Bibliographic data

Kingah, David; Tazifor, John: A Junior History for Secondary Schools. Buea: Education Book Centre, 2nd rev. ed. [2. überarb. Aufl.], 2000 [1988], 99–101.

German Imperial Control (1884-1914)


[p. 99]

The Judiciary had separate courts for Europeans and for Africans and had separate fines. For example, in the case of rape of an African woman, a German could be given 10 years imprisonment while a Cameroonian offender could be sentenced to death. The Supreme Court was in Buea while three other major ones were in Douala, Kribi and Lomie. Chiefs started presiding over civil cases from 1891. The commonest form of punishment, was the whip. The death sentence, was passed on the following: all cases punishable in Germany with 10 years: endangering a railway train, rape on a European, armed resistance to a German official during work, etc.

B) The Economy

The economic policy of the colony was determined by the economic interest of the German trading fims in Cameroon, the colonial administration and the German market. Before 1884 the two most important firms were the Woermann and the Jantzen and Thormahlen firms. After 1884 many other firms were established and many plantations were opened. In order to achieve their economic goal they created first, the committee for the importation of products from

[p. 100]

German colonies in 1897 and later the Colonial Economic Committee (C.E.C) in 1898.

As far as the plantations were concerned, by 1913 there were over fifty-eight established ones. One of the most influential promoters of the plantation industry was a Hamburg firm, which started the development in West Africa in 1849. It started in Liberia and then expanded to Gabon and then to Cameroon in 1868. Woermann had a shipping line between Germany and West Africa. It was Woermann who urged and motivated German annexation and occupation because of his economic or business ambitions. Woermann was very influential in the German Colonial Society, which was a propaganda organisation founded in 1884 for the promotion of economic life of the colony. In order to encourage internal trade, two large concession companies were formed in 1898/1899. They were the South Cameroon Company and the Northwest Cameroon Company (Gesellshaft Sud-Kamerun and Gesellshaft Nord West Kamerun) . They were allocated land about 1/5 of the territory to develop and exploit, as they deemed fit. (Draw a map showing these concessions and their activities.)

The Germans generally imported palm oil, kernels, rubber, ivory, timber, cocoa etc. Cameroon in turn imported arms, liquor, cloth, watches, rice, machinery, medical supplies etc.

Workers were usually recruited in the locality where the plantations were found. The Grassfield became a fertile area for the recruitment of labour. The contract for this recruitment was given to Fon Galega of Bali who received a yearly gift of 300 marks. Other chiefs who recruited labour were given two marks for each recruited labourer. Forced labour was used both in the plantations and other works. (Comment on the use of Forced labour during German rule.)

One area where forced labour was used, was the infrastructure . Here emphasis was put more on railway construction than road network. Between 1906 and 1911, the first 160 kilometres of the northern line were to be realised between Bonaberi and Nkongsamba, but only 150 kms of them were completed by 1913.

[p. 101]

C) German Contributions to Development:

The Germans generally contributed in the following developments.

  • 1. Agriculture: After annexation in 1884 the Germans decided to, and developed the plantation industry in the coastal region. They planted bananas, rubber, palms, tobacco, tea, cocoa etc. The first governor created the Botanical gardens in Victoria, which was both a recreational and touristic site. In addition to over 58 plantations created, the Germans created higher agricultural schools in Victoria, Garoua, Dschang, Douala and Yaounde etc for the training of indigenous graduates from primary school. The government farms grew crops and vegetables; kept cattle for meat, butter and cheese.
  • 2. Transport: They built roads, bridges, ports, railways etc. The ports they constructed were Grand Batanga (Kribi), Douala and Victoria. They constructed railways. The first railway was the northern Line (Norabahn). lt ran from Bonaberi to Nkongsamba (160km). It was opened in 1911. The Eastern line went to Edea, Yaounde etc. Roads were constructed from 1900 and the first motor car arrived in 1905.
  • 3. Architecture: Antiquities, monuments and beautiful buildings abound in the territory which were the handiwork of the Germans.
  • 4. Research: The Germans carried out research in all fields of life. For example, the Botanical Garden carried out experiments with hundreds of various tropical plants. Experiments were also carried out in cross-breeding of African and European cattle etc.
  • 5. Trade: The Germans encouraged trade. They opened trading posts all over the territory.
  • 6. Health and sanitation: Hospitals and health centres were established in several areas to combat diseases such as malaria, small pox, sleeping sickness, leprosy, and venereal diseases. Sanitation was stressed in the plantations.
  • 7. Industry: In 1908 the Germans built a soap factory in Douala from where local oil was processed into soap.
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