The Adamawa Region (Adamawa Province until 2008; French Région de l'Adamaoua) is a constituent region of the Republic of Cameroon. It borders the Centre and East regions to the south, the Northwest and West regions to the southwest, Nigeria to the west, the Central African Republic (CAR) to the east, and the North Region to the north.
This mountainous area forms the barrier between Cameroon's forested south and savanna north. At almost 64,000 km² in land area, the Adamawa is the third largest of Cameroon's ten regions. The land is rugged and sparsely populated, however, as most is devoted to the rearing of cattle. The Muslim Fulbe (Fulani) form the major ethnic group, though Tikar, Gbaya, and other peoples are present in lesser numbers.
Early population movements
The Adamawa's oldest populations were various Paleo-Sudanese peoples. These were mostly displaced or absorbed by invading Sudanese groups in the 8th or 9th century. These included the Mbum (Mboum), Ndoro (Dourou), Kutin, (Koutine), Laka-Mbere, Chamba, Doayo, Fali, Mundang (Moundang), and Tupuri (Toupouri).
The Kanem-Bornu Empire of Lake Chad had relations with these tribes. They called the area Fumbina or Mabina (a name which denoted the present province as well as territories in present-day Nigeria and the Central African Republic). The Kanem-Bornu also introduced Islam to the region between 1349 and 1385 by way of the Islamic centre at Kano in present-day Nigeria. However, no more than a few rulers, nobles or merchants ever converted.
Many more tribes entered the territory from the region of Chad between the 14th and 17th centuries. These included the Semi-Bantu tribes, such as the Bamileke, Bamun, Kom, Nso, Tikar, Widikum, and Wimbam. The Bantu came as well, examples being the Beti-Pahuin and Maka and Njem. Other groups who came were the Gbaya, from the present CAR, and the Vute, from the Lake Chad region. The Vute were region's first iron workers, and they founded the towns of Mbamnyang (present Banyo) and Tibaré (present Tibati). The Semi-Bantu peoples gradually moved south before settling near the headwaters of the Mbam River sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. The Bantu settled east of them, south of the Adamawa Plateau. One or all of these populations founded Banyo, Tibati, and Ngaoundéré.
Meanwhile, the Bantu and Semi-Bantu invasions drove the longer-established Sudanese peoples north. The Mbum, Ndoro, Kutin, and Laka-Mbere moved to the present-day province's northern reaches, while the other Sudanese migrated even farther. This period marked the highest population for the Adamawa territory until modern times. However, one event had drastic consequences for the region: the arrival of the Fulbe.
Early Fulbe settlers entered the Adamawa from present-day Nigeria or northern Cameroon as early as the 13th century. These settlers and nomads were never numerous, however, and they often held subservient status to other tribes. Over time, however, the steady stream of Fulbe immigrants allowed Fulbe communities to spring up in many areas. These early Fulbe converted to Islam sometime in the 17th century, beginning with the settled, or town, Fulbe.
In 1804, Fulbe in the territory and beyond were growing disenchanted with submission to pagan tribes. They were also hungry for larger territories that they could use for cattle grazing. The Fulbe leader Usman dan Fodio responded to this sentiment and called a jihad. Usman named his lieutenant Modima Adam Al-Hasan, or Modibo Adama, lamido of Fumbina, and Adama quickly raised an army in the territory.
Adama's forces proved all but unstoppable. He conquered major Vute centres at Mbamnyang and Tibaré in 1835, which he renamed Banyo and Tibati. At Adama's death in 1847, Fulbe horsemen controlled territory from the Niger River to the west and the Logone to the east and from the Sahara to the north and the Sanaga River to the south to form the Sokoto Caliphate. Adama's emirate (known as the Adamawa Emirate) was divided into districts under governors; the Adamawa Plateau fell into the Ngaoundéré subdivision.
Fighting against native peoples continued for many years. Around 1830, the Fulbe conquered the Mbum village of Delbé, which they renamed Ngaoundéré, after a nearby hill. Many Mbum converted to Islam and remained, though many others migrated north. The town became the seat of the lamidat of Ardo Ndjobdi.
Beginning around 1835, Fulbe immigrants streamed into the newly conquered territories in large numbers. By 1850, the Fulbe were firmly entrenched in northern Cameroon. Native populations were subjugated and placed under the rule of the local lamidos. Native populations were forced to convert to Islam, face enslavement, or flee. Fulbe merchants accepted salt and horses from North Africa in exchange for slaves for sale in the Muslim empires to the north. A smaller number of slaves went south for the trans-Atlantic market.
Those groups who resisted had no choice but to flee to the unforgiving mountains or else to the jungle south. Those groups who were immediate neighbours to the warring Fulbe, such as the Vute and Gbaya, dislodged others who lay in their path, such as Cameroon's Bantu peoples. The Fulbe jihads thus served as the single most important event in the peopling of southern Cameroon. The jihad only served to depopulate Cameroon's north, however. The Fulbe invaders did not set up new settlements. Rather, they used their conquered lands as pasture for their cattle. Many of these groups were still migrating when they came into contact with Cameroon's new colonisers: The Germans.
British explorers were the first Europeans to enter Adamawa territory when they came in 1822. The German Dr. Gustav Nachtigal was the first Westerner to explore the region extensively, which he did between 1869 and 1873. Nachtigal kept a keen eye out to notice what groups lived in the region, what their relations were like with their neighbours, and what resources could possibly be exploited from the area. The British Eduard E. Flegel followed Nachtigal in 1882. He explored the Adamawa emirate, setting up trade and reaching as far south as Banyo. He died in 1883, however, still on expedition, and peaceful contact between the West and the Fulbe empire came to an end. Instead, Germany annexed part of Adama's empire in 1884, and other part became part of British Nigeria. As far as Europe was concerned, the Adama emirate no longer existed.
The Fulbe fiercely opposed German hegemony. The German governor Jesko von Puttkamer sent soldiers under Captain Von Kamptz to suppress the uprisings, and on 7 May 1899, Banyo became the first major town to surrender. Tibati fell a month later, and Ngaoundéré followed on 20 September 1901. The Adamawa Plateau was now largely pacified, and the Germans pushed north toward the important trade town of Garoua.
Germany eventually prevailed against the Fulbe, and the present Adamawa fell into the Ngaoundéré administrative area, or "residency". From 1902 to 1903, Germany allowed most lamidos to stay in power, albeit under German supervision; rulers who refused to cooperate were replaced. The colonials also encouraged the Islamisation of the area's non-Muslim inhabitants, as this would place them under the rule of the lamidos, who were already submissive to the German governor.
Germany's 1916 defeat in Africa in World War I eventually gave control of the territory to the French, the region's third occupying force in less than a century. The new governors placed the region in the Mora-Garoua administrative area with its capital at Garoua.
French colonial policies varied little from their German predecessors. Lamidos were left in nominal power, though they were expected to carry out French policies. France also did away with recalcitrant rulers, and by 1936, the region had 39 lamidos and one sultan. France's main contribution to the region was its improvements to infrastructure. Road construction, in particular, accelerated during French rule, and the colonials had a road built from Foumban to Garoua via Banyo, Tibati, and Ngaoundéré.
In 1956, France made all of its West African colonies self-governing. André-Marie Mbida became the first premier of Cameroon. Mbida quickly alienated the Muslim north, however, when he introduced his Abong-Mbang Resolutions. One of these called for the "democratisation" of northern Cameroon, which the Muslim rulers feared was code for bringing an end to their influence. Muslim leaders thus threatened to secede from Cameroon and join French Chad unless the resolutions were recalled. The events eventually led to Mbida's expulsion from the prime ministry and his replacement by Ahmadou Ahidjo, a Muslim from the country's north.
Ahidjo became Cameroon's first president after the country's independence on 1 January 1960. He devoted substantial resources to developing his northern homeland, such as the extension of a road north from Yaoundé to better link Cameroon's north and south. The railroad followed soon thereafter, construction beginning in 1961 and reaching Ngaoundéré ten years later.
The northern Muslims largely viewed the arrival of Cameroon's second president, Paul Biya, suspiciously. This was largely due to an Ahidjo partisan named Moussa Yaya, whom Biya and the press accused of trying to turn the lamidos against the new leader. Biya enjoys some support in the province today, but his popularity is nowhere near as strong as in Cameroon's south. Part of this is because Biya's main activities in the north have been minimal. He split the North Province into three parts in 1983, thus creating the Far North Region (Cameroon), North, and Adamawa Provinces as they exist today. He also absorbed the University of Ngaoundéré into the national system.