British again expropriated German proper-
ties in Southern Cameroons. The operation of these plantations was
later transferred to the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), a
quasi-public corporation established by statute. During the 1950s the
CDC operated the only railroad in Southern Cameroons, employed over
half of the territory's labor forces, provided major tax revenues, and
supplied 30 to 50 percent of export earnings.
Although local political parties unanimously denounced UPC tactics
of violence and sabotage during the 1955 election campaign-especially
in the Sanaga-Maritime Department of Littoral Province-reconcilia-
tion and amnesty for UPC activists gained increasing support after the
elections. The increased disposition of the French to autonomy and
possible independence brought a search for a meaningful coalition
rather than polarization between the UPC and anti-UPC groups. The
revised French position was the result of numerous factors. A consti-
tutional dispute within the Cameroun administration played a role, but
more important were deliberations at the United Nations over the ter-
mination of trusteeship status for Togo and political developments in
France leading to the fall of the Fourth French Republic and imple-
mentation of policies advocated by Charles de Gaulle. France finally
abandoned its dream of an organic link with colonial possessions.
The late 1950s also marked the first attempt of the French adminis-
tration to Africanize administrative posts. Although several hundred
Africans were employed by the administration, most held clerical or

subordinate positions. It was not until 1956 that Camerounians were
sent to the school in Paris designed to prepare upper echelon officials.
In 1956 the French passed a special enabling act-referred to as loi
cadre-designed to shorten the parliamentary procedure usually re-
quired to institute the reforms necessary for increased autonomy in
the overseas territories. The representatives elected to the territorial
assembly in the December 1956 election formed a coalition government
in January 1957 under Andr6-Marie Mbida. The coalition was grouped
along regional lines and included: the Cameroun Union (Union Camer-
ounaise-UC) led by Ahmadou Ahidjo; the Cameroun Democrats
(D6mocrates Camerounais-DC) of Mbida from the central area; and
the Independent Peasants (Paysans Ind6pendants-PI), more a group-
ing of Bamil&k6 interest groups than a political party in the usual sense
-represented by Djoumessi Njime from the west. The opposition was
formed by National Action (Action Nationale-AN), a southern party
whose leadership included Charles Asall6 and Paul Soppo Priso. With
the exception of the PI most parties were formed along regional lines
with mixed ethnic membership.
The Mbida coalition survived for little more than one year. Mbida
advanced policy positions he personally held-which were almost uni-
versally unpopular-without consideration of the political conse-
quences. He proposed a ten-year period of social, economic, and political
development before further consideration of independence. He advo-
cated the use of French troops to end UPC sabotage and declined to
grant amnesty to former UPC activities. Moreover, he disregarded the
unification issue.
A new coalition government was formed in early 1958 under Ahidjo,
who had served as minister of the interior under Mbida. Although he
was a young Muslim leader from the north, Ahidjo was able to gain the
confidence of southern leaders. His coalition with the UC and the PI
established a north-south alliance that was to serve as the base for his
future political power. He advocated full internal autonomy, a time-
table for independence, national reconciliation, and close cooperation
with France after independence.
Territorial assembly deliberations over the text of the 1957 French
statute that provided increased internal autonomy resulted in the for-
mulation of a complicated series of amendments. In the end, increased
concessions by the French-especially after the assumption of power
by the new de Gaulle administration-resulted in the drafting of a
completely new statute. In December 1958 the United Nations General
Assembly voted to end the French trusteeship. Consultations between
France and Cameroun resulted in a mutually acceptable schedule for
independence, which did not include a referendum on future associa-
tion with France, as was offered other overseas territories. Autonomy
over all matters except foreign affairs passed to Cameroun on Janu-
ary 1, 1959; complete independence for the former French territory as

the Republic of Cameroon was achieved on January 1, 1960.

With the achievement of national sovereignty, the government of
President Ahmadou Ahidjo faced a variety of problems. The country
lacked a constitution. Reunification with the British Cameroons re-
mained an open issue; and national security was threatened by the civil
war that had been supported since the late 1950s by the UPC. Although
opposition leaders had pressed for new elections and the structuring of
a constitution before independence, Ahidjo had obtained enough sup-
port in the territorial assembly to govern by decree for a period not to
exceed six months after independence.
A constitution was drafted in final form and was ready for a national
referendum in February 1960. In certain respects it mirrored the new
constitution of the Fifth French Republic, establishing a mixed presi-
dential-parliamentary system. The president served as head of state
and appointed a prime minister as head of government. The president
hao broad constitutional authority and was empowered to assume in-
creased powers in the case of a state of emergency or, to a lesser degree,
in a state of urgency. Accords were negotiated with the government of
France covering cultural, diplomatic, and economic cooperation.
The constitution, which became effective in March 1960, was sup-
ported by 60 percent of the electorate in the February referendum; the
majority of opposition came from the south. Elections for the National
Assembly were scheduled for April 1960, and campaign activity by
UPC members was legalized. Ahidjo's AN group won fifty-one of the
100 assembly seats. The UPC won thirteen seats but lost five members
to a newly formed Bamil6k6 organization, the Popular Front for Unity
and Peace (Front Populaire pour l'Unit6 et la Paix-FPUP), which
then had eighteen members. Charles Asall6 of the National Action
Party and Charles Okala merged their supporters and formed a ten-
member group called the Progressives (Progressistes). The Democrats
(D6mocrates) of Andr6-Marie Mbida obtained ten seats. Ahidjo, who
ran unopposed in the May 1960 presidential election, formed a coalition
government with these parties and appointed Assal6 as prime minister
and Okala as foreign minister.
Meanwhile, political developments in the British Cameroons had
moved at a slower pace than that which had occurred in the former
French trust territory. The issue of unification of the two areas was
complicated by differing perspectives of political parties in the British
Trust Territories of Northern Cameroons and Southern Cameroons
and by political divisions within Southern Cameroons. The determina-
tion of the area's future political status was scheduled for a plebiscite
in February 1961, under the supervision of the United Nations, but the
complexity of the negotiations led to an arrangement of separate vot-
ing by the two territories. Although in 1958 the United Nations had

clearly reported widespread support in Northern Cameroons for inte-
gration with Nigeria, the voters in the November 1959 plebiscite chose
to postpone their decision. This action was largely a protest, supporting
reform of the local administrative structure, which was subsequently
effected. In the February 1961 plebiscite the Northern Cameroons
voted for integration with Nigeria. The legitimacy of this vote was pro-
tested by the government of Cameroon to the International Court of
Justice, but the vote was upheld by the court.
In the Southern Cameroons J.N. Foncha, leader of the Kamerun
National Democratic Party (KNDP), had supported British Cameroon-
ian independence from Nigeria and reunification with the French terri-
tory. E.M.L. Endeley, who led the Kamerun National Congress (KNC)
and who had basically opposed the various political positions of Foncha
since the early 1950s, had advocated association with Nigeria and, later,
advocated federation with the eastern territory. Considerable difficulty
was encountered in obtaining agreement over the phrasing of the plebi-
scite proposition, resulting in a delay of the vote in the Southern Came-
roons until after the Republic of Cameroon had achieved independence.
Foncha benefited from ethnic fears of British Cameroons' absorption
into Nigeria as well as from resentment of continued Nigerian-fre-
quently Ibo-domination should the Southern Cameroons be incorpo-
rated with Nigeria. In the end, the plebiscite of February 1961 brought
approval for the federation of the Southern Cameroons and the Repub-
lic of Cameroon.
Although consultations between Ahidjo and leaders of Southern
Cameroons on the federal constitutional structure had occurred, com-
plete agreement had not been reached before the opening of the Foum-
ban Unification Conference in July 1961. The southerners favored a
loose federal structure with a bicameral legislature and a ceremonial
head of state rather than a strong federal executive. Ahidjo favored a
centralized federal structure in which the federal executive would
dominate all other governmental organs on both state and federal
Ahidjo presented a completed constitutional draft to the conference
in contrast to the list of general principles brought by the representa-
tives of the Southern Cameroons. The final constitution published in
September 1961 followed the Ahidjo model with a strong federal execu-
tive and a unicameral legislature (see ch. 8). On October 1, 1961, the
two territories-the states of West Cameroon and East Cameroon-
were joined as the Federal Republic of Cameroon (see fig. 3). As an in-
terim move, representatives to the new Federal National Assembly
were chosen by the two state legislatures, and Ahidjo remained chief
executive. The first direct elections for the assembly and the federal
presidency occurred in 1964 and 1965, respectively.
Although the UPC-led civil war carried over into the postindepen-
dence period, it was reduced in both intensity and frequency. In part,

8 0 0 50 10 /




O Yoounde

12 16

Figure 3. Federal Republic of Cameroon, 1961

this reflected further splintering among the Bamil&k6. A more mod-
erate group had emerged locally and increasingly took positions inde-
pendent of those advocated by the exiles. The new group supported the
constitution in the February referendum-although the Bassa did not
-and in spite of exile opposition participated in the April elections. By

1962 the Bassa and the Douala had gained dominance over the UPC
and sought to disassociate from the Bamil6k6 wing and its policy of
terrorism. The intensity of Bamil6k6 resistance by this time, however,
had also been reduced by the legislation of UPC activity, the deaths of
Um Nyob6 and Moumi6, and the defection of some UPC members to the
UC. Ahidjo also curtailed the resistance movement by alternating am-
nesty and political patronage with demonstrations of the effectiveness
of the new government's military arm. By 1963 this threat to national
security was reduced to minor proportions.
The concept of national unity advanced by President Ahidjo ex-
tended beyond the creation of a tight federal structure and establish-
ment of internal security; the president's goals included the formation
of a unitary party system. In 1961 Ahidjo claimed that the UC was the
only national party in East Cameroon, stressing the local character of
the opposition parties. In April 1962 the opposition rallied and formed
the United National Front (Front National Unifi--FNU), which at-
tacked Ahidjo's unitary party concept as being part of a planned pro-
gression to authoritarian rule. In mid-1962 FNU leaders were arrested
on charges that they were supporting the UPC rebellion, and the front
was dissolved.
Ahidjo obtained an agreement with Foncha's KNDP in West Came-
roon to form a committee of coordination. This committee was charged
with formulation of proposals for the establishment of a single federal
party and, in the interim, with coordination of UC and KNDP plat-
forms and candidates. Negotiations continued for four years. Finally
in June 1966 agreement was reached between Ahidjo and the leaders
of the three small West Cameroonian parties and the leader of the
KNDP, leading to the formation in August 1966 of the Cameroonian
National Union (Union Nationale Camerounaise-UNC) (see ch. 9).
The task of national unification was not just a political issue; it also
involved the complicated adjustment of the divergent social and eco-
nomic systems of the two federated states. Provisions were made for
the gradual achievement of integration. The first steps toward this
goal represented basic standardization of the national economy-
especially in the transportation sector-and the complicated coordina-
tion of statistics for future planning. By 1962 the currency of the Afri-
can Financial Community (Communaut6 Financiere Africaine-CFA)
-the CFA franc-was introduced as the federal currency, displacing
the Nigerian pound in West Cameroon. Vehicles in West Cameroon
were required to drive on the right-hand side of public roads. Coordina-
tion in 1963 continued to place heavy emphasis on the transportation
sector. Major investments were made in upgrading and repairing the
highway network in West Cameroon. A survey was begun for the con-
struction of a railroad link between Kumbo and Douala, and the state-
financed Cameroon Air Transport Corporation was established. At the
same time all secondary schools were required to offer both French and

English language courses to students.
In 1965 a major administrative reform was completed with the shift
in authority over taxation from local to federal authorities. The cus-
toms barrier between the two states was lifted in 1966, and a federal
commission was established to aid in the coordination of the separate
legal system that had evolved in the two federal states.


Cameroon covers about 183,500 square miles in west-central Africa,
forming an irregular wedge extending northeastward from a coastline
on the Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, to Lake Chad,
700 miles inland (see fig. 1). Behind the swamps and the lowlands gen-
erally referred to as the southwestern coastal zone, the land rises to
mountains and plateaus extending more than 500 miles inland before
descending to a flat plain of moderate elevation in the far north. Cli-
mate ranges from the equatorial heat and humidity of the southern
border and the southwestern coast, through a seasonally cooler and
drier regime in the central plateau and mountain regions, to the aridity
of the northern plain, which lies on the approaches to the Sahara Desert.
Natural vegetation in most of the south and in the southwestern
coastal zone is a dense, tall evergreen rain forest. On the southern and
southwestern plateaus, about 100 miles from the southern border and
equidistant from the southwestern coast, the natural cover is a mix-
ture of evergreen and deciduous forests. Deeper inland, at about 5N
latitude, the natural cover is wooded savanna-a mixture of grassland,
scattered trees, and patches of forest, shading into open grassland with
fewer trees in areas still farther north. Much of the northern plain pro-
duces only scrub and sparse grasses, but there are contrasting areas of
swamp vegetation in the flood plains of the Chari and Logone rivers,
which mark segments of the northeastern border.
In 1973 Douala, on the coast, and Yaound6, the capital, were the
largest towns. They were also the major nodes of the road, rail, and air
transportation networks serving a rapidly growing population in Lit-
toral and South Central provinces. Outside this area, only a skeleton
network of mostly unsurfaced roads existed. The main line Trans-
Cameroon Railroad had been completed as far inland as Belabo in 1969.
In 1973 it was being extended northward to the high plateau town of
Ngaound6r6, as a step toward a modern railroad-road network con-
necting cities in northern Cameroon-and in neighboring countries-
with the seaport of Douala (see ch. 14).
Large bauxite deposits, the most promising of the nation's sparse
mineral resources, are located in the Minim-Martap area, near Ngaoun-
der&. Exploration for oil-largely offshore-was continuing in early
1973. Other important assets are extensive reserves of tropical hard-
woods in the humid southern forests; moderately good lava soils in

some areas of Western, Northwestern, and Southwestern provinces;
-and a variety of wildlife, which has attracted a growing number of
tourists to six areas set aside by the government as game parks.
About 75 percent of the estimated 1973 population of 6.1 million were
still rural dwellers. Most of them lived in villages or unplanned agri-
cultural settlements. In a few areas, such as parts of Northwestern
Province, families lived in isolated homesteads on or near their land.
Urbanization was proceeding rapidly, bringing social and economic
problems (see ch. 5; ch. 12). The overall population increased at about
2.1 percent per year between 1963 and 1973, with most of the growth
recorded in the towns. Meanwhile, the growth rate among the rural
population had dropped to about 1 percent per year and was expected
to be still lower during the middle and late 1970s, as larger numbers of
rural dwellers migrated to the towns, especially to Yaound6, Douala,
and other towns in South Central and Littoral provinces.
By 1973 about half the people were concentrated on less than 10 per-
cent of the land, primarily in two areas: an area extending northward
from Douala and Victoria on the coast into Northwestern Province and
eastward to Yaounde; and a smaller area far to the north, in the Man-
dara Hills, between the towns of Garoua and Maroua. Elsewhere,
throughout almost all of Northern and Eastern provinces, population
densities were less than fifteen persons per square mile.
Boundaries and Administrative Divisions
The country has a 160-mile coastline on the Gulf of Guinea and ap-
proximately 2,765 miles of border with six countries: Nigeria to the
west; Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) to the northeast
and the east; and the People's Republic of the Congo (Congo-for-
merly, Congo Brazzaville), Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea to the south
(see fig. 4). Many of the borders in 1973 were originally marked out
during a century of competition for territory among the colonial powers
of Germany, France, and Great Britain (see ch. 2).
The Cameroon-Nigeria boundary extends generally northeastward
from the coastline for 1,050 miles to a tripoint in Lake Chad, deep in
north-central Africa. Various segments were originally established
through agreements between former colonial powers or by unilateral
decisions of the British government, which controlled areas on both
sides of this border until after World War II.
Near the coast some sections are marked by broken terrain and heavy
forests, but there are also numerous areas where foot travelers can
easily cross. Farther inland, movement is generally not difficult in the
savanna grasslands and open forests that mark the central reaches of
the border, even though some segments are marked by mountains of
moderate elevation. In the far north the line lies across a relatively

( Littoral
( Southwestern
) Northwestern
) Western
( Northern
) South Central

1 Wouri
2 Sanaga-Maritime
3 Nkam
4 Mungo
5 Fano
6 Meme
7 Ndian
8 Manyu (formerly Cross River)
9 Metchum
10 Momo
11 Mezam
12 Bui
13 Donga-et-Mantung
14 Bamoun
15 Nd&
16 Haut Nkam
17 M6noua
18 Bamboutos
19 Mifi
20 Adamaoua
21 Benou6
22 Margui-Wandala
23 Logone-et-Chari
24 Diamar6
25 Mayo Danai
26 Lom-et-Djerem
27 Kadei
28 Boumba-Ngoko
29 Haut Nyong
30 Dja-et-Lobo
31 Ntem
32 Kribi
33 Nyong-et-KelI
34 Lekie
35 Mefou
36 Nyong-et-Soo
37 Nyong-et-Mfoumou
38 Haute-Sanaga
39 Mbam

Yaounde (also national capital)

Depa, tie ntt! Ad m ,,ir trt, Itrn (t ,t',r
Douala (also province capital)
Buea (also provincial capital)
Bamenda (also province capital)
Bafoussam (also province capital)
Garoua (also province capital)
Bertoua (also province capital)
Abong Mbang
Yaounde (also province capital)

Figure 4. Administrative Divisions of Cameroon, 1973

open subarid savanna, but travelers, such as nomads crossing the area
with their herds, are subject to heat and duststorms. Historically, there
has been considerable eastward migration across this border into
The northeastern boundary with Chad extends eastward for a few
miles from the tripoint in Lake Chad and then southward for an esti-
mated 250 miles in the lake, in the bed of the Chari River to Fort-
Foureau, and in the bed of the Logone River to 10N latitude. A central
segment extends westward from the Logone River for about 100 miles
and then southward and southeastward for more than 200 miles,
climbing toward the eastern approaches of the Adamaoua Plateau.
Seasonal flooding sometimes makes travel difficult; otherwise, the
grasslands and forests impede foot travelers very little. Southward
from approximately 8N to the tripoint formed by the intersection with
Chad's southern border, heavier rainfall creates more problems of
flooding and swamplands, and dense forests make travel more difficult.
From this tripoint the Cameroon-CAR border extends southward for
495 miles to another tripoint in the Sangha River, at the intersection
with the border of the Congo. It was retained on an alignment described
in a Franco-German protocol in April 1908. Survey lines connect seg-
ments in numerous riverbeds, including those of the Mb6r6 River in the
north, near the Chad-Cameroon-CAR tripoint, and the Sangha in the
southeast. Most of the border area is a series of plateaus of moderate
elevation, extending from Cameroon into the CAR. The wooded
savanna, forest land, and heavy rainfall in this border area make over-
land travel relatively difficult and slow, but two improved roads pro-
vide connections with towns in the CAR.
Southward, the boundary with the Congo is marked by the Sangha
River for about fifty miles. It winds west-northwest for another 170
miles in the median line of the Ngoko River and then extends westward
to the coastline via minor ridgelines, rivers, or survey lines along the
parallel of 2010'10"N latitude. Most of the 185-mile border with Gabon
is drawn in the median lines of several rivers connected by survey lines
in an area of generally low relief, dense equatorial forests, and swamp-
lands. Similar terrain and vegetation mark most of the 100-mile border
with Equatorial Guinea, whereas the extreme west, marked by the
Campo River, includes mangrove forests in the brackish swamps of the
coastal plain.
Very few of Cameroon's borders have been surveyed in detail. Most
borders are poorly marked, and detailed surveys and marking would be
difficult and costly. Nevertheless, no major border disputes were active
in early 1973. Discussions were being held between representatives of
the Nigerian and Cameroon governments to settle an apparently minor
question of border alignment in the deltas of several small rivers near
Ndian and questions of fishing rights in the respective territorial

Only a few major roads cross the borders into neighboring countries,
and official border crossing points may be hundreds of miles apart. In
the rural areas, especially in the sparsely inhabited savannas of central
and northern Cameroon, nomadic herdsmen, traders, and other travel-
ers who are familiar with the local terrain cross the borders at will.
A decree of July 21, 1972, modified the existing internal administra-
tive structure, establishing seven provinces to replace the earlier ad-
ministrative inspectorates. Five of these were the old inspectorates in
former East Cameroon redesignated as provinces. The sixth and
seventh-Northwestern and Southwestern provinces-were created
by dividing the former West Cameroon, previously a single inspec-
torate, into two parts.
The old inspectorates had been divided into thirty-nine second-level
administrative units, known as departments in the five eastern inspec-
torates and as districts or divisions in former West Cameroon. These
were retained with only two noteworthy changes: the old Cross River
district (division) was renamed Manyu, and all thirty-nine were hence-
forth to be known as departments (see ch. 8).
Four loosely defined regions provide a useful descriptive framework:
the northern plains, the central and southern plateaus, the western
highlands and mountains, and the lowlands along the coast (see fig. 5).
Northern Plains
The northernmost area of the country extends into Lake Chad, where
the borders of Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon intersect. The narrow neck
of territory south of the lake is part of a shallow inland basin, several
hundred miles wide, which extends in all directions from Lake Chad.
Broad areas of low, rolling hills bear little vegetation on their thin
soils; other areas are flat, marked here and there by scattered outcrops
or hills of resistant rock rising above the general erosional level. West
of Maroua the scattered rocky mounds and minor ridges are more
numerous, rising westward to hills and elongated ridges.
Central and Southern Plateaus
The Adamaoua Plateau, lying between 70N and 9N latitude, extends
from the eastern to the western border of Cameroon at elevations that
are everywhere more than 3,000 feet above sea level and average about
4,500 feet. Surface features in the central parts of this high plateau in-
clude small hills or mounds capped by erosion-resistant granite or
gneiss. Along the western and, to a lesser degree, the eastern borders,
old eruptions from fissures and volcanoes have covered thousands of
square miles of the underlying granite with lava.
South of the Adamaoua Plateau begins a series of lower plateaus
that extend throughout most of South Central and Eastern provinces
at elevations averaging about 3,000 feet but descending gradually
southward to the border and westward toward a series of terraces

8 0 50 N / 8


... ,' .. CENTRAL
-. ./ 1 AFRICAN

(13,350 Doulo
4 Yound 4


GUINEA < .so
12 16

Figure 5. Physical Features of Cameroon

leading downward to the coastal plain. The surfaces of these extensive
southern plateaus are primarily mixtures of ancient granite and sedi-
mentary rock. Soils are shallow in most areas and, for the most part,
have been formed from the underlying granite.
Western Highlands
The Cameroon Mountains, the highest range in the country, extend

southeastward from the Cameroon-Nigeria border area at about 7N
latitude to Mount Cameroon on the coast. The major mountain range
and the upland areas on its eastern and western slopes were built up by
volcanic activity associated with a series of faults in the granite sub-
structures underlying the African continent.
All of the ancient volcanoes in this complex had subsided before the
dawn of recorded history except for MountCameroon, which has been
active on four occasions during this century: 1909, 1922, 1954, and 1959.
In 1922 and 1959 molten lava flowed several miles, destroying planta-
tions on the lower slopes. The mountain is a complex of several con-
nected fissures and cones, one of which reaches 13,350 feet above sea
level, more than half again as high as any other peak in the country.
Elsewhere in the Cameroon Mountains, elevations range between 5,500
and 8,000 feet.
Other ranges of lower elevation stand in the north near the western
border of Northern Province. The most important of these are the
Alantika Mountains, which mark the border for a short distance at
about 8030'N latitude, and the Mandara Hills, which extend northward
from the town of Garoua and the B6nou6 River to about 11N latitude.
Coastal Zone
Most of the coastal zone is a flat area of sedimentary soils that front
on the Gulf of Guinea for about 160 miles. It is less than twenty miles
wide in most of the area northwest of Mount Cameroon, which divides
the northwestern coastal plain from the broader lowlands in the cen-
tral coastal area. Around Douala, the lowlands extend inland as much
as fifty miles, narrowing to as little as five miles farther south. Along
its seaward edges the central segment of the coastal zone is a series of
many adjoining deltas.
Numerous rivers, fed by heavy rains during most of the year in the
coastal zone and the adjacent plateaus and mountains, continue to ex-
pand the deltas with erosional debris. Near their mouths the major
rivers, which are partially choked by this debris, divide into numerous
sluggish channels. The various estuaries are tangled complexes of these
channels and are also fed by small local streams.
Close to the coast the older deltas and flat swamplands are covered
with mangrove trees and other swampland vegetation. From these
coastal flats the plains rise very gradually to about 300 feet above sea
level. At approximately this level, a relatively abrupt increase in slope
marks the first of several steps, or benches, leading upward to the in-
land plateaus.

Drainage Patterns
Most surface runoff from Cameroon eventually flows westward to
the Atlantic Ocean-much of it by circuitous routes and by way of ex-
ternal river systems, such as the Niger and the Congo. Three pri-
mary watershed ridgelines divide the country: the centrally located

Adamaoua Plateau, a poorly defined north-south ridgeline in Eastern
Province, and the Cameroon Mountains.
Rivers in Northern Province, where annual wet and dry seasons
occur, exhibit major seasonal fluctuations in volume. Practically all
rivers in the other six provinces carry a heavy flow for most of the year;
most areas south of 50N latitude have two rainfall and runoff maxi-
mums per year, but the variations in flow are within much narrower
limits than those observed on northern streams.
The extreme north is a complex, relatively flat area of inland basins
that have no outlet to the sea. The Logone and Chari river systems
along the northeastern border annually inundate a broad area before
emptying into Lake Chad, the major inland basin in this part of the
continent. Most of these floodwaters are not collected locally but have
been brought from high rainfall areas farther south in eastern Came-
roon, in CAR, and in Chad. Most other rivers in the north flow only dur-
ing the rainy half of the year and disappear in the sands and swamps of
other shallow inland basins.
Some of the runoff originating on the Adamaoua Plateau flows
northward into the upper tributaries of the B6nou6 River, which winds
across the western border and joins the Niger, the major river in Nige-
ria. By way of several tributaries, the Niger also receives a heavy flow
from the Cameroon Mountains and from associated highlands in
Northwestern and Southwestern provinces.
Various streams originating in the southern part of the Adamaoua
Plateau feed into the Sanaga, the largest river in the southwestern part
of the country. This river also collects a huge flow from heavy rainfall
areas on the eastern slopes of the Cameroon Mountains and channels
this heavy runoff into the Atlantic Ocean south of Douala. Three other
major rivers-the Wouri, Dibamba, and Nyong-also feed into the
tangled complex of deltas on the central Atlantic coast. Farther south,
near the borders with Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, the Campo River
watershed extends inland for about 200 miles.
Both the Sanaga and the Nyong rivers collect runoff from parts of
Eastern Province, but most of this very wet forest area is drained by
various tributaries of the Sangha River, which for a short distance
marks the border with the Congo and then flows southward into the
Congo River.

Climate and Vegetation

From its northern extremity in the seasonally dry plains of the Chad
Basin, the country extends for 700 miles southwestward through re-
gions of upland wooded savanna to the humid mixed forests on the
southern plateaus, equatorial rain forest near the southern border, and
mangrove swamps along the coast, where rainfall may exceed 130
inches per year (see fig. 6). The level of rainfall is the primary factor
determining patterns of vegetation and population. Elevation is also

Source: Adapted from France, Ministere de la Cooperation, Economie et Plan de Devel-
oppement: Republique Feddrale du Cameroun, Paris, 1965.
Figure 6. Cameroon, Vegetation and Rainfall
significant; areas such as the Adamaoua Plateau and the Bamenda
Highlands are high enough to be more comfortable and healthful than
the humid forests and lowlands of the southern and southwestern


The Subarid North
The narrow neck of Northern Province is among the northernmost
areas reached by moisture-bearing winds from the equatorial rain belt.
Southerly and southwesterly winds bring about forty inches of rain an-
nually to the Garoua area and about thirty inches to much of the area
farther north. Most of it is concentrated in a five-month season (May to
September) in the Garoua region and in a shorter season near Lake
Chad. For the rest of the year and intermittently during the rainy
season, this northern region is under the influence of drying winds
from the Sahara Desert. Surface water is quickly evaporated or escapes
through poorly developed soil structures to underground water tables.
Daytime temperatures are usually high except during and immediately
after the late summer rainstorms. Midday maximums are often above
900F, especially during February and March, but nights are usually
much cooler, at least during the dry months when the diurnal range
often covers thirty degrees and may be as much as fifty degrees. Nat-
ural vegetation in most of the area consists of fibrous, hardy grasses,
thorny scrub, and low trees, shading into grassier areas south of Ga-
roua, the provincial capital.
Along the northeastern border, the flood plain of the Chari and
Logone rivers forms an important subregion. For at least part of the
year marsh grasses and a great variety of other swamp plants thrive
in waterlogged flood plains that extend for considerable distances
north and south of Fort-Foureau. Other swamplands, smaller in total
area but having considerable local economic importance, lie east of
Garoua along the B6nou6 River and along one of its major tributaries,
the Mayo K6bi (see ch. 13).
The Central Savanna
Much of the Adamoua Plateau is an area of humid wooded savanna.
At Ngaound6r6, a town near the center of the plateau and near the geo-
metric center of Cameroon as well, annual rainfall is about fifty-nine
inches, twice as much as the average in the far north. The rainy season
extends from April to October and is longer toward the south, where
this region merges into the region of humid wooded savanna and for-
ests. The central area is a transition zone, a mixture of tropical and
equatorial types of vegetation. Elevation as well as geographic location
adds to the variety; mountains on or near the plateau may be covered
with shrubs and other plants that prefer the cooler climate of the
higher altitudes.
Through repeated burning, the original forests have been destroyed
in some areas; much of the new growth consists of thorny scrub,
marked here and there by fire-resistant trees. Other areas are a type of
prairie, in which expanses of grass are interspersed with patches of
stunted shrubs.
Much of this subequatorial central area is from 3,000 to 5,000 feet
above sea level, and elevation tends to moderate temperatures. Records

taken at Ngaound6r6 (3,600-foot elevation) show average daily maxi-
mums ranging from about 82F in June during the rainy season to95F
in March at the end of the dry season. Daily minimums are about 60F
or slightly higher during several months of the summer rainy season.
Winter is a period of low humidity, which makes the area more com-
fortable for humans than the lower and wetter areas in the south and
the southwest.
The Humid South
Southward the lower plateaus become progressively more rainy and
humid. Between 60N and 4N latitude the primary vegetation is a mix-
ture of deciduous and evergreen forest and areas of open grassland that
shades into wooded savanna farther north. From the capital city of
Yaounde southward and eastward to the national borders, rainfall and
warm temperatures foster a perennially green broadleaf forest. Many
trees are over 100 feet tall; below them are tangled mixtures of vines,
shrubs, and ferns.
Rainfall ranges from sixty inches per year in areas near 5N latitude
to nearly 100 inches in the southern section of the coastal plains near
the town of Campo. Diurnal and seasonal fluctuations in temperatures
and humidity are within narrow ranges, especially at the lower eleva-
tions and along the coast. YaoundC's temperatures are typical, having
an average daily maximum of 82F and an average minimum of 72F.
Relative humidity is not often below 50 percent, and it is frequently
above 80 percent. Nevertheless, at 2,300-foot elevation, Yaound6 and a
large area to the north and east have a more comfortable climate than
the southwestern coastal zone.
The southern area comes under the influence of equatorial airmasses
from the south as well as Atlantic airmasses from the southwest.
Among other complex climatic influences, one result is a pattern that
includes two seasonal rainfall peaks annually and two seasons that are
less rainy (somewhat inaccurately known as the dry season and the
little dry season). The rains are moderately heavy in April and May,
tapering off to the little dry season (four to six inches of rain per month)
in June and July. Rainfall increases to more than thirteen inches per
month in August and September and then recedes to as little as three
to five inches per month in December and January.
Coastal and Montane Rain Forest
The climate along the coast is said to resemble a permanent Turkish
bath. There is no dry season; temperature and humidity change very
little from day to day or from month to month. The western mountains
are also a part of this rainy and humid zone, but altitude brings some-
what greater variations in the monotonous patterns of prolonged peri-
ods of cloud cover, heavy rain, and high humidity. Temperatures at
the port of Douala, in the central coastal area, range from an average
daily high of 84F to average lows of about 72F; record highs in this
area are above 95F. The average relative humidity is between 85 and

90 percent throughout the year. Rainfall ranges from 100 inches per
year south of the coastal town of Kribi to 158 inches at Douala.
Rainfall in the mountainous areas of Southwestern and Northwest-
ern provinces varies greatly. Most areas, including those as far inland
as the Bamenda Highlands, receive between sixty and 130 inches of rain
per year. Some areas in the coastal plains and in the mountains near
the sea receive twenty-five inches of rain per month in August and
September, the wettest months.
Mountains in this western region force moisture-laden onshore winds
upward into cooler strata, creating local microclimates that are espe-
cially wet on their windward sides. The leeward side may be drier than
the nearby plateaus or foothills.
Mount Cameroon stands near the coast and catches the full force of
the wet winds from the Gulf of Guinea. Turbulence increases as the
winds are pushed upward. Rainfall is heavy on the western slopes,
sometimes continuing for days at a time. Stations on Mount Cameroon
and on the nearby coastal plain are among the wettest in the world; a
total of 250 inches per year has been recorded near the mouth of the
Wouri River, and over 360 inches in a small area on the slopes of Mount
Because the humidity is high and the rate of evaporation is low, even
during months of meager rainfall, most of this zone is covered with a
lush and varied vegetation. The most noticeable species in the flat
coastal swamps and the various estuaries are mangrove trees; a short
distance inland the rain forest includes thich stands of ferns, shrubs,
grasses, vines, lianas, palms, various tall hardwood trees, and a wide
range of parasitic plants. Farther inland, where there are more changes
in slope, elevation, rainfall, and soil, the variety of plantlife is even
greater. In some areas gallery forests may block out the sun, even ex-
tending their branches across broad stream channels; conversely, open
grasslands having few trees are found on some plateaus. In some areas
near towns or roads, the original forests have been cut down. Predomi-
nant plant types among the new growth may be different from that of
the virgin forests, presenting still another variation of the mix.
In the north, broad areas are covered with soils formed over very long
periods of time by the weathering and decomposition of the underlying
granite. In common with soils in much of intertropical areas of Africa,
they consist of varying laterites (mixtures of clay in which iron oxide
and aluminum compounds are major components). Because rainfall is
under forty inches per year in most of the north, soils have not been as
thoroughly leached and laterized as those in the wetter and warmer
southern provinces. They tend, however, to have a coarse texture and
to allow rainwater to percolate to deeper strata, out of reach of most
plantlife. Impervious layers have developed in some areas, but these

are the exception; there is considerable variation in the degree of
In swampy areas along watercourses, especially in the flood plains of
the Chari and Logone rivers on the northeastern border, soils are gen-
erally darker and more fertile and contain more humus than those on
the open plateaus. Subsistence crops are grown in many small areas,
and there is an extensive area of commercial cotton production along
the eastern border. Most of Northern Province is an expanse of sa-
vanna, which is useful primarily as grazing land (see ch. 13).
Soils of volcanic origin cover wide areas between 7N and 8N lati-
tude (the vicinity of Ngaounder6), and areas of such soils are found
along the western border as far north as the Mandara Hills. Of more
recent geologic origin than the typical soils of the granite plateaus,
they are only partially laterized and are generally more workable than
soils derived from the ancient granites.
Volcanic surfaces are also prevalent in Northwestern Province, cover-
ing thousands of square miles in and near the Bamenda Highlands
and extending southward in the mountain massifs and rolling plateaus
on both sides of the border between Southwestern and Western prov-
inces. Still farther southwest near the coast are extensive areas of
relatively young volcanic soils on the slopes of Mount Cameroon. Rela-
tively productive, these soils produce rich grasses, mixed forests, sub-
sistence crops, and commercial crops, particularly coffee.
Most of the soils in South Central and Eastern provinces were derived
from the underlying granites. The area receives a heavier rainfall than
the north, which has encouraged plant growth and soil building. In the
regions south of approximately 5N latitude, however, equatorial heat
and humidity and heavy rainfall quickly oxidize and leach away most of
the humus that accumulates under the lush forests, leaving only weak
lateritic soils on most of the lower plateaus in the south and southeast.
Much of Littoral Province and the band of lowlands along the 160-
mile Cameroon coast consist of relatively dark sedimentary soils that
are composed of fine clay, silt, and other alluvial and sedimentary ma-
terials carried down to the deltas and flood plains by the many rivers.
The northern departments of Littoral Province and the adjacent areas
of Western Province extend into the area of relatively good volcanic soils
associated with the plateaus and ridges of the Cameroon Mountains.
Soils on the coastal plains and on the adjoining hills produce commercial
crops, such as bananas and rubber, as well as a variety of subsistence

Minor amounts of various minerals have been known to geologists
for many decades, and a few have been exploited on a small scale. In
1973 the only proven mineral deposits having the potential for national
economic importance were very large beds of bauxite at Minim-Martap

in Northern Province. Large deposits of iron were known to exist in the
southern provinces, but they had not been explored in detail, and
known deposits of cyanite (titanium oxide) may eventually be profit-
able. Exploratory study of the Minim-Martap bauxite deposits was
continuing in 1973. Work already completed had indicated possibly a
billion tons of mostly high-grade ore on or near the surface. Large-
scale, economically competitive exploitation depended upon use of the
Trans-Cameroon Railroad, which was expected to reach the nearby
town of Ngaound6r6 during the mid-1970s (see ch. 13).
Bauxite ore was also reported in the Bamil6k6 area, near the border
between Littoral and Western provinces. Indications of copper ore in
the Maroua area were reported in 1971 but were believed to be of little
economic value.
Deposits of tin ore, manganese, gold, asbestos, mica, and diamonds
had been known for some time. All were apparently either small or of
poor grade. A few, such as gold and tin, had been extracted in small
amounts. The known reserves of tin at Mayo-Darle near the Nigerian
border were being exhausted. Cement and other construction materials
were available, and cement production had begun on a small scale by
Six wells were drilled in 1970 in a search for oil in coastal and off-
shore areas, and the search was continued in the Douala area, in coastal
areas near the Nigerian border, and on the southern coast near Campo.
Natural gas had been found in the Douala area but had not been ex-
ploited. As of early 1973 some petroleum had been found, and exploita-
tion was planned amid optimism that larger deposits would be
discovered as research and test-drilling continued.
Because its climate and vegetation vary from humid equatorial forest
to semidesert, the country has a wide variety of animals and insects.
Dozens of varieties of large mammals live in the humid savanna areas
on the central plateaus or along the Chari-Logone flood plains in the
north. The list includes the elephant, savanna buffalo, eland, bushbuck,
giraffe, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, lion, panther, cheetah, hyena,
baboon, hyrax, wild hog, anteater, and various antelopes and monkeys.
Among the better known birds are ostrich, several species of ducks,
guinea fowl, pigeons, birds of prey, scavengers, and many species of
small grassland and forest birds.
Farther south in the zone of transition from wooded savanna to
equatorial forest or in the wet forests of the south and east, some of the
same animals and birds thrive. Others include the gorilla, chimpanzee,
toucan, touraco (a plantain-eating bird), parrot, and other colorful
birds. The innumerable swamps and streams support a variety of water
birds, including the flamingo, ibis, kingfisher, stork, and other marsh-
land birds.

Mountain areas in the western provinces constitute still another
humid region in which still other species or subspecies have developed,
some of which are uncommon or unknown elsewhere. In these areas
scientists have collected flying mice that glide from tree to tree like
flying squirrels, as well as special types of frogs, toads, and lizards. All
areas have a variety of reptiles, including both poisonous and non-
poisonous snakes, which range in size from small but deadly vipers to
the large pythons found in some of the forest areas.
The tsetse fly is common in the lower altitudes and is only one of
numerous genera of flies, mosquitoes, butterflies, moths, beetles, and
other insects. Some beetles are several inches long. Butterflies and
spiders of certain species are also unusually large.
Numerous fish species inhabit rivers, lagoons, and the offshore
waters of the estuaries and the Gulf of Guinea. Tilapia, carp, perch,
catfish, and others are common in inland waters. Coastal lagoons and
rivers support shrimp, prawn, and other shore area life. Saltwater fish
caught off the coast include mackerel, sardine, and other well-known
food fish, and predator fish such as sharks.
Fish and other wildlife have been depleted in some heavily populated
regions, but other extensive areas, especially in Eastern Province, re-
main largely unaffected by man. The government has set aside six
parks for the preservation of wildlife and vegetation in or near its
natural state. The best known is Waza National Park, which covers
420,000 acres of swamp and savanna at the edge of the Logone River
flood plain in the northern neck of Northern Province. Most areas of
the park are accessible by means of some 250 miles of trails.
During the early 1970s the government increased its efforts to take
advantage of the country's potential for attracting tourists to Waza
and the other wildlife areas. In 1972 an American hotel corporation was
cooperating in the development of tourist lodgings at wildlife areas.
Comfortable facilities were being built at Waza and two of the other
national parks. Hunting safaris were available, but most visitors came
to see and photograph the animals.
Three other large parks are located across the northern approaches
to the Adamaoua Plateau: Boubanjidah, B1nou6, and Faro. Each has at
least a few accommodations for visitors. The four parks cover more
than 1.6 million acres. Cadres to manage and maintain them reportedly
were being trained at a school set up in Garoua during the late 1960s.

Settlement Patterns
Since the early nineteenth century there has been increased migra-
tion from the western plateaus (especially from the heavily populated
Bamenda Highlands and the hills of Western Province) to the towns
and plantations near the coast and near Yaound6. Modern economic
development began in these urbanized areas during the era of the Ger-
man protectorate, continued slowly during the French mandate and

trusteeship, and proceeded more rapidly after 1960 (see ch. 2). This
provided opportunities for the growing numbers of jobseekers, although
the supply of jobs was never equal to the demand. Various peoples
traveled to the coastal area, eventually outnumbering the descendants
of the Douala-the group that had previously dominated the Wouri
River estuary area. Of these, the Bamil6k6 were the most successful in
their transition from their inherited agricultural milieu to the various
urban occupations in the developing towns near the coast (see ch. 4).
The migrations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries developed
as population pressure on the land increased, especially in the high-
lands of Western and Northwestern provinces. Unequal distribution of
family-held lands or a scarcity of land that developed as the population
increased forced young men to leave. Also, the towns in Littoral and
South Central provinces began to attract young people because they
appeared to offer interesting alternatives to the boredom of subsistence
agriculture or provided an escape from traditional family controls. By
the 1960s and early 1970s many of the highland groups were so well
represented in the towns of the southwest that young men and women
growing up in the rural areas might go to the towns more or less as a
matter of course-to visit, to take temporary or permanent jobs, to
attend school, or for other reasons.
In earlier times this highlands area had attracted migrants from the
surrounding lower altitude areas. It had provided a combination of
moderately productive, well-drained soils, and a more favorable cli-
mate than that of the humid lower altitude forests and savannas. Until
the choice areas became overcrowded, subsistence farm families had
clustered together, but in recent decades pressure on the land had
forced a trend toward dispersion of homesteads. Sons moved away
from family clusters and established themselves on separate farms
wherever land was available. Steep slopes were converted to farmland
as population growth continued (see ch. 6).
Meanwhile, during the post-World War II period an increasing num-
ber of young people, unable to acquire land, were leaving the area,
migrating more or less permanently to large towns, such as Douala or
Yaounde, or to small towns and plantations, usually those in Littoral
and South Central provinces. While making their transition to urban
life, some young people were able to live with relatives who had already
moved to the towns. Others migrated to jobs on commercial plantations
(see ch. 13).
The port of Douala, the largest town in the country, was the focal
point of transportation and communications networks in the south-
west and the destination of many of the migrants (see ch. 14). It had
been established during the German protectorate as a port for ocean-
going vessels, serving commercial plantations, traders, and govern-
ment officials. It grew slowly until the 1950s, when a combination of
internal urban growth and increased migration began to push its popu-

lation figures upward at increasing rates. During the 1965-73 period it
was increasing at a reported rate of about 5 percent per year, much of
the flow of migrants still coming from the heavy population areas of
Western and Northwestern provinces.
Other migrants from the western provinces traveled to Yaound6,
which was growing at an estimated rate of 10 percent per year. The
growth of the capital city, and the moderately high densities in the sur-
rounding area (L6ki6 and Mefou departments) developed as a result of
several factors. The area was favorably located on the lower plateaus,
which served as a transition zone between the humid southern rain
forests and the open forests of the wooded plateau savanna, and
Yaounde functioned as both the national and provincial capital. Other
causes of rapid growth were the extension of the railroad to the capital
city in 1927 and eastward to BBlabo in 1969 and the development of
lumbering and commercial plantations near the railroad. In 1970 an
area of a few thousand square miles around the capital was estimated
to have about 150 persons per square mile. Population density was
increasing along the railroad to Bl6abo as development programs, in-
cluding feeder roads leading to the rail line, opened more land to timber
cutters and farmers.
Beyond the local area and those influenced by the railroad, other
areas such as the forests and upland savanna east of Yaound6, which
extend north-south for 500 miles from the southern border to the town
of Garoua and the Benou6 River in Northern Province, were very
sparsely populated. In the early 1970s new settlements were being
established along the right-of-way as construction crews pushed the
railroad northward from Belabo to Ngaound6re, the only town of sig-
nificant size on the high Adamaoua Plateau.
In the north the most significant migratory process of the mid-twen-
tieth century was a slow, but continuing, eastward movement from the
Mandara Hills, whose small valleys and terraced slopes of the rugged
hills could no longer support the growing population. Members of the
Matakam and other smaller groups of hill dwellers traveled eastward
or southward to find land on which to grow subsistence crops or to
produce cotton for the market.

Population increased by more than 1 million persons in one decade,
from about 5 million in 1964 to an estimated 6.1 million in early 1973.
The earlier figure is from a demographic inquiry, or partial census,
carried out by the Cameroon government during the 1960s, and the
1973 total is an estimate based on the earlier data. The national growth
rate averaged about 2.1 percent during the 1963-73 period and was
expected to remain approximately the same throughout the 1970s. By
1980 the total population was expected to be more than 7.25 million.

Age and Sex Distribution
The 1964 census and subsequent official analysis indicated a com-
paratively youthful population, a pattern linked to a high growth rate.
In 1970 roughly 15 percent of the population were under five years of
age, and 50 percent were under twenty. About 32 percent were in the
twenty to forty-four age group, and 18 percent were forty-five years of
age or older.
Data from the 1964 census indicated that 52 percent of the popula-
tion were female and 48 percent were male. Apparently because of dif-
ferentials in mortality rates for men and women at different age levels
and possibly because of errors in information given to census takers,
figures for different ages showed a majority of men in certain age
brackets. Men outnumbered women 53 percent to 47 percent in the
fifteen to twenty year group. By the age of twenty-five this ratio was
being reversed, and the twenty-five to fifty year group reflected a ma-
jority of women (56 percent). Beyond middle age the majority again
reverted slowly to males. In the 5 percent of the population who lived
to be sixty years of age or more, reported data indicated that 51 percent
were men and 49 percent were women.

Regional and Rural-Urban Distribution
In 1970 more than half of the population was concentrated on less
than 10 percent of the land surface, primarily in Littoral, Western, and
Northwestern provinces (see fig. 7). The largest area of relatively high
concentration, with densities of 100 to 300 persons per square mile in
several departments, extended from Douala and the Wouri River estu-
ary northward through Dschang into the Bamenda Highlands in
Northwestern Province. A second important concentration centered on
the capital city of Yaound6 on the lower plateaus in South Central
Province. A third area formed an eighty-mile-wide band across the
northern neck of the country in the Mandara Hills area between Ga-
roua and Maroua. Like the people in less densely settled areas, the
great majority of Cameroonians concentrated in these areas lived in
villages or small agricultural towns and gained their livelihood from
farming or herding (see ch. 6).
When densities for entire provinces were considered, Western Prov-
ince was highest, having an estimated 194 persons per square mile.
High densities extended across the province border into adjacent areas
of Northwestern Province, especially in the Bamenda area, which sup-
ported as many as 300 persons per square mile in some areas.
In Eastern Province, in most of Northern Province, and in several
departments in South Central Province-contiguous areas totaling
more than 100,000 square miles-densities averaged less than fifteen
persons per square mile. The humid equatorial forests in the southeast
supported less than six persons per square mile, making Eastern Prov-
ince the least populated of the nation's seven administrative locales.

8 o 50 0oo -r / '/. *'//.;;, ; i'//




GULF "' : : .
12 16

Figure 7. Cameroon, Population Density by Province, per Square Mile, 1970

A notably rapid urbanization process was recorded during the 1960s
and early 1970s and was expected to continue. The growth rate in most
Cameroon towns of more than 5,000 was between 5 and 10 percent per
year, compared with a rate of about 1 percent among the rural major-
ity. Government figures indicated that in 1970 about 20 percent of the
population lived in towns; other observers estimated the total to be 23

percent, up from 17 percent in 1965. The trends on which these unoffi-
cial estimates were based apparently continued, or possibly grew
stronger, after 1970.
Projections based on these studies indicate that approximately 1.5
million persons (about 25 percent of the total population) lived in a
nominally urban environment (towns of over 5,000) in 1973. Sixty per-
cent of this group, about 903,000 people, resided in nine towns of over
30,000 population, seven of which were located in the southwest (see
table 1). The remainder of the urban dwellers lived in an unknown
number of smaller towns concentrated primarily in the southwest and
in the area between Garoua and Maroua in Northern Province. If con-
tinued until 1980 the trends of the 1970-73 period-or even a somewhat
slower rate of movement to the towns-would result in an urban
population of more than 2.3 million, nearly one-third of the projected
population of 7.2 million.
Douala, on the Wouri River estuary, had been a focus of growth since
it became a trading station and port in the 1870s. Coastal trading sta-
tions were also opened at Ed6a, Tiko, Victoria, and Kribi, plus an inland
station at Nkongsamba, all of which grew into towns and were still
growing in 1973. During the 1880s Douala became the largest town in
Cameroon and retained this status in 1973. By the early 1900s many of
the youngest members of the Douala, the dominant local ethnic group,
were becoming somewhat westernized and had developed groups of
artisans, traders, or other urban groups who could disregard the tra-
ditions and authority of their forebears. The town also began to at-
tract larger numbers of migrants from the upland areas to the north
and northeast. Douala social cohesion and political influence declined
as the ethnic composition of the town changed and migrants or their
descendants successfully competed for many jobs and positions of
authority (see ch. 4; ch. 5).
By the 1950s, 80 percent of the population of the Douala complex
were migrants or descendants of migrants from other areas in Came-
roon, in addition to some who had come directly or indirectly from
Nigeria. The growth of the Douala ethnic group in the town nearly
stopped, but other groups were increasing rapidly during the post-
World War II era. A high birth rate among urban residents contributed
to the rate of growth, but migration to the area also continued, although
Yaound6 and the surrounding smaller settlements and plantations had
begun to attract a larger percentage of the rural-urban movement.
As an inland settlement, separated from coastal ports by dense
forests and difficult terrain, Yaound6 was not much influenced by
Europeans until a German trading station opened there in 1890. The
resulting growth trend received a new impetus when the Germans
moved their administrative headquarters there in 1909. The railroad
was extended to the town in 1927 and beyond it to B6labo in 1969; each

Table 1. Major Towns of Cameroon, Estimated Population Growth, 1970, 1973, and 1975'

Town Province (in thousands) Comment
1970 1973 1975

Douala ............................. Littoral ............................ 270 315 345 Major port; railway; industry; enervating climate.
Yaound ............................. South Central .................. 170 225 295 Capital city and development center; railway; plateau climate.
Nkongsamba ..................... Littoral .............................. 70 85 96 Agriculture area; railway.
Victoria3 ........................... Southwestern .................... 62 71 87 Small port; commercial plantations.
Kumba .............................. ........ do ............................ 48 58 67 Agriculture area; railway.
Maroua ........................... Northern .......................... 35 42 47 Agriculture; receives migrants from Mandara Hills.
Foumban .......................... Western ............................. 34 41 46 Highlands agriculture; heavy rural population area.
Bamenda ........................... Northwestern .................... 28 35 40 .............. Do ....................................................................
Garoua ............................. Northern .......................... 26 31 35 Receives migrants from Mandara Hills.
TOTAL ........................................... .................. 743 903 1,058

'Five other towns were over 20,000 in 1970-Ngaoundere, Bafang, Dschang, Ebolowa, and Edna.
2Estimates and projections based on 1964 census and analysis of other data; limited available information indicates growth rates between 5 and 10 percent per year for all major towns.
'Complex includes Tiko and Buea.
Source: Adapted from "Le March6 Camerounaise, 1971," Marchis Tropicaux et Miditerrandens [Paris], XXVII, No. 1,325, April 3, 1971, pp. 785-1016;
France, Ministare de la Cooperation, Economie et Plan de Ddveloppement: Ripublique Feddrale du Cameroun, Paris, 1965; and Memento de
l'Economie Africaine, (Seventh Edition), Paris, 1972.

step enlarged the economic base and fostered new growth. The town
grew from fewer than 6,000 persons in 1926 to 51,000 in 1947. Expan-
sion became more rapid after independence, and official estimates indi-
cated a growth rate of 9.8 percent annually between 1965 and 1970.
This rate is believed to have continued thereafter, indicating a probable
population of 237,000 in 1973.
Several suburban areas north of the center of the city were planned
and controlled by the government; elsewhere crude huts or homes were
built wherever land could be purchased or leased. Many of them were
built by migrants, primarily from various ethnic groups in the sur-
rounding rural areas of South Central Province and from Littoral and
Western provinces. Newcomers tended to cluster together, and the ter-
rain around Yaound6 was hilly or broken and tended to reinforce the
isolation of some of the new suburban clusters of homes.
Other smaller towns, mostly in the southwestern coastal plains and
the nearby hills and lower plateaus, were also growing rapidly. Kumba
in Southwestern Province was a notable example, having grown to
about 35,000 people, most of whom were immigrant Ibo from Nigeria.
Bafoussam in Western Province was growing almost as fast as
Yaound6. Its population increased from 36,000 in 1965 to an estimated
46,000 by 1973, despite the fact that many young people from the area
migrated to Yaounde, to Douala, or to settlements near these larger
The populations of three more-or-less urbanized areas in Northern
Province were also increasing, primarily through migration from the
denser areas of rural population in the Mandara Hills. Garoua, one of
the two largest towns in the north, was estimated to have fewer than
20,000 persons in 1965 but had probably grown to more than 31,000 by
Farther north, Maroua attracted some former hill dwellers, whereas
others shifted from the overcrowded valleys and terraced hillsides to
farms on the plains outside the town in Diamar6 Department. By 1973
the population of Maroua probably had risen to 42,000 persons, indi-
cating a 50-percent increase since 1965.
Ngaound6re, with a population of about 20,000 in 1963, in the early
1970s was reported to be growing by several thousand persons per year.
It was the northern terminus of the new section of the main Cameroon
railroad. When completed during the mid-1970s, the railroad will pro-
vide service from Ngaound6re to the population centers in the south-
west and the port of Douala. The town was expected to grow as a
transshipment point for freight, particularly cotton and cattle brought
by road or overland from areas to the north and east. Agriculture and
economic development in the general area around the town, including
the possible exploitation of bauxite deposits at Minim-Martap, seemed
likely to accelerate the growth of the town (see ch. 13).

Population Dynamics
Most families and ethnic groups, particularly those still living in
traditional and rural settings, hoped for many children; and most
women continued, as in the past, to have as many babies as possible.
The birth rate for all of Cameroon was about forty-three per 1,000 per
year, varying widely from one ethnic group or region to another.
Climate and diet were probably the dominant factors affecting fertility
and reproduction rates. Medical facilities and modern medical care
were limited, especially in the north. The majority of people still lived
in a rural and traditional environment unaffected by modern views on
birth control and family planning, which were known only to a few
urban groups in the major towns. In Northwestern and Southwestern
provinces, the region having the highest birth rates in the country, the
average woman bore about six children. This correlates with fertility
rates-the number of live births per year for each 1,000 women of
childbearing age-of about 197 per 1,000 in these same provinces. In
other regions women averaged between four and five children. Fertil-
ity rates were between 132 and 148 per 1,000 in Northern Province. In
the humid, sparsely settled southeastern forest areas the fertility rate
was estimated to be about 123 per 1,000.
Another formula used in analyzing population data was the crude
reproduction rate, or the average number of living female children that
had been brought into the world by the women still alive at the end of
their childbearing years. The rate ranged from 3.06 percent in North-
western and Southwestern provinces to a low of 2 percent in the
Adamaoua Plateau area. The national average was probably about 2.4
percent in 1964, when much of the census data was collected.
Problems of inadequate diet and medical care and of unhealthful
climate in some areas were also reflected in high infant mortality rates.
Reported rates-which may have been influenced in some groups by
poor memory, illiteracy, or reluctance to report or discuss deaths-
indicated an average of 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for the
nation as a whole. Regionally, infant deaths per 1,000 live births were
about 180 in the north, 138 in the west (mostly Northwestern and South-
western provinces), 100 in the Adamaoua Plateau region, and seventy-
six in the south-central and eastern regions.
Different beliefs and attitudes in various ethnic groups undoubtedly
also affected the accuracy of collected data on mortality rates. The
national rate was estimated to be about twenty-three per 1,000 per
year. Regionally, reported annual deaths per 1,000 were about twenty-
six in Northwestern and Southwestern provinces and twenty in the
other five provinces.
Death rates were high, about forty-one per 1,000 per year, among
some rural groups in the north, in the heavily populated Mandara
Hills. Lower rates were reported among the nomadic or seminomadic

groups on the Adamaoua Plateau (seventeen) and in the south-central
region (eighteen).
Analysis of data collected between 1960 and 1966 has indicated that
average life expectancy at birth, estimated for the entire population,
was probably in the middle forties. Estimated regional rates varied
widely, from forty-one years in Northwestern and Southwestern prov-
inces to fifty-one in the south-central and eastern regions. In specific
groups the differences were even wider. Among some groups living in
the Mandara Hills, where high mortality rates-including high rates
of infant mortality-were reported, available information indicated a
life expectancy of less than twenty-five years. Some rural groups in the
Bamenda Highlands of the southwest, an area of relatively good soils
and climate that had become densely populated, had an average life
expectancy of thirty-seven years; among residents of the Adamaoua
Plateau region, it was forty-four years. Possibly those who survived
the dangers of infancy and early childhood in this latter area were
favored by the plateau climate, although problems of inadequate diet
and insufficient medical care were just as serious as those in other
rural areas.
In South Central and Littoral provinces, life expectancy was re-
portedly about fifty-one years. Although the climate in the coastal
lowlands was generally as difficult and debilitating, it was more toler-
able on the lower plateaus, where much of the population was con-
centrated. As the most economically advanced part of the country, this
region benefited from improvements in preventive medical care, which
nevertheless fell short of the needs created by rapid population growth
and urbanization (see ch. 6). In 1973 improved health care was a major
target of government planning.
The Economically Active Population
About 38 percent of the population, or about 2.35 million people,
were economically active-either working or able to engage in some
form of productive activity. Many were in fact unemployed or under-
employed. Some were seasonally active on subsistence farms; others
were able to obtain work for only part of the year on commercial plan-
tations or in such fields as transportation, construction, or commerce
and were otherwise inactive. A minority, mostly in the towns, had
never been actively employed, although they were old enough (over
fifteen years) to be included in official estimates of the economically
active population (see ch. 12).



The area of Cameroon has been the scene of countless human migra-
tions. Very little is known about these movements, but the general con-
census-based on linguistic studies-is that they started in the region
of the border between Chad and Cameroon and from there spread in
various directions in the course of the last several hundred years. In the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries further migratory movements
resulted from Islamic holy wars waged by the Fulani. People were
driven out of their homelands, causing others who were in their path to
move, willingly or unwillingly. The resultant intermingling, assimila-
tion, and absorption of groups make classification of the country's
approximately 200 ethnic groups extremely difficult. Moreover, some
peoples are known by several different names, and even for numeri-
cally large groups information is often unavailable.
Many of the twenty-four major languages and numerous dialects-
the distinction between language and dialect is rather tenuous-have
never been studied. Those that have been studied, and presumably
those that have not, belong either to the Chadic group of the Afro-
Asian stock or to one of the several branches of the Congo-Kordofanian
stock-a further indication of the extensive mixing of groups within
the area.
Neither historical, racial, linguistic, nor other cultural characteris-
tics provide reliable criteria for the grouping of the Cameroonian peo-
ple. Census takers who compiled partial population statistics during
the 1960s simply grouped people by geographic region (see table 2).
Adaptation to ecological conditions has led to emergence of common
cultural characteristics among peoples of otherwise diverse origins.
Thus, there is a certain unity among the people of the vast forest that
covers a great part of the south, just as there is among the people of the
western highlands (see fig. 8). The situation is somewhat different in
the north. The Fulani have put their stamp on that region, although
they constitute only one-third of the population. The other two-thirds
comprise a great number of diverse peoples. But to a large degree their
location and manner of living have developed in reaction to the Fulani,
and they tend to regard themselves as northerners with respect to the
rest of the Cameroonians. Thus, in addition to the many tensions char-
acterizing interethnic relations within the three regions, a further

Table 2. Estimated Size of Major Ethnic Groups, Cameroon, 1960-66

Number of
Ethnic Group Persons
(in thousands)

Northern Peoples'
Fulani .......................................... 400.00
Matakam ............................................. 116.00
Massa .................... ... ............ ......... .. 79.0
Toubouri .............. ........... ..................... 70.0
Fali ...................................................... .. 53.0
Baya ....................... .... ...... .......... .. 45.0
Guiziga .............. ...................... ......... ... 4 45.0
Mofou .............................................. 42.0
Arabs ......................................... ..... .... 41.0
Guidar ................... ............................8 38.0
Mousgoum .................. ...................... ........ 36.0
Moundang .................................... ............. 31.0
Daba ................. ....................... ......... 28.0
Dourou ................ ................. ...... ......... 27.0
Kapsiki (and related peoples) .................................. 25.0
Kotoko ............................................ 23.0
Mandara ..................................... ........ ....... 17.0
Mboum ............... ... ...................... ..... .. 13.0
Western Highlanders 2
Bamil&k.6 ................... ........................ .. 701.0
Tikar (and related peoples) .. ......... .................... .. 260.0
Widekum (and related peoples) ............. .... ................ 114.0
Bam oun ................... .......................... ....... 82.0
Southern Forest Peoples3
Pahouin ................... ........................... 705.0
Baloundou-Mbo ................... ........................... 110.0
Bassa........ ....................... ......... .. 95.0
Douala ................... .. .......... .. ........ 60.0
Kpe ............. ...... ........................ ... ..... .. 39.0
Baboute ........................................... ... 17.0
Pygmies ..................... ................. ............ 6.5
Africans ......................................... ......... 50.0
Europeans (including Americans) .............................. 15.9

'Demographic survey for the 1960-61 period.
'Demographic survey for the 1964-66 period.
'Demographic survey for the 1962-64 period.
'Mid-1960s estimate.

cleavage exists between northerners and southerners, the latter includ-
ing in this context both the peoples of the western highlands and of the
southern forests.
Factors that have led to increased interaction between peoples were:
peace imposed by colonial powers; improved communications; the intro-
duction of cash crops; the establishment of plantations, industries, and


28 .

,,32 31 26A. -
4 -4
30 27

4 26 2
GUlF ?26D 3 /
OF ,..._.. -- ;--*....--- ...
12 16

Forested region i Western highlands I Northern savanna Flood plains
Figure 8. Selected Ethnic Distribution in Cameroon, 1973

large cities; and the attainment of independent rule. Ethnic loyalties,
however, remained strong in the early 1970s, effectively impeding the
development of a national consciousness. People almost always married
within their ethnic group.
Cameroon is the only country in Africa where both the French and

English languages have been given official status. French, however, is
the dominant language of government, education, and commerce. This
is largely because 80 percent of the people and most of the administra-
tive and economic centers are in former East Cameroon, which was for
many years under French trusteeship. English is more widely spoken
in the smaller area of former West Cameroon because of earlier British
colonial influence. A number of local languages, such as Fulfulde in the
north and Pahouin languages in the south, serve as effective lingua
francas between peoples of different ethnic affiliations.
Most important of these local languages is Wes Cos, a pidgin English
that probably developed as a means of communication between cap-
tives of different regions during the slave trade (see ch. 2). Wes Cos
spread in the nineteenth century with the arrival of missionaries and
colonial officers. It is spoken by many people in both the south and the
north, which permits some measure of communication between inhabi-
tants of the two regions.


The Fulani
Although numerically a minority group in the north, the Fulani
represent the ruling class in that area. Of West African origin, their
ancestors spread slowly eastward from the Senegal River Valley in
search of grazing land for their herds. Small groups reached the Chad-
ian basin at the end of the thirteenth century, and by the early eight-
eenth century several Fulani settlements existed on the plateau south
of the B6nou6 River. In the nineteenth century, under the impetus of
the holy war waged by Othman dan Fodio, creator of a Fulani-Hausa
empire in what is present-day northern Nigeria, they came as con-
quering warriors on horseback spreading Islam by the sword. They sub-
dued the region of Maroua, the valley of the B1nou6, and the central
plateau where they took over large tracts of grazing land. The plateau
was named Adamaoua after Mobido Adama who had helped to make
the land of his birth subservient to Othman's rule. Maroua, Garoua,
and Ngaound6rB became-and still are-important as capitals of
Fulani chiefdoms (see ch. 5).
The local people either fled into less accessible areas such as the
Mandara Hills or they accepted defeat and continued to live among the
Fulani on the plains. Eventually a precarious equilibrium developed
between the relatively unified Fulani, who had solid hierarchies and
large administrative towns, and the diverse groups of conquered people
who lived in tiny dispersed hamlets.
During the hungry months before the harvest, the hill people have
often been forced to get food from the more prudent and cautious Fu-
lani. On occasion, as during the great famine of 1931, they have given
their children to the Fulani in return for millet. Many hire themselves

out voluntarily to their former enemies during the difficult months.
The villages and cities attract them, and some remain permanently
and in time adopt Islam and Fulani ways of living. Those who have
adopted Fulani ways and the descendants of slaves together constitute
about 15 percent of the people who are counted as Fulani and who con-
sider themselves as such.
Although many Fulani elsewhere have remained nomads or semi-
nomads, most of those in Cameroon have become sedentary. About 80
percent get their livelihood from stockraising and farming, but they
usually do not actually cultivate their fields unless forced to do so by
circumstances (see ch. 5). Small numbers of Fulani are either wage
earners or artisans who make their living as butchers, tailors, shoe-
makers, weavers, and chauffeurs or by similar occupations. A roughly
equal number are either traders or marabout (religious teachers).
About 1 percent hold government jobs. Only 6 percent of the Fulani are
completely nomadic herders. They are called M'Bororo and live in a
symbiotic relationship with cultivators, exchanging goods and services.
This 6 percent lack political organization beyond the herding unit and
its headman, and they tend to be indifferent Muslims. There are also
some 16,000 Fulani herders in the Bamenda Highlands.
The name Fulani, used by the Hausa of Nigeria, is most widely ac-
cepted by English-speaking people. The Fulani, however, call them-
selves Fulbe (sing., Pullo). The French call them Peul or Peulh. In Chad
they are known as Felaata, and in Mali as Fulla. Ful or Fulfulde is the
language of the Fulani. It is spoken in varying forms by more than 4
million people between Senegal and Chad and has no script. It belongs
to the West Atlantic branch of the Congo-Kordofanian family of lan-
guages. Ful is the lingua franca of the north, except in the departments
of Chari and Logone where a pidgin form of Arabic is most often used.
In Cameroon various Ful dialects are spoken, such as Fulfulde Funa-
angere in the north, principally in Diamar6 Department; Fulfulde
Hiiernaangere, spoken mainly around Ngaounder6; and Kambariier, a
sort of pidgin Fulfulde, spoken by non-Fulani. The language is spread-
ing, and it is rare to find a household in the north where at least one
member does not have some knowledge of the Ful language.
Most of the Arabs live in the far north between Fort-Foureau and
Mora, but some are as far south as the region around Maroua, and are
called Choa Arabs-choa meaning lamb in Arabic. Persumably this
name was given to distinguish them from sedentary Arabs. They have
mixed considerably with indigenous peoples.
The ancestors of the Cameroonian Arabs were part of the vast, slow
migration that started in Arabia in the seventh century A.D. after the
widespread conversion to Islam. Some Arabs eventually arrived in
small groups in the rich pastures of Central Africa, either by way of

Egypt or Ethiopia. They reached Lake Chad around the seventeenth or
eighteenth century, settling in Baguirmi (now part of Chad) and did not
cross the Chari and Logone rivers until at most two centuries ago and
then only in very small numbers. Many others followed, however, after
the Germans established control over Cameroon in the late nineteenth
The Choa Arabs are cattle raisers who combine herding with cultiva-
tion. From February to June each year they move north but never more
than a distance of about thirty miles. During those moves they often
meet Nigerian Choa Arabs either within or beyond the Cameroonian
border. In the east the prevalence of tsetse flies prevents them from
crossing into Chad.
Like the nomadic Fulani, the Choa Arabs are attached to their cattle,
which constitute their means of livelihood and there capital. They are
strict Muslims, most of their villages having small Koranic schools. A
minority belongs to the Islamic brotherhood of the Tidjania.
They do not own land but pay tribute for its use to local peoples, such
as the Kotoko chiefs near the Logone River or the heads of administra-
tive districts. Only in the canton of Bounderi have they their own auton-
omous rule. Their social system is based on lineages and sections of
lineages claiming descent from male founders. Rights and obligations
among the descendants diminish with the increasing number of gen-
erations separating them from a common ancestor.

Northern Hill Groups
About twenty-three different groups can be distinguished among the
people who fled to the hills of the departments of Diamar6 and Margui-
Wandala rather than submit to Fulani rule and accept Islamic beliefs.
The Fulani refer to these peoples as mountain kirdi, kirdi being their
term for pagan. Although of different origins, these various groups
share the awareness of their ancestors' flight; a still vivid resentment
against the Fulani invader; and a similar style of living evolved in adap-
tation to their physical surroundings. They manage to grow millet and
other foodstuffs on the steepest slopes by careful terracing.
No large-scale political organization exists among the hill people,
who live in autonomous, fortress-like hamlets. On the national scale
they play a minor social and political role, although they vastly out-
number the Fulani in their densely settled region (see ch. 9). Because
of the poverty of their land, some left the northern hills during the
French colonial period and returned to the plains to employ their con-
siderable agricultural skills on better land. All of them speak Chadic
languages of Afro-Asian stock, and all seem related to the people living
to the west on the Nigerian plateau.
Largest of the hill groups is that of the Matakam who live around the
city of Mokolo. Their region in the Mandara Hills is one of the most
densely settled in northern Cameroon and attains as many as 490 peo-

ple per square mile. The basic social unit of Matakam society is the gay,
or patrilineal patrilocal family, which consists of father, wife or wives,
and unmarried children. The father, called bab-gay, has absolute au-
thority. In old age he is cared for by his youngest son, who always suc-
ceeds him. The older ones marry and settle elsewhere.
Villages contain four different groups of people. Chiefs are always
chosen among members of the first group, namely the clan or patri-
lineage (see Glossary) whose ancestors founded the village. Chiefs, con-
sidered the intermediary between the living and the dead, have very
little authority and are mainly in charge of religious and agricultural
rites. The second goup consists of the members of clans whose fore-
bears arrived at later dates. They are ranked in social importance ac-
cording to the time of arrival. The third group is composed of foreigners
(keda) who left other villages for a variety of reasons. They need the
chief's permission to settle but can never become genuine members. A
very special place in village society is accorded to the fourth group, the
ironsmiths, who make the indispensable tools and arms, help with
births and burials, and know the medicinal herbs and cures. They con-
stitute a kind of occupational caste and do not intermarry with other
The Mandara live north of the Matakam, between the towns of Mora
and Mokolo. Unlike other neighboring hill peoples, the Mandara, whose
name was given them by the Fulani, have adopted Islam. This is one
reason that Arab herders like to pasture near them. Although the
Mandara are cultivators, the live in fairly large agglomerations. Most
Mandara villages have at least a rudimentary mosque, usually consist-
ing of low walls surrounding a rectangular area that has a slight eleva-
tion in the eastern part for the marabout.
Having adopted Islam at a relatively recent date, the Mandara serve
as a bridge to non-Islamic people who come to work for them as servants
for a few months or years. These non-Muslims learn new techniques,
another sort of social structure, and a different attitude toward death
and burial. Young Mofou, for example, like to work in Mandara country.
The Mandara wear the traditional Muslim robe and leather amulets
containing Koranic verses; their household furnishings are imitations
of Fulani models. Their chiefs are called sultans.
Other hill peoples include the Kapsiki, who live near Mokolo together
with related groups. Several thousand live across the border in Nigeria.
They are said to have come from the East about three centuries ago.
The Fali live near Garoua; about three-fourths of them live in the hills
and the rest live on the plains where they are beginning to forego some
of their traditional ways. The Mofou live mostly in the hills of northern
Diamar6 Department, but more and more are coming down to the
plains. There are a number of other small groups speaking different
languages and keeping alive their separate traditions but generally
sharing the same cultural features.

Peoples of the Northern Savanna
The Fulani use the term plains kirdi for those peoples who accepted
defeat and continued to live in their homeland but who refused to ac-
cept Islam. Among others they include the Guidar, the Guiziga, and the
Daba, all of whom speak Chadic languages. They cultivate millet and,
more recently, groundnuts (peanuts) and cotton. They keep cattle inside
their houses for purposes of religious sacrifice. Their cult of ancestors
is always associated with sacred objects, such as clay pots or stones
that are placed inside small granaries. Each clan groups the descen-
dants in the male line from a founding ancestor. Chiefs have no politi-
cal power, but as intermediaries between the natural and supernatural
worlds they conduct rites and sacrifices.
The Guidar in the northeastern corner of B1nou6 Department are a
conglomerate of various groups who mixed after they refused to accept
Islam and had fled from the Fulani. Another 11,000 Guidar live in Chad.
In the western part of Diamare Department, near M6ri and Maroua,
live the Guiziga, who were hunters and masters of this region before
the Fulani arrived. The Guiziga have been influenced by the Fulani,
but they have refused to become Muslims. Ironsmiths no longer consti-
tute a special caste and can intermarry with others. In recent times,
women have taken to wearing cotton clothes instead of the traditional
strips of leather. Some Guiziga still shave their heads, file their teeth,
and ornament their bodies by scarring. The Daba are spread through-
out the three departments of B6noue, Margui-Wandala, and Diamar6.
There are other smaller heterogeneous groups living in the area.
After scattering the western peoples and seizing their lands, the
Fulani moved east and south. One of the groups in their path was the
Moundang, who live near the Chadian border in the area around the
tenth parallel, one-third of them in Cameroon and the rest in Chad. The
people suffered under frequent Fulani attacks but were never subju-
gated. Nevertheless, they adopted Fulani principles of political organi-
zation and habits of dress.
The Moundang are farmers who grow millet for subsistence. They
have adopted cotton as a money crop, sometimes at the expense of food-
stuffs that they must often buy in the market. They also raise livestock
for use as bridewealth (see Glossary), for religious sacrifices, and for
payment of fines. They generally entrust their herds to the pastoral
Fulani who live among them. The Moundang are believed to have come
from the Mandara Hills about thirteen generations ago. Christianity
has gained some converts among them, as has Islam. A high proportion
of their children go to school.
The language of the Moundang has been classified as Adamawa, one
of the branches of the Niger-Congo family, itself a subdivision of the
Congo-Kordofanian stock. The Moundang are linguistically related to
the Mboum, whom they may have displaced during their slow south-
ward migration.

The Mboum are noted for their fierce resistance to the Fulani in-
vaders in the nineteenth century; however, they were driven from their
area, the site of the city of Ngaoundere, and agreed to pay tribute to
the Fulani. Present-day Mboum live dispersed in isolated groups,
mainly northeast of Ngaoundere and farther south near Tibati. Some
live as servants with Fulani families. They are largely cultivators of
millet, but many of them are also fishermen. Their language, which is
spoken between Tibati and Ngaound6re and as far east as the source of
the B1nou6 River, is fast becoming the lingua franca of that area. Dur-
ing World War I, Mboum had already become the language of the
The Mboum are divided into four chiefdoms. The bellaka (chief), who
has both religious and temporal powers, rules with the help of a council
of dignitaries, each of whom has specific functions. The insignia of
office of the bellaka is a very high straw hat. Wherever he goes, he is
preceded by an attendant, who has an enormously long and finely orna-
mented bronze trumpet.
Between the towns of Garoua and Ngaound6r6 -usually on the sum-
mit of hills that dominate river valleys-live the Dourou, who speak
an Adamawa language. In recent times they have begun to adopt some
features of Islam. Christian missions are also established among them.
Toward the eastern border live the Baya (Baja, Gbaya), who are said
to have come long ago from East Africa. Their Adamawa language,
which has a great number of different dialects, is chiefly spoken in the
western part of the Central African Republic, where it is spreading as a
lingua franca. It is also understood by many Fulani at Ngaound6re, who
in earlier times frequently owned Baya slaves. Some Dourou and Baya
groups became vassals of the Fulani.

Peoples of the Northern Flood Plains
The peoples living in the far northeast near the Chari and Logone
rivers include, from north to south, the Kotoko, the Mousgoum, the
Massa, and the Toubouri. All of them speak Chadic languages. Their
recorded histories begin with the time of the Fulani conquest of the
Adamaoua region, although they are probably indigenous to the north-
ern flood plains. Because of the geographical features of their region,
they were better equipped than their southern neighbors to withstand
Fulani attacks and the incursions by slavers from the north and east.
They are fishers and cultivators, and they keep cattle, mostly for mar-
riage payments. Because these may be as high as ten head of cattle,
young men often must go elsewhere to earn the necessary funds.
The Kotoko
The Kotoko live on both sides of the Logone and Chari rivers, from
Lake Chad south to about the eleventh parallel. They are believed to be
descendants of the Sao, the legendary early settlers in the Logone
valley, whose compact settlements the Kotoko developed into walled

towns of brick. The towns have become too large for the Kotoko, whose
birthrate is declining, and are surrounded by enormous walls several
miles long, up to thirty-five feet high, and sometimes crenelated. Within
them, narrow alleys wind between high, windowless walls that hide the
dwellings and courtyards of individual families. Noble families always
live in the northern section of town; lesser families and foreigners
reside in the southern section. Between the two areas, on a vast square,
stands the residence of the ruler, or sultan.
The Kotoko are skillful fishermen who obtain their catch by using
large butterfly nets. They are also noted as builders of boats that are
made of planks literally sewn together. They formerly engaged in culti-
vation only for their own consumption and left cattle raising to Arab
herders. In more recent times some Kotoko have become cattle raisers
as well. The men are also renowned as dyers of cloth and the women, as
makers of pottery.
Rights to land use are carefully delimited between cities. Foreigners,
including the Arabs who have been there for generations, must pay
tribute to the various "chiefs of the soil" for the rights of cultivation
and pasture.
The Kotoko also have a monopoly over fishing and river transport.
The river waters are strictly apportioned between towns, each having a
"chief of the waters" who presides over the cult of water spirits and
who decides when fishing is to begin. Tolls are levied for river crossings,
and foreigners may fish only after having made certain payments.
Conversion to Islam and practice of Muslim rites are combined with
totemism and a cult of spirits, who are believed to be living in the water
and in certain sacred trees and rocks. The Kotoko's Chadic language
has many different dialects.
The Mousgoum
Islam also is making inroads among the Mousgoum, who live south of
the Kotoko. The Mousgoum have adopted the flowing dress of the Mus-
lims and the Fulani type of house. For the past thirty years or so they
seem to have been spreading in a northerly direction toward Fort-
Foureau. An equal number of them live across the river in Chad, where
they are called Moupoui.
The Massa
The densely settled Massa south of the Mousgoum have their admin-
istrative and geographic center at Yagoua. The name Massa designates
groups of varying ethnic origins who speak the same Chadic language,
have the same customs, and worship the same rain god, Olona. They
are also known as the Banana. Bana in their language means "com-
rade," and banana means "being in a state of fellowship."
The Massa are probably of Nilotic origin, closely related to the Tou-
bouri living to the south and east of them. They suffered in the four-
teenth century from raids by the Islamized kingdoms to the north, such
as Bornu and Baguirmi, and at the end of the nineteenth century, from

Fulani attacks. Nevertheless, they adopted Arab dress and imposed
some features of Fulani political structures upon their local "chiefs of
the soil," who were in charge of agrarian rites. They appear to be
spreading northward. About 50,000 Massa live in Chad.
The Toubouri
The Toubouri (Toupouri, Tupuri) south of the Massa are also very
densely settled, and there are up to 388 people per square mile in some
areas. They, too, seem to be spreading northward. About 53,000 Tou-
bouri live in Chad. They are skilled as farmers and stockraisers. Their
paramount chief, called ouankoulou, has essentially religious functions.
The Toubouri have borrowed a rite called gourouna from the Mous-
goum. The Massa, in turn, adopted it from the Toubouri. Gourouna
thus constitutes a tie among all these peoples. Men who take part in the
rite retire for several months from their ordinary pursuits and re-
straints, during which time they drink prodigious amounts of milk.
They do not live in seclusion, in contrast to initiation rites, but are very
much in public view, festively garbed, singing, dancing, and engaging in
mock fights. As many as 7 percent of the male population, aged eighteen
to thirty, may take part. The rite, which lasts several months, is a public
demonstration of the fact that the participants belong to families who
are wealthy enough to own the necessary herds and who are able to dis-
pense with the young men's labor.

The western highlands straddle the border between the anglophone
and francophone parts of the former Cameroon federation. There is a
certain cultural homogeneity among the peoples of this region despite
ancient histories of migrations and conflict. Almost all of them devel-
oped centralized chiefdoms that have powerful politicoreligious chiefs.
About nine-tenths of these people are rural. They are often lumped to-
gether under the designation of "grasslanders" because of the character-
istic vegetation cover of their region. Their languages, called Sudanic
or semi-Bantu by some linguists, have been classified as Bantu. Bantu
speakers make up a great part of the people in central and southern
Africa, although Bantu languages constitute only a subcategory of the
Benue-Congo family of languages, itself a branch of the Congo-
Kordofanian stock.

The Bamileke
By far the largest of the ethnic groups in Cameroon is the Bamil6kk.
Their name is a European corruption of an African word and not one
that the Bamil6k6 used in the past to designate themselves before
many of them migrated. Rather they called themselves "grasslanders"
or referred to the chiefdom to which they belonged. There are about
ninety of these, varying in size from 500 to 30,000 people.
Available evidence suggests that the Bamil6k6 came from a region

farther north (now settled by the Tikar), when the pressure of Fulani
invasions in the seventeenth century led to a series of southward mi-
grations. They covered their present territory south of the Bambouto
Mountains and east of the Noun River little by little, with groups
splitting off from previously established chiefdoms. This explains the
origin of certain still-existing alliances and grievances. It may also
account for the phenomenon of both unity and diversity in Bamilek&
society. Consciousness of a common culture and similarity of tech-
niques and institutions coexist with political fragmentation and differ-
ences of dialects, which in some cases vary from one mountain slope to
the next.
The Bamil6ke are cultivators. They keep some livestock, but it plays
a minor part in their economy. Some chiefs have small herds that are
slaughtered on certain ceremonial occasions. The Bamilek& associate
little with the Fulani, who herd cattle on the highlands and, during the
dry season, in the valley of the Noun River.
The Bamilik6 have a high birthrate of about 3 percent. The popula-
tion density of up to 365 people per square mile in their region, and
a special inheritance system that provides for a single heir, forces
younger sons to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Large-scale emigration
started in the 1930s, and by the early 1970s more than 100,000 lived
outside their home area, usually in the cities of the south. Economi-
cally, they control the area between their homeland and the coastal
city of Douala.
The Bamilek6 adapted eagerly to the cash economy. They are willing
to work at even the most difficult and unpleasant jobs and have a taste
for monetary gain. They save their money, invest it profitably, and
adapt easily to modern life. They own export-crop farms and with their
earnings buy trucks, houses, hotels, stores, and factories. They domi-
nate almost all the motor transport business (see ch. 14). In the cities
they become taxi drivers, shopowners, engineers, doctors, and govern-
ment officials. Among them are the first Cameroonians who are rich
by Western standards.
In Douala the Bamil6k6 are said to hold 70 percent of the profes-
sional jobs and 30 percent of the civil service positions. They constitute
over 60 percent of the traders, 80 percent of the artisans, and 40 percent
of the laborers, but only 12 percent of domestic workers. In Yaound6
they constitute a majority of the merchants. They also, however, num-
ber heavily among the unemployed in the larger southern cities.
The Tikar
Most numerous of the peoples on the Bamenda plateau are the Tikar,
who are divided into a number of independent chiefdoms. Differences
in Tikar dialect are so marked that people from villages only a few
miles apart cannot understand each other.
According to their oral traditions, the Tikar lived originally to the

northeast of their present territory, somewhere between Tibati and
Ngaound6r6. Small groups began drifting southward in the eighteenth
century or earlier in search of new land, a movement that became
stronger during the Fulani invasions of the nineteenth century. Not
all the Tikar went south. One group, the Ngambe, resisted a siege by
the Fulani chief of Tibati for seven years until the Germans arrived
and recognized Ngambe rights to the locality.

The Bamoun
The Bamoun are of both Tikar and Bamil6ke origin. They are said to
have Tikar ancestors who came to their present site in the early 1700s,
conquering the Bamil6ke who lived there and mixing with them. The
Bamoun still speak a Bamileke dialect. They are a united people whose
common leader is a member of a dynasty that has a recorded history of
unbroken rule through forty-four generations. The Bamoun withstood
the Fulani conquest by digging ditches around their territory to deter
cavalry charges. One of their rulers, Njoya-Arouna, who was enthroned
in 1888, devised a script having 510 signs, which he later reduced to
eighty-three signs and ten numbers. He built schools and a printing
shop and had a map made of his country. He also created a syncretic
religion based on traditional beliefs with Islamic and Christian ele-
ments added. Bamoun rulers are called sultans because of the Muslim
Traditionally far more urban than other highlanders, the majority
of the Bamoun live in or near one main town, Foumban, where the
sultan's palace is situated, and in the smaller town of Foumbot. Very
few Bamoun live outside their traditional territory. The Noun River
to the southwest separates their area from that of the Bamilek6. The
French encouraged the Bamilek6 to emigrate into sparsely settled
Bamoun territory, but the effort met with little success because of the
historic hostility between the two groups.

Other Highlanders
Additional highlanders include-among others-the Widekum, a
forest people who probably came originally from the Congo Basin and
later concentrated in the southwestern corner of the Bamenda Plateau;
the Banen and the Bafia, two small but distinct groups living south of
the Bamoun; and the Bali-the only group on the plateau not derived
from the Tikar-who live in two small enclaves. Mounted warriors in
the past, the Bali originally lived farther north but fled southward
from the Fulani during the early part of the nineteenth century. They
took refuge with the Widekum, whom they subsequently attacked and
conquered. This historical event is still regarded with ill feeling. The
Bali became important slave dealers in the Bamenda area, a trade they
had learned from the Fulani. Their language, which is derived from

those of conquered peoples of the area, was used by the Basel mission-
aries and became a lingua franca until it was replaced later by pidgin
Except for the inhabitants of the highlands and some small enclaves
on the eastern border, the peoples below the sixth parallel live in the
forest. This factor and a longstanding influence of the Christian
churches give a certain unity to a great number of disparate ethnic
groups (see ch. 5). All speak Bantu languages. The literacy rate in the
area is high by African standards, and a great percentage of the chil-
dren go to school (see ch. 7). The authority of traditional chiefs was
never great nor widespread, as kinship was the basis of most socio-
political relations.
The Pahouin
The Pahouin (or Pangwe) are numerically the most important group
in the south. Their territory includes much of the area south of the
Sanaga River and extends into Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The
name Pahouin refers to a cluster of at least eleven groups. Outsiders
also often call them Fang-Beti, but in the past the people disliked both
terms. After World War II and the beginning of modern party politics
and appeals to ethnic loyalties, they rejected the name Fang-Beti be-
cause it referred to only two of the component groups. Thus, delegates
to a projected meeting in 1947 decided to call it the Pahouin Congress,
and since then the name has been in general use.
According to genealogies reaching back fifteen to twenty genera-
tions, the Pahouin came in small groups from the savanna region to the
northeast. These migrations-sometimes peaceful, sometimes vio-
lent-were caused directly by the Fulani, or possibly by pressure from
other groups such as the Baboute and Mboum, who were fleeing from
the Fulani. The newcomers were assimilated with the local inhabitants
and with those who followed later. The process of integration as well as
a general, slow movement toward the sea continues in modern times.
There are three great divisions within the Pahouin group-Beti,
Boulou, and Fang-each consisting of a number of smaller subgroups.
Slightly fewer than two-thirds of the Pahouin in Cameroon are Beti.
This is not the designation for an ethnic group, but rather a Bantu
word meaning "sir" or freemen. Beti generally refers to the Eton and
Ewondo in the region of Yaound6 and other small groups in the north-
eastern part of the Pahouin area. According to their own history, the
Eton came to their present-day area northwest of Yaound6 looking for
salt in the Sanaga River valley and were prevented from going farther
south by the Bassa, a southern people who are not part of the Pahouin
group. The Eton recognize three social strata within their society: the
Eton-Beti, who are the families of chiefs; the Eton-Beloua, who are

commoners; and the Beloua-Eton, who earlier were slaves. Although
the spelling has been altered, the capital city of Yaound6 is named
after the Ewondo.
The Boulou (Bulu), who constitute slightly more than one-third of
the Pahouin, live to the east and south of the Beti. They are expanding
southward and absorbing the Fang in some places. They have almost
completely populated the formerly empty land between their home
region and the Ntem River.
The Fang peoples, who numbered approximately 36,000 in 1964, in-
clude the Fang (Fan) proper and assimilated groups such as the Ntum
(Ntoumou) and Mvae. The Fang are far more numerous across the
border in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
A certain linguistic unity is characteristic of the Pahouin area.
Marked differences in vocabulary and pronunciation among Ewondo,
Boulou, and Fang do not prevent communication, and sentence struc-
ture is almost identical. The spread of Pahouin languages is an indica-
tion of the cultural assimilation of adjoining areas. These languages
were used by missionaries in their educational work and religious liter-
ature and thus were the first to be transcribed.
Ewondo is the language of the Roman Catholic missions. It is spread-
ing as a vehicular language, especially northward; it also is making
headway in the east in Boulou country, except where Presbyterians
from the United States are active. Even there, Protestant Boulou
often say their prayers and sing their church songs in Boulou but use
Ewondo in daily life.
Boulou has become the traveler's language in Kribi Department and
in Spanish Guinea. It is spreading south among the Fang and even
competes with written Fang in northern Gabon. Boulou is also spread-
ing eastward, and Fang is being spoken increasingly in the south and
the east. Thus, there exists a Pahouin region proper, where Pahouin
languages are spoken as main languages, surrounded by an assimilated
zone, where they are increasingly used for administrative and trading
purposes and by religious and political leaders. This occurs, for ex-
ample, in the eastern, sparsely settled forest lands among the Maka,
the Kaka, and other small groups.
In the not too distant past, Pahouin groups were hunters and gath-
erers of wild foods. Today they are cultivators, growing maize (corn)
and cassava and, in some areas, cocoa as a cash crop. Cocoa was intro-
duced in the Ewondo area and in northern Boulou country after World
War I. The planters of a tree crop ended the former practice of exhaust-
ing the soil and then moving on to new locations.
In contrast to the Bamil&k6, Hausa, and coastal people, the Pahouin
are not inclined toward commerce; the Boulou even despise it. Markets
are few and not very well supplied; salesmen are often outsiders. Cocoa
harvests, however, are bought by indigenous middlemen from indi-
vidual growers along the major traffic arteries.

Most Pahouin live in very small agglomerations. They are usually
not actual villages, but collections of outlying hamlets in which five to
twenty houses are grouped around the dwelling of a family patriarch.
Such agglomerations tend to be somewhat larger among the Boulou
than among other groups.
Traditionally there was no division of labor except that between men
and women. Only the smiths were specialized, but in contrast to many
other African societies they did not constitute a special caste. They
could intermarry with cultivators, and anyone could choose, if he
wished, to learn the profession. In modern times, however, specializa-
tion has begun. For example, Beti artisans, such as sawers of wood,
carpenters, and masons, are highly appreciated not only in their own
region but in many parts of west and central Africa.
The Baboute
To the north of the Panhouin group live the Baboute, who are also
known as Wute, Bafute, Bute, or Mfute. They were heavily decimated
by the wars with the Fulani, by resistance to the Germans during
their former control of the area, and by internal warfare. In modern
times they live dispersed in small villages along the road from Yoko to
The Bassa
Most of the Bassa live west of the Pahouin between the towns of
Eseka and Ed6a, but they are also found dispersed elsewhere in the
country. They are a homogeneous people who seem to have migrated
to their present location from the northeast. They are closely related
to some of the coastal people. They were the first among the southern
peoples to take part in the political terror that started in the mid-1950s
(see ch. 2).
Coastal Groups
The coastal peoples were the first Cameroonians to be influenced by
aspects of Western cultures. The Douala (Duala), Wouri (Oli), Kpe
(Bakweri), Pongo, Bodiman, Bamboko and others have had the longest
contact with British merchants and with missionaries and foreign
soldiers. They were the first to be converted to Christian beliefs and
the first to send their children to school. Most of the intelligentsia
during the period of German colonial rule were Douala speakers.
Fishing is the most important single activity of the coastal peoples,
although a few may also plant small commercial crops such as cocoa
and bananas; a limited number of coastal inhabitants are traders. All
are Bantu-speaking people, but only the Douala and Kpe have a numer-
ical significance.
The Douala live concentrated on both sides of the Wouri River. Tra-
ditionally they were divided into a number of small chiefdoms that

became wealthy and influential by dominating the trade on the estu-
ary. King Bell was the most powerful among the different rulers who
were competing with each other and trying to deal independently and
directly with foreign traders. Monopoly over the coastal trade was one
of the main conditions of the contract that the Douala signed with the
Germans in 1884. Four of the chiefdoms-Bell, Akwa, Dido, and Bona-
beri-are still in existence. In modern times the Douala are outnum-
bered in their home territory.
The most notable development in this general area was the establish-
ment of large plantations by the Germans and the gathering of differ-
ent people to work on them. Among others, it affected the Kpe, whose
land was taken away. They and the neighboring Bamboko had fought
so fiercely against the Germans that all effort to conquer them was put
off until 1894. The Germans moved the Kpe to their present-day loca-
tions and used them as laborers in building the administrative center
at Buea, which later became the capital of West Cameroon. From then
on the Kpe lived in small enclaves within the large plantations, which
accounts for the fact that no blood ties exist between neighboring
A pidgin form of English, which had become established on the coast
at the end of the eighteenth century, spread inland when modern de-
velopments brought together people who spoke mutually unintelligible
languages. German hopes of replacing this pidgin English with their
own language came to nothing after the outbreak of World War I.
Since then, Wes Cos, a form of pidgin English, which has a vocabulary
of about 2,500 words, has become a widespread and effective tool of

The Baloundou-Mbo
Toward the Nigerian border, but farther inland in Neme Depart-
ment, live the Baloundou-Mbo. Some of this group live by fishing and
others by exploiting the products of the forest in areas where access is
difficult. Very little is known about them, except that they are not
homogeneous but consist of a number of small, disparate groups speak-
ing related dialects.

The Pygmies
The Pygmies are thought to be the first inhabitants of the forest re-
gion, according to the oral traditions of the Bantu-speaking peoples
who later came to the area. Three different groups live in the southern
forest zone: the Babinga in the partly swampy rain forests in the east;
the Bibaya in the center; and the Beye'ele, or Bajieli, in the west in
Kribi Department.
All Pygmies live either in small settlements or in small hunting
bands far from villages and roads; they have rigidly structured symbi-
otic relationships with cultivators. In return for meat, skins, ivory, and

medicinal plants, the Pygmies get salt, metal spear points, cloth, and
such foods as bananas and peanuts. Traditionally these relationships
have had almost feudal overtones; a Pygmy is obliged to deal only with
his established exchange partner and may not leave the area, although
this partner may turn over such rights of exchange to someone else.
Lately, however, these feudal ties have loosened somewhat, and Pyg-
mies who used to shy away from roads and villages appear occasionally
at markets to sell their products directly. Occasionally they send their
children to school.
Their height ranges from four feet three inches to four feet nine
inches. They are somewhat taller than the Pygmies of the Ituri Forest
in Zaire. They have adopted the language of peoples near whom they
live, having only certain ritual and technical terms of their own. They
use the same botanical designations used by the Pygmies of the Repub-
lic of Zaire (Zaire-formerly, Congo Kinshasa). Their life is extremely
simple, and social structure is based on the monogamous family. No
marriage payments are required, and husband and wife have equal
In the late 1960s there were in Cameroon approximately 50,000 Afri-
cans from other countries. Most of them came from Nigeria, mainly
the Hausa, who worked as itinerant merchants and artisans, and the
Ibo, who dominated small-scale trade in western Cameroon and were
therefore resented by the local people. In early 1961 the Kamerun
National Democratic Party (KNDP) in British Cameroons appealed to
this resentment in campaigning for the plebiscite on whether the terri-
tory would unite with Nigeria or with the newly independent Republic
of Cameroon (see ch. 2). Other African foreigners in the country in-
cluded Yoruba from western Nigeria and Ewe from Ghana. These
people mostly dealt in textiles, art objects, and foodstuffs. Unskilled
laborers and domestic helpers were often from Gabon and the Central
African Republic. People from such French-speaking West African
countries as Dahomey or faraway Mauritania worked in private enter-
prise as skilled industrial workers and in building trades.
Europeans were largely in control of the major industries and a great
deal of the import business. In 1968 there were reported to be 13,000
French, 1,500 English, 300 Americans, and an equal number of Cana-
dians and Germans. Commerce in the bush was often in the hands of
a small number of Greeks, Cypriots, Syrians, and Lebanese.
Interethnic relations in the early 1970s were often colored by memo-
ries of former warfare between groups; jealousy over access to modern
education, health care, and economic opportunities; or simply by in-
compatibility because of differences of language, religious belief, and

social structure. These differences existed among the major regions
and also within each of them.
In the north, historic tensions survive between the ruling Fulani and
the people they conquered, especially those who live near them on the
plains. They include the machudo (vassal groups), who pay tribute but
follow their own life-style within their villages, and the descendants of
enslaved prisoners of war who live with Fulani families. The latter
particularly seem to have become somewhat rebellious in modern
times. The mountain people, whose ancestors fled rather than submit
to Fulani domination, have kept alive an awareness of what happened
a century and a half ago, although they have little contact with the
In the western highlands, ancient rivalries and military skirmishes
are by no means forgotten. A fifty-year conflict between the Bali and
the Widekum came to a head in 1952 when groups of Widekum burned
down a large number of Bali huts. As punishment the British adminis-
trators fined the guilty parties, and the money was used to supply Bali
towns with a piped water system. The Bamoun and the Bamilek& in
turn have long been hostile to each other, and for a long time both have
guarded the Noun River, which is the boundary between them. Since
the beginning of modern politics the two groups have been in different
In January 1960 Bamilek6 terrorists attacked a Bamoun village in
which one Bamoun was killed and three injured. In retaliation, 1,000
Bamoun warriors crossed the Noun River and razed a Bamil6ke village.
Colonial rule quite often had the effect of developing ethnic con-
sciousness among members of small groups, who began to resent the
supremacy of larger and more favored peoples. In the forest region a
case in point was the refusal of the Ewondo to accept Douala as a
lingua franca during German rule. In modern times the Douala recall
with pride their former supremacy and therefore are resented by their
neighbors. Beti leaders, for example, took an opposing position on the
reunification issue from that of the Douala for this very reason (see
ch. 9).
The Beti and the Boulou, in turn, have maintained a longstanding
conflict with the Bassa. The reason for this may be that the Bassa
appear to have arrived earlier at their present location and that they
resent impingement by those who came later. The Boulou retaliate
by calling the Bassa mvele, a term of disapproval. When different
southern peoples were pressed into building the railroad in the mid-
1920s, the Bassa were forced to grow more food in order to feed them.
They disliked the newcomers and sabotaged their efforts. These con-
flicts are still remembered.
Missionaries have found it impossible to carry on their work if Bassa,
Boulou, and Ewondo are housed together. Small groups have resented
the use of Boulou by Presbyterian missionaries as the language of

church and education. They have insisted that their own languages are
equally as good and have demanded that the Bible be translated into
them. The Nguma (Mvumbo), a small coastal group, left the Presby-
terian church over this question and formed their own religious asso-
ciation. Tensions between groups are aggravated by differences in
religious denominations. The Ewondo and Eton are predominantly
Roman Catholic, and the Boulou are largely Presbyterians. Neverthe-
less, although there are cleavages within the Pahouin group, they face
outsiders as one.
In addition to these interregional tensions, relationships remain
somewhat strained between northerners and many southern Came-
roonians, who resent the pride of the Fulani and their political domina-
tion. Southerners are often contemptuous of what they consider the
backwardness and the feudal values of the north. Northerners, in turn,
often blame southerners for the lack of schools and jobs in their area.
During the 1960s tensions actually increased with growing economic
development in the north because it necessitated sending southern civil
servants, experts, and teachers to the area. The southerners lived in
almost segregated quarters, where they seldom mingled socially with
the northerners.
Most explosive has been the interaction of the Bamilek6 and other
Cameroonians. Bamil6ki enterprise, mobility, aggressiveness, and
large-scale emigration from their overpopulated homeland indirectly
fueled the civil war that smoldered from 1956 until the mid-1960s (see
ch. 2). The rebellious forces of the Union of Cameroonian Peoples
(Union des Populations du Cameroun-UPC) received most of their
support from the younger Bamil6ke and Bassa. Despite the UPC's
radical doctrine and communist ties, the young Bamil6k6 saw the re-
volt as an effort to end the inequitable control of traditional chiefs over
the limited agricultural land in their region.
In the southern town of Sangmdlima in 1956, Bamil6k6 market stalls
were smashed and pillaged, and seven Bamil6k6 were injured. In 1960
people in coastal Douala attacked and destroyed houses and shops
owned by Bamilek&. At least nineteen persons were killed, and over
5,000 were left homeless. Other isolated outbreaks occurred in 1970
and 1971. The Bamilek6 continue to incite resentment and envy be-
cause of their economic success (see ch. 9).
In the south, ethnic groups are largely segregated in different parts
of the towns. Health facilities schedule their services to accommodate
members of different ethnic affiliations on separate days.


In 1973 a variety of social systems existed among the country's
numerous ethnic groups, the scope of traditional sociopolitical units
ranging from small clans to highly structured chiefdoms. Despite the
government's efforts at national integration, most Cameroonians were
still caught up in micropolitics.
Amidst this diversity of local systems, three major societal patterns
could be discerned within as many geographic regions. In the northern
savanna existed a number of conquest states in which there was a clear
distinction between the governing Fulani and the various ethnic groups
they had subdued during the past century. Typical of the highly orga-
nized structures in the western highlands were the Bamil6k6 chief-
doms with their absolute rulers, systems of ranks and titles, important
men's associations, and ancestor worship focused on dead and living
chiefs. Egalitarian Pahouin society was representative of the southern
pattern and of certain remote portions of the north that were outside
Fulani influence. In both these areas political control traditionally did
not transcend the limits of tiny dispersed communities in which de-
scendants of the same ancestor lived grouped around the family head,
who assigned land and agricultural tasks and who negotiated the mar-
riages of his children.
Of the three basic societal patterns, only the Fulani had experience
in building multiethnic states, and their organizing ability and politi-
cal acumen had earned them the most important place among the
national leaders. At the same time the practice of Islam and an attach-
ment to feudal values set the Fulani apart from other Cameroonians.
Western highlanders conceived of larger political units as embracing
only people related by kinship-a system that could not serve as the
model for a modern state. Moreover, dwindling land resources and
certain features of traditional social organization drove many Bami-
16k6 to rebellion and migration to other parts of the country. The
Bamil6ki had become the country's foremost economic force, but they
were widely resented because of their quasi-monopoly of African activ-
ity in commerce, transport, and moneylending.
The lack of political cohesiveness and social hierarchy made it easier
for individual Pahouin to free themselves from traditional controls and
to adapt to change. Among them were found the greatest number of
Christians and the highest percentage of people in modern professions.

The Fulani, the Bamil&k6, the Pahouin, and members of the numer-
ous other ethnic groups that make up the mosaic of the Cameroonian
population have only a limited chance to interact. As a matter of policy,
administrative officials are often posted outside their home areas, but
contacts with local people are usually confined to working hours. Few
marriages are made across ethnic lines. The beginnings of a national
society can be detected only among members of a small intellectual
elite who, to some extent, share the same values and life-styles. Links
have been forged among individuals who have gone to the same schools,
the same religious institutions, or the same foreign countries. Where
such links exist, they have generally been among people from the south
or the west but rarely with those from the north.
Since the era of conquests that began in the nineteenth century, tra-
ditional Fulani society has rested on the distinction between victor and
vanquished-between people who were free and those who were not.
After their conquest of the northern part of the territory that later be-
came Cameroon, a modus vivendi established itself between the vic-
torious Muslim herders, who in time adopted semisedentary or totally
sedentary ways of life, and the defeated non-Muslim cultivators, who
henceforth lived in various forms of servitude (see ch. 2; ch. 4).

Social Structure
Free men included not only all Fulani but also other Muslims like the
Hausa, the Bornuans, and the Choa Arabs, from whom the Fulani had
taken elements of culture and social organization. Peoples not con-
sidered free were the conquered cultivators who became either slaves
or tribute-paying vassals. The distinction between those who were free
and those who were not free was abolished under colonial rule, and
both the constitutions of 1961 and of 1972 adhered to the principle that
all Cameroonians are free and equal. Nonetheless, in early 1973, north-
ern peoples continued to be fully conscious of their traditional place
in the social hierarchy and usually acted as such and expected to be
treated accordingly.
There are no less than twenty-one lamidats (Fulani territories) rang-
ing in size from a few square miles to many thousands; each is headed
by a lamido (pl., lamibe, from the Fulani word lamago, meaning to
govern). The lamibe are spiritual and temporal rulers whose powers
originally were limited only by the dictates of Islam and Fulani cus-
toms. They used to vie with one another to increase their power and
areas of influence. In modern times they are loosely united in resent-
ment over the encroachment of modern political institutions, but they
have not forgotten their traditional hostilities.
The lamibe, moreover, have retained a fair measure of their tradi-
tional power. They still have a personal representative on the staff of

the prefecture of their areas to serve as their ambassadors and inter-
mediaries. In the north the prefect is almost always a Fulani.
The lamido, who never ventures out without a large retinue, is as-
sisted by a fada (ministerial council). Most influential among its mem-
bers are the chief minister, the imam (Muslim prayer leader), and the
alkali (judge). The council's prerogatives include naming a successor to
the lamido, and the three principal members often agree on a choice
before the full council convenes. The successor is chosen for his intelli-
gence and ruling ability from among the sons, or often the younger
brothers, of the lamido.
Traditionally, the entire lamidat was considered the property of all
the Fulani. The lamido administered it in the interest of the collectiv-
ity, and he was supposed to leave the territory intact to his successor.
No one-whether Fulani or stranger-could build a house or cultivate
a new field without permission of the lamido.
In accordance with this concept, which identified the lamido with the
lamidat, his servants were considered servants of the state. They
included such vassal peoples as the Mboum and certain Baya and
Dourou, who had submitted to the Fulani conqueror to avoid being
totally defeated and enslaved (see ch. 4). They kept their social organi-
zation, political hierarchy, and their land but had to pay tribute to the
lamido. Their chiefs, nominated as always by an assembly of family
heads, were appointed only with the consent of the lamido. After colo-
nial rule was established, such chiefs were appointed by the colonial
officials, who took the advice of the lamido before approving the village
assembly's choice. Eventually, however, support by the colonial gov-
ernment helped the various vassal chiefs to free themselves more and
more from their former dependency upon the lamido. But they con-
tinued to be an integral part of the lamidat and to make payments and
give presents to the traditional ruler.
Other vassal peoples, such as the Kaka, the Niam-Niam, and certain
Baya, lost their lands. They were resettled en bloc by the Fulani in
agricultural colonies in fertile regions and had the same obligations
and rights as the other vassals.
Aside from vassals there existed two other kinds of state servant.
The matshube (retainers) were dignitaries who constituted the court
of the lamido. Although of servile origin-usually from one of the
vassal groups, they held positions of power and influence, such as
treasurer or mounted bodyguard. It was a peculiar aspect of the lamido
court that access to the ruler could only be had through the matshube.
In fact, they had more powers than members of the fada, who asserted
their position only when it came to choosing a new lamido. Under the
pretext of protecting him, the matshube dignitaries kept the lamido at
a distance from his people and often used their position to exploit their
own ethnic brothers. The lamido, who trusted the matshube more and
found them more docile than fada members, showered them with gifts
to ensure their continuing loyalty. They were clad, fed, and housed out

of treasury funds. The richest among them lived in big houses with
their wives, concubines, and personal slaves.
The second variety of state servant did either domestic or field work.
Agricultural laborers were settled in villages to cultivate the land or to
look after the cattle. The proceeds of their labor were used to clothe,
house, feed, and pay for marriages of all the servants. All domestic
servants, which numbered 100 or more, were female. They cooked,
carried water, and cleaned the buildings and courtyards; often they
served as concubines. After the death of a lamido, those female slaves
with whom he had had sexual relations were sent back to their families
as free women. The others remained to work for the new lamido. To
complete the work force, matshube dignitaries and vassal chiefs sent
their daughters or sisters as gifts to the new lamido.
Lowest on the social scale of Fulani society were slaves owned per-
sonally either by individual Fulani or by matshube dignitaries. They
gave their labor, either in the house or in the fields, in return for main-
tenance and payment of their taxes. They were genuine slaves and con-
stituted the principal source of riches for the Fulani, who despised
manual labor. They could be sold, exchanged for cattle, or given away
as presents. House slaves lived relatively well as part of the family.
Their masters housed and fed them, gave them women to marry, and
cared for them when they were old and sick. Totally detribalized, they
identified with the Fulani. Even after slavery was legally abolished
in the early twentieth century, they continued to live in a symbiotic
relationship with their masters, partly because of lack of economic
Outside the traditional political system, but acknowledging the suze-
rainty of the lamido, are the M'Bororo, who are Fulani year-round
nomads. They have their own chiefs, called ardo, who are heads of
lineages and have little actual power. The M'Bororo usually do not own

Effects of Islam

Islam forbids the enslavement of true believers. Authorities suggest
this as one of the reasons why the Fulani, after their conquests, did not
try to propagate their faith. Another reason is said to be their pride in
being not simply Muslims but Fulani Muslims-heirs to the great tra-
dition of Othman dan Fodio-which justifies erecting a sociopolitical
system entirely for their own benefit. The lamido, in whom political
and religious powers are united, is not only a political chief but also the
head of all true believers. He leaves only a minor role to the imam and
does not tolerate competition from leaders of Muslim brotherhoods,
which are not influential in northern Cameroon, in contrast to some
other African countries.
Islam is a system based on religious faith that forms the core of an
extensive body of institutions, customs, and attitudes considered by its

followers to be based on divine authority. Islam was founded in Arabia
during the seventh century by the Prophet Muhammad, whose sacred
book, the Koran, is supplemented by later Arabic writings embodying
traditions of his sayings and extensive interpretive commentaries on
the basic texts. Especially important among these interpretations is
the system of religious law, the sharia, which forms the basis for the
duties in the life of a pious Muslim.
Muslim doctrine lists five fundamental pious duties, the Five Pillars
of Islam: profession of faith, regular prayers, almsgiving, the yearly
fast, and the pilgrimage. A sixth, the jihad (holy war), is sometimes
ranked with them.
Prayers are accompanied by a series of body movements and formal
positions performed in the direction of Mecca five times a day: at dawn,
twice during the afternoon, at dusk, and once later in the evening.
Ritual washing is required before prayer. The greatest emphasis is
given to the Friday midday prayer services, at which a reading takes
place in the mosque or prayer enclosure and a sermon is usually given
by the prayer leader. There is no distinct formal clerical organization.
Almsgiving includes obligatory payment of annual taxes assessed by
the officials of the lamido and also voluntary contributions, such as
food, given to mallams (Koranic scholars and teachers) and students.
Fasting requires abstention from all food, drink, and worldly pleasures
between dawn and dusk each day throughout the period of Ramadan,
the month preceding the two main Muslim festivals.
The pilgrimage to Mecca, recommended for all Muslims, has been
undertaken by few Fulani. A returned pilgrim bears the honorific title
Close contact with their Muslim masters has not failed to produce
converts among the vassals and servants of the Fulani. The more enter-
prising non-Muslims perceive conversion as a means of upward social
mobility, especially those whose own social structures have been weak-
ened or destroyed. In time, they adopt Islamic principles regarding
family organization, which differs in many respects from traditional
African forms. Generally, there were three effects: the importance of
lineage is reduced; the emphasis on male dominance increases; and
polygyny is limited to four wives. Marriage becomes a civil contract
between two persons and not, as hitherto, between two families. The
ceremony is performed before witnesses in the presence of a mallam,
who is able to read and write classical Arabic and has some knowledge
of Muslim laws. Marriage payments are small and are given directly
to the bride. Therefore, it is easier for a Muslim to set up his own
household than for a non-Muslim, who must make large payments to
the bride's family.
Muslims are found mostly in the north, but Muslim communities
have formed in southern cities. In the early 1970s about 5,700 were
estimated to be in Yaounde, 10,000 in Douala, and 2,500 in Nkong-
samba. All southern trading centers have their Muslim quarters

occupied chiefly by Hausa merchants whose religious beliefs link them
to the political system of the north.

More than 100 Bamil6k6 chiefdoms dot the western highlands. Their
main features are a powerful ruling chief and associations that play an
important political and social role. These two institutions counter-
balance a kinship system characterized by small fragmented units.

The Chiefdom
The social system pivots around afon (chief), whose sacred character
derives from the fact that, as a descendant, he is the living link with
the chiefdom's founder. In his possession are the founder's skull as
well as those of the intervening chiefs. The fon makes the necessary
sacrifices to the spirits of those dead ancestors, who are revered as the
guardians of the chiefdom and to whom is attributed the power to
bring drought and famine. The fon distributes the land, which is con-
sidered the collective property of all, and he disposes of empty land for
the use of new generations. He regulates the agricultural activities
and receives the first fruits of every harvest. In the past, when a Bami-
16ke chief was defeated in battle by another, he had to give the victor
the ancestral skulls as a sign of submission and thus lost some of his
magical attributes, such as the power to make rain.
Most Bamil6k6 chiefdoms were established 200 or 300 years ago by
persons who left the place of their birth together with some friends
and a few slaves taken in war and settled in uninhabited territory.
The resulting new chiefdom was founded on the model of the one left
behind. In modern times, the following groups live within a chiefdom:
the direct descendants of the founder; an approximately equal number
of descendants of those who served the founder in a variety of ways;
and ordinary citizens, who in some chiefdoms constitute less than 25
percent of the population. The social status of a person derives from
the role played by his ancestors in the establishment of the chiefdom.
For administrative purposes a chiefdom is divided into districts
called quarters, their number depending on the size of the territory or
density of population in different areas. Their population ranges from
800 to 1,500 people. Each quarter is headed by a chief who is the repre-
sentative of the fon and whose main function is to collect taxes and to
summon men as well as women of every social stratum for public
works ordered by the fon, such as roadbuilding. On his own initiative
he may call people only for small-scale works of strictly local interest
for the improvement of the immediate neighborhood. This limitation
of his powers as well as the existence of other quarter chiefs assures
that none will become too powerful and a threat to the fon. The quarter
chiefs are hereditary notables, often descendants of the founder's
deputy (kwipeu). But when the family dies out or becomes poor, the

fon may choose a quarter chief among members of another lineage.
A quarter usually is divided into three to five subquarters, which are
the basic territorial units of Bamilek6 organization. Subquarters are
also headed by hereditary notables, who are responsible to the quarter
chief and who assist in the collection of taxes.
The fon rules with the assistance of the kamveu (advisory council),
which comprises nine or ten hereditary notables, descendants of the
companions of the founder, including the tsofo and the wala (descend-
ants of groups of servants).
The tsofo and wala have important administrative functions. In
former times they were recruited among slaves. After serving for a
number of years they were given land and wives by the fon so they
could found their own lineages. Occasionally, the fon appoints someone
without notable antecedents to the council because of special services
rendered by him. The council discusses important legal matters and is
consulted on the vital matter of land distribution.
Taking part in these discussions is the mother of the fon (mafo) or, if
she is dead, his oldest daughter or sister. This woman commands as
much respect as the fon, who listens to her advice. Her house is con-
sidered a place of refuge where no one, including the fon, may seize a
fugitive. She is the head of the various women's societies and the only
woman member in certain men's societies.
The successor to the fon was formerly chosen by the kamveu, but
under the various colonial regimes the personal power of the fon in-
creased and that of the kamveu diminished. Since then the fon has
chosen his successor from among his sons-not necessarily the eldest.
He announces his choice to the kamveu, to his tsofo, and to the local
officials of the central government. After the death of the fon the heir
is solemnly installed by the kamveu.
The headquarters of a fon consists of a great number of houses-
often several hundred-one for each wife, official, and servant. Usu-
ally the houses of wives, of whom there may be as many as a hundred,
flank a large central avenue. At the end of the avenue are the main
buildings, some of ample proportions and richly ornamented with
pillars and lintels carved from wood. In one of these houses are kept
the ancestral skulls and other sacred objects. Other dwellings are used
by visiting dignitaries or for political and religious gatherings, includ-
ing meetings of various associations.

Role of Traditional Associations
Associations are a vital feature of Bamilek& social and political orga-
nization. The fon heads all of the important associations, therefore
permitting him to have direct contact with his subjects without digni-
taries and state servants acting as intermediaries. Each association
has at least one specific purpose, such as providing arms in time of
war, functioning as a police force, guarding musical instruments used

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