One of the issues when trying to retell the history of an African country, and particularly to a “Western” audience or readership, is that many in the Old World or the U.S., chalk up the experiences of such regions as “These were barbarous countries, inhabited by savages. Then some countries from Europe took over and in spite of their rule, that’s good because they brought civilisation”.
In most cases, any trace of pre-colonial Africa has been lost or damaged beyond repair, so we can only speculate as to the civilisation or civilisations that was/were in place before any colonialists militias took over. This is the case with Cameroon: we know it was originally inhabited by Pygmies, then by Bantu, and we know that around the 16th century, the Mandarawa people who are still considered high in today’s society, ruled the nation from the Mandara Mountain Range. We can only wonder though, about the mysterious fortified structures they built there. Similarly mysterious are the Sao kingdom or the Kotoko kingdom, with the customs and languages they spoke.
Much of the documented history of Cameroon starts with the slave trade imposed by the Islamic rule beginning in the 17th century: the Fula people, who remain to this day, one of the largest ethnic groups in the whole of Western Africa, began their domination here at the time.
The first Europeans to set foot in Cameroon were not the Germans, French or British, contrary to belief, they were Portuguese missionaries who arrived in the country around the end of the 17th century. They started preaching the Bible on the coasts of Cameroon, and they brought along quinine: a fundamental medication, which allowed for the exploration of inland Cameroon, devastated by malaria fevers. The colonialists only followed when it was “safe” to leave the coastline.