On 1 January 1960, the former Cameroon under French tutelage became an independent state; The Republic of Cameroon was born.
The political entity that in the eyes of the United Nations gained international sovereignty had been formed over a relatively short period of seventy-five years. From July 14, 1884, when Gustav Nachtigal raised the German flag in Douala, to 1918, the year the Germans had to abandon Cameroon, this territory was under the protectorate of Berlin. At the Treaty of Versailles (France) on 28 June 1919, Germany renounced all its rights over Cameroon by ratifying the treaty which stipulated in Article 119: “Germany renounces in favour of the major allied powers and associated with all its rights and titles on its overseas sessions.”
On July 10, 1919, France and England shared Cameroon. England administers the western part of the country (one-fifth of the territory) and France the eastern part (four-fifths).
This administration is done on behalf of the League of Nations (LON). That is the mandate regime. In the administered part of France, two events of interest occurred during the period of the mandate: on the one hand, the institution of indigenat in 1917 which later was abolished by the Brazzaville conference; on the other hand, the creation on 18 December 1944 of the Union of Confederate Trade Unions of Cameroon (USCC) affiliated with the French General Confederation of Workers (CGT).
From 1939 to 1946, Cameroon, under French mandate, having answered the call of General De Gaulle, participated in the Second World War. The day after this one, everything changes. 1946 appears as a pivotal year in Cameroon’s evolution towards independence. On May 7, 1946, the Lamine Guèye Law recognized citizenship for nationals of overseas territories, including Cameroon.
On October 5, 1946, censorious and capacity suffrage was instituted in Cameroon. A French decree of October 25, 1946 created the Representative Assembly of Cameroon (ARCAM) with two sections: 18 French and 32 Cameroonians elected by two separate colleges. THE ARCAM was replaced in 1952 by the ATCAM (Cameroon Territorial Assembly) which in turn was replaced in 1956 by the ALCAM (Legislative Assembly of Cameroon).
With the creation of the United Nations in 1945, the former territories under mandate came under the control of the Trustership Council, which was responsible for their march towards independence.
In 1957, history accelerated. Under the Gaston Defferre framework law of 23 June 1956, a French decree of 16 April 1957 granted autonomy to Cameroon under French tutelage. It goes from being a territory under guardianship to a state under guardianship. From then on Cameroonian citizenship was recognized. High Commissioner Pierre Messmer, who serves as Head of State, appoints André Marie Mbida as Prime Minister. The latter was invested by the Legislative Assembly of Cameroon on 10 May 1957. May 10 becomes National Day. ALCAM chooses the flag of Cameroon (Green-Red-Yellow), the national anthem “O Cameroon cradle of our ancestors” and the country’s motto “Peace-Work-Fatherland”.
In January 1958: High Commissioner Messmer is replaced by Jean Ramadier. Following a conflict between the new representative of France and the Prime Minister, André Marie Mbida, the latter resigned on 13 January 1958 and was replaced. Cameroonians were kept informed thanks to yaounde radio on 18 February 1958 by Ahmadou Ahidjo, then Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Interior. ALCAM opted on 12 June 1958 for full internal autonomy, which was granted to Cameroon on 1 January 1959 by France.
Also in 1958, on 13 September, one of Cameroon’s independence architects Ruben Um Nyobé, Secretary-General of the Union of The Peoples of Cameroon (then banned party) who had not been able to obtain amnesty from France, was shot dead in the scrub of Libel Li Ngoï near Boumnyebel in the Sanaga-Maritime. This does not end the rebellion; many Cameroonian nationalists remained convinced that they could successfully oppose French troops in Cameroon, as was the case in Dien Bien Phu (Indochina) or Algeria.
The year 1959 was marked by the passage of many of Cameroon’s delegations to the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for or against the immediate independence of their country. Finally, on 12 March 1959, the guardianship committee of the UN General Assembly voted by 56 votes to 9 and 16 abstentions to repeal the guardianship agreement. On January 1, 1960, Cameroon, under the tutelage of France, gained independence from the title of the Republic of Cameroon. The country was immediately admitted to the United Nations.
As soon as it gained international sovereignty, Cameroon acquired the instruments of a modern state. On 21 February 1960, a draft constitution was submitted to the popular referendum and accepted by 797,498 yes against 531,075 no. This Constitution promulgated on 4 March 1960 is characterized by a specific parliamentary system in which the government is accountable to the Assembly and the President of the Republic. On 5 May 1960, Mr. Ahmadou Ahidjo was elected President of the Republic of Cameroon. On 16 May of the same year, Charles Assale was appointed Prime Minister.
Cameroon, under British tutelage, which had a legislative assembly in 1954 but was an administrative part of the Republic of Nigeria, had voted on 7 November 1959 to maintain guardianship by a plebiscite. A second consultation, decided by the United Nations, took place on 11 February 1961. The southern part of the British-administered territory, led by Prime Minister John Ngu Foncha, by referendum voted by an overwhelming majority of 233,571 votes against 97,741 for its independence and its attachment to the Republic of Cameroon. In the northern part of Cameroon under the tutelage of Great Britain, 60% of the votes were in favour of annexation to Nigeria. This percentage, which does not appear to have been obtained by due process, has been the subject of much debate and complaint. On June 1, 1961, northern Cameroon was annexed to Nigeria.
On October 1, 1961, the southern part of Cameroon under British guardianship, known as Western Cameroon and the Republic of Cameroon, were reunited as the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The 1961 Constitution defines Cameroon as a federal state with a presidential political regime. The President of the Republic is both head of state and head of government. He is assisted by a vice-president.
1966: Multiparty disappears. Political parties merge to give birth to the Cameroon National Union (UNC). This is the beginning of the one-party system.
Eleven years after Reunification, the desire for unity was once again expressed in the referendum of 20 May 1972. Results: 3,217,056 votes in. It is the end of federal structures and the birth of the United Republic of Cameroon. The 1972 Constitution upholds the presidential regime. The President of the Republic is no longer assisted by a vice-president; the two federated states disappear to make way for a single state. The four assemblies are reduced to one: the National Assembly.
November 1982. Two major events mark Cameroon’s history: the surprise resignation of President Ahmadou Ahidjo on 4 November and the accession on 6 November of Paul Biya, Prime Minister since 1975, under the constitutional amendment of Law No. 79/02 of 19 June 1979. In his keynote address on the day of his swearing-in at the National Assembly, Paul Biya reveals himself to his compatriots and the international community. From the outset, he focuses on the democratisation of political life, social and economic liberalisation, rigour in the management and moralisation of behaviour; strengthening international cooperation. For many observers, Paul Biya quickly appears as the embodiment of the dream of a new Cameroon, aware of its potential and claiming a better place in the concert of nations.