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THE MODERN HISTORY OF CAMEROON BEGAN IN 1884, WHEN THE TERRITORY came under German rule after the explorer Gustav Nachtigal negotiated protectorate treaties with the local chiefs. Although British missionaries had been active in the area since 1845, the UK recognized the German protectorate, called Kamerun. After World War I had broken out, the territory was invaded by French and British forces in 1915. In 1919, one-fifth of the former German Kamerun, which was contiguous with eastern Nigeria, was assigned to the UK, and the remaining four-fifths was assigned to France under League of Nations mandates.

In 1946 French Cameroun was granted representation in the French National Assembly and the Council of the Republic.

A new stage in self-government was reached in 1957, when the French government created the autonomous state of Cameroun, and Cameroonian institutions were created along the lines of French parliamentary democracy. In 1958, the Legislative Assembly of Cameroun voted for independence by 1960, and France and the UN General Assembly assented. In 1959, the last step in the evolution of political institutions prior to independence took place when a government of Cameroun was formed and given full internal autonomy.

On 1 January 1960, Cameroun became an independent republic.

On 11 February 1961, separate plebiscites were held in the Southern and Northern British Cameroons under the auspices of the UN. The voters in Southern Cameroons chose union with the Cameroun Republic, while those in Northern Cameroons opted for union with Nigeria, which was accomplished on 1 June 1961.

A draft constitution for the federation was approved by the Cameroun National Assembly on 7 September 1961, and the new federation became a reality on 1 October. The Cameroun Republic became the state of East Cameroon, and Southern British Cameroons became the state of West Cameroon in the new Federal Republic of Cameroon,

A proposal to replace the federation with a unified state was ratified by popular referendum on 20 May 1972. A new constitution went into effect on 2 June, under which the country was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon.




For the German Protectorate a coat of arms was designed which, because of WW I, never reached the country and consequently was never used.  It consisted of an elephants-head  below a chief Or with the Imperial eagle, on its breast an escutcheon quarterly Argent and Sable (Hohenzollern). The shield was crowned with the German Imperial Crown of the design of 1889.

Arms of Kamerun, 1914 [1]


The coat of arms, together with the coats of arms of the other lost colonies of Germany, was published about 1933 in a German Magazine called Afrika Nachrichten. In this magazine it was discovered by C. Pama and mentioned in his “Lions and Virgins” about South African Heraldry. He writes:


….just before the First World War, in 1912 and 1913, the then state-secretary of the Imperial Colonial Office (Reichskolonialamt), Dr. Solf, had made a journey during which he visited all the German colonies and some of the British possessions as well. He was struck by the fact that these British colonies did have their own colonial badges, and that by placing them on the Union Jack local colonial flags could be designed which were nevertheless all of one British pattern. This impressed him greatly and on his return to Germany he sent a memorandum to the Emperor Wilhelm II in which he stressed the desirability of adopting such symbols as well in German colonies, and went so far as to suggest that designs should be made immediately.

The Emperor agreed with Solf and the German Bureau of Heraldry, the Heroltsamt, was asked to submit suitable designs at their earliest convenience.

Before being shown to the Emperor, the designs had to be approved by Johann Albrecht, Duke of Mecklenburg, under whose supervision they were made.

When they finally reached the Emperor, he was satisdfied with most of them; on other drawings he suggested small alterations, in his own handwriting, and tye final drawings could then be made. In fact they were made, but in the meantime the war broke out, and they were never sent off to the colonies for which they were destined.  [2]


The original drawings, together with an explanation were published recently on Internet by Mr. Jörg M. Karaschewski (in German).


Neither for the French Mandatory Territory nor for the British part of the Cameroons a coat of arms was adopted. For what the French part concerns is it likely that the seals and emblems of the French Republic were used, but nothing is known for sure.


Even before independence was proclaimed a flag was adopted for the autonomous state, the État du Cameroun, on 29 october 1957. This flag, consisting of three vertical stripes of  green, red and yellow  was confirmed at independence on 1 january 1960. In 1961, after the federation of the French and British Cameroons, two yellow stars were added in the green stripe.



At the same time a Great Seal of the republic was adopted. This consists of the bust of a Cameroonese young man surrounded by a twig of coffee (Coffea canephora - Rubiacea) and five cocoa-beans (Theobroma cacao - Sterouliaceae) representing the main trade crops. Around this central image there are the name of the country and the national motto in french and english.



A coat of arms was adopted by law Nr. 60/80 of 31 December 1960. It is:

Arms: Tierced per pile Vert, Gules and Or, the first and third charged with a mullet Or in chief, in the second  the map of Cameroon Argent, charged with a balance Sable.

Supporters: Two fasces in saltire.

Motto: paix • travail • patrie. [3]



The coat of arms was changed after the country became a federation. This version shows the mullets and the map Azure. [4]



A third version was adopted together with the amendment of the flag on 20 May 1975 (when the number of stars in the green stripe was reduced to one). The tincture of the first and third quarters were changed into Vert, with only one golden mullet in sinister chief. The balance was tinctured Or and the motto was written above the arms. [5]


A fourth version is from 1986. [6]  On this occasion the  mullet was moved to the top of the pile and the third quarter was tinctured Or again, thus restoring the colors of the flag. Also the motto and name of the country were written in french and english:



       peace          work          fatherland


republic of cameroon



Æ See illustration at the head of this article.


The pile Gules represents Mount Cameroon (4095 m.). The map “materializes the mountain in space” and the two stars are for the two main regions of the country. The sword and balance symbolize political equality and unity and the two fasces in saltire the republican administration.




Armed Forces





Arms 1960-‘75

Arms 1975-‘86

Arms 1986-present












In the Cameroons the local rulers are still of some importance. A few of them have been portrayed by Daniel Lainé in his “African Kings” (Berkeley, 2000). This photographs illustrate the fact that state symbolism of the cameroonese petty kingdoms is largely restricted to the royal images, which, however are quite impressive.


An important sultan from the beginning of the 20th C. was Sultan Ibrahim Njoya of Bamum († 1933).

Sultan Njoya astounded colonial Europe with his genius. He spent twelve years in inventing a new alphabet (the system included eighty symbols) so that he could record the history of his kingdom in Bamum language. Njoya revolutionized agriculture, instituted a civil registry, installed a blast furnace, and founded a new religion, Novat Kovot, a mixture of Islam and Catholicism. In 1913, when Cameroon was still a German colony, Njoya set up his own printing house. After the defeat of Germany, the French took over and attacked the “Negro king’s” initiatives. The colonizers destroyed his printing house and demanded the sultan to submit. When he refused, France deported him. In 1933, the most modern monarch in Africa died in exile.


Before his exile Njoya built a palace in 1917. His throne is preserved in the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin. On the seat is a pattern of plaited snakes and standing behind it are a king and a queen, possibly the parents of the sultan.  On the footstool of the throne are  two warriors, armed with a gun. 


The throne of Sultan Njoya

in the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin

(Photo Walter Steinkopf).

Sultan Njoya at an audience, sitting on his throne, about 1908. (Photo Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin, n° A224)


The former Mfon or Sultan of Bamum was Seidou Njimoluh. He was a son of Sultan Ibrahim Njoya and was elected from his 167 children. On the picture Daniel Lainé made of him he is sitting on an actual version of the throne of his father. [7]






Herzog, Hans-Ulrich & Fritz Wolf: Flaggen und Wappen. Leipzig, 1966. (Redaktionsschluß 15.8.1965)

Herzog, Hans-Ulrich, & Georg Hannes: Lexicon Flaggen und Wappen. Leipzig, 1990. ISBN 3-323-00263-6.

Hesmer, K.-H.: (1) Flaggen, Wappen, Daten. Die Staaten der Erde von A-Z.. Gütersloh, 1975. (2) Flaggen und Wappen der Welt.. Gütersloh, 1992.

Louda, Jiri: Flaggen und Wappen der Welt von A-Z.  Güter­sloh, 1972.




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© Hubert de Vries 2008-10-17; Updated 2013-03-20




[1] Picture from: http://www.dr-herzfeld.de/flaggenkunde/FlaggenSchutzgebiete.pdf

[2]  Published  Cape Town,  1965; pp. 111 - 112.

[3]  Louda, 1972.  Smith, 1975.

[4]  Hesmer, 1975

[5]  Herzog , 1990.

[6]  Hesmer, 1992.

[7]  Seidou Njimoluh Njoya (1902– † 28 July 1992) ruled the Bamum people of  Cameroon from 1933 to 1992 as the Sultan of Foumban and Mfon of the Bamun. He is succeeded by Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya

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