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The Mandate Period

In late 1914, after the Great War had begun, the British and French launched military campaigns against the Kamerun protectorate from bases in Nigeria and the French Congo. French action on the declaration of war at once resolved itself into turning the Germans out of the Lake Chad region; and in recovering the Sanga River district concerning which M. Merlin said, "The valley of the Sanga and the north of Gabun . . . constitute for French Equatorial Africa what I would venture to call a second Alsace-Lorraine. Their alienation was particularly grievous to us. The territory in question was not only rich; it had been exploited by French colonists with French capital, and it was inhabited by natives who had not only submitted to us, but had also entered our service—non seulement soumis mais acquis. So our thoughts turn ofttimes and ever with a new regret to the valleys of the Sanga."

Yet another third grievance rankled in French hearts. The Germans had acquired a place between French Guinea and Libreville, once a French trading station, by name Cocobeach. M. Merlin said: “The recent installation of the Germans at Cocobeach, on the Rio Muny and the estuary of the Mondah was particularly threatening to Libreville, situated as it is only a few miles from these places. The points at which these rivers, Muny and Mondah, reach the sea could, in fact, be made excellent bases for naval operations against our stations in Gabun, the very cradle of French Equatorial Africa."

Duala, the principal port of German Kamerun, was occupied by the Franco-British force under General Dobell on 27 September 1914; but many factors combined to prevent a complete surrender of the whole colony. The administrative center of Bwea, on the slopes of the Kamerun mountain, with its port, Victoria, was taken by the allies at the end of December 1914. The Kamerun Colony, however, was not a very closely organised whole; there was very indifferent communication even between Duala and Bwea; such railways and telegraphs as did exist did not lead to important centers; virgin forest separated Duala from the interior; the first operations took place in the rainy season, when the forest was at its worst; and finally, the vast extent of difficult and little traversed country lent itself admirably to guerilla warfare.

Consequently the complete capitulation of the colony become a matter of many months, though the general effect of continuous hostilities since the beginning of August 1914 was that the Germans were being gradually pressed back to Yaunde, where they may eventually be surrounded. Yaunde administrative station, formerly Tsonu’s village, was situated on high tableland 200 miles due east of Duala. The Germans had formed a “Yaunde district” with an administrative center called Yaunde and hoped that the Yaunde speech, which is an important dialect of Fang, would become the current language for all South Kamerun. Yaunde was probably the most successful of Germany's posts in the Kamerun hinterland.

There was a strong commercial influence at Duala which had succeeded in making a fairly imposing town there with stone houses. The site was not healthy, and portions of the town were liable to inundation in the wet season. Nevertheless, there was a sort of feeling that these difiiculties were not greater than those experienced by England in West Africa, and could be successfully overcome.

French, Belgian, and English contingents are converged from the whole Kamerun frontier, including the Binue River and Nigeria, Lake Chad, the Shari River, the Ubangi, and so on right round to French Gabun, and in course of time completely surrounded the Yaunde district. German resistance lasted for somewhat more than two years and resulted in damage to roads, bridges, and public facilities. Events were often accompanied by hard fighting and brave deeds. 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. 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 mandates. 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.

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Page last modified: 26-09-2016 19:07:17 ZULU