Africa Since 1875

AFRICAN HISTORY TIMELINE: Independent Cameroon

Copyright 1998 by Jim Jones
All rights reserved

.......DATE............. ...........................EVENT............................. .........
1950s Following World War II, nationalist movements began to press for independence. The Union des Populations Camerounaises (UPC) was the most radical party.
1955 The UPC demanded immediate and separate independence for each of the two Cameroons. When legal methods failed, the UPC launched a revolt in 1955 that resulted in extensive destruction and death.
1956 The French banned the UPC, but it continued to operate in Bamileke country, where it had wide support from the largest ethnic group in Cameroon.
1958 Northerner Ahmadou Ahidjo, leader of the Bloc D‚mocratique Camerounais , worked with the French for gradual independence and formed a new party, the Union Camerounaise , calling for reunification, independence and national reconciliation.
1960/01/01 Ahmadou Ahidjo became the first president of Cameroon at independence.
1961/01/01 Southern British Cameroon joined the Republic of Cameroon following a UN-directed plebiscite, while the northern portion voted to remain with Nigeria.
1962 Ahidjo suspended the constitution and invoked presidential emergency powers because of continued violence by the UPC.
1966 Ahidjo presided over a one-party state of the Union Nationale Camerounaise (UNC).
1970s Cameroon was a stable and prosperous nation, friendly with France but also careful to foster relations with other western countries (Peace Corps, GTE microwave, Bata Shoes, Heinekin). With its own oil reserves, Cameroon was less affected by the 1970s oil crises than most African nations.
1979 Cacao and coffee prices declined at the end of the 1970s, but oil revenue, derived from discoveries made in anglophone Cameroon in the 1970s, was enough to make up for it.
1982 Ahidjo voluntarily left office in 1982 and went to live on the French Riviera, citing poor health. Control passed to his prime minister, Paul Biya, a bilingual southerner and member of the Beti ethnic group.
1983 Ahidjo evidently expected to exercise influence over Biya, but instead, in 1983, Biya fired his prime minister, Bello Bouba Maigari, and several other members of his cabinet after accusing them of plotting to overthrow him. Ahidjo resigned from the leadership of the UNC and accused Biya of trying to create a police state. Personal animosity between the two men grew, resulting in Ahidjo's sentence to death in absentia.
1984 The Cameroonian government pardoned Ahidjo.
1984 Elements of the palace guard that remained loyal to Ahidjo revolted in Yaounde, but after three days, they were defeated by the army, with hundreds of deaths.
1984 Biya was elected to the presidency (he was the only candidate) by 99.98% of the voters.
1985 Biya tried to strengthen his western ties with visits in 1985 to France and Britain.
1985 Biya changed the name of his party to Rassemblement Democratique du Peuple Camerounais (RDPC) as part of an effort to distance himself from Ahidjo.
1986 Biya visited West Germany, Canada and the Vatican. He also normalized relations with Israel.
1986 In a freak natural disaster, thousands died near Lake Nyos due to the release of underground volcanic gases.
1986 Local elections for various RDPC bodies brought many new people into the government.
1988 During his second presidential election, Biya received 98.75% of the vote. The elections for the national assembly brought additional new "technocrats" into office.
1989 Two outside events increased anti-government activity in Cameroon. The first was the bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution, which stimulated pro-democracy demonstrations throughout Francophone Africa. The second was the fall of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, which showed that that repressive governments were vulnerable to popular opinion.
1990 New oil discoveries were made off the Cameroon coast.
1990/04 Pierre Bouobda, a respected lawyer with many ties in the Bamileke community, was shot to death at a police road block near Bafoussam in the anglophone region. That same month, the government arrested Yondo Black, the president of the Cameroon Bar Association for conspiring to introduce multi-party democracy. The nation's lawyers protested, but Black was sentenced to three years in prison. (He was released in August after the Cameroon World Cup soccer team won the quarter-final.)
1990/05 There were were public demonstrations in Douala and Bamenda, a provincial capital in anglophone West Cameroon. There were arrests at both places, and six killed when police dispersed a crowd of more than 30,000 in Bamenda.
1990/06 The CPDM party held its regular five-year congress where, despite Biya's opposition, they passed a resolution that offered the possibility of a national conference on Cameroon's political future. They also agreed to limited extension of the rights of free speech, press and association. However, they rejected multi-party elections, preventing any chance at agreement with opposition parties.
1991/06/24 The opposition NCO started the "Operation Dead Cities." The object was to use strikes to close down the Cameroonian economy during the week, and allow commerce to function only on the weekends.
1991/07/13 The government responded to Operation Dead Cities by banning the four major opposition parties and two other associations. Two weeks later, the government banned the National Coordination of the Opposition. Several opposition leaders were arrested and held before being released.
1991/08/12 Biya continued to reject demands for a national congress. In response, opposition leaders created a steering committee chaired by Samuel Eboua (UNDP) with John Fru Ndi (SDF) as vice-chair and Admamoa Ndam Njoya (UDC), Jean-Jacques Ekindi (MP), Charles Tchoungang (OCDH) and Djeukam Tchameni (CAP-Liberte) as members. They decided to continue the Dead Cities program. Two days later, a large crowd of mostly northerners and UNDP) greeted former Prime Minister Bello Bouba Maigari as he returned to Cameroon after seven years of exile.
1991/11 Paul Biya signed an agreement with most of the oppositon (SDF boycotted) for a new constitution followed by elections. But Biya called the national assembly elections before any of the parties had time to prepare, so most of the opposition parties boycotted the election (SDF, CDU, and a rival UPC faction).
1991/12/27 A Yaounde independent newspaper, Le Messajer , published an "open letter to Paul Biya" by Celestin Monga that resulted in the arrest of the writer and editor and the closing of the newspaper.
1991/spring Freedom of the press was restricted. Newspapers circumvented government censureship orders by arranging for printing to be done in neighboring Nigeria. In addition, university students demonstrated and at one point, the government closed the national university. The government strengthened its secret police force and appointed military commanders for 7 of the 10 most rebellious provinces, despite the absence of any constitutional authority.
1991/spring Opposition political parties were legalized, and by early July, there are 28 parties in Cameroon. They formed the National Coordination of the Opposition (NCO) as an umbrella group for the 27 parties that oppose Biya's government.
1992 Cameroon's population is roughly 12 million people.
1992/03/01 Biya's RDPC won 88 of 180 seats in the national assembly and formed a coalition government with the Mouvement pour la Defense de la R‚publique (MDR), which won 6 seats. The UNDP won 68 seats, while the UPC won the remaining 18.
1992/10 Even though Paul Biya won reelection in a quick election, there were accusations of fraud. That, plus the fact that his party did not win a majority in a boycotted election, has greatly weakened the single-party state.