On the 12th of July 1884 in Douala, Cameroon the Douala Paramounts King Bell and King Akwa as well as other Douala notables signed a so-called Treaty of Protection with Johannes Voss, an agent of the trading firm Jantzen and Thormählen, and Eduard Schmidt, acting on behalf of the Woermann firm. This marked the effective beginning of formal German colonial control over not just Douala, but the territory of what would become Kamerun. The terms of the treaty were deliberately ambiguous, masking the Germans’ intentions to take possession of the territory and control over trading routes. Further treaties with other coastal notables and later leaders in the interior would soon follow.
We the undersigned independent Kings and Chiefs of the country called “Cameroons” situated on the Cameroons-River, between the River Bimbia on the North Side, the River Qua Qua on the South side and up to 4 degrees 10″North lat., have in a meeting held today in the German Factory on King Aqua’s Beach, voluntarily concluded as follows:
We give this day our rights of sovereignty, the Legislation and Management of this Country entirely up to Eduard Schmidt acting for the firm C. Woermann, and Mr Johannes Voss acting for Mssrs Jantzen and Thormälen, both in Hamburg, and for many years trading in this river.
We have conveyed our rights of sovereignty, the legislation and management of this our Country to the firms mentioned above under the following conditions:
1. Third-party rights remain inviolate.
2. All friendship and commercial treaties previously concluded with other foreign government shall remain in force.
3. Land cultivated by us now, and the places the towns are built on, shall be the property of the present owners and their successors. 29
4. The Coumie [tax paid by factories] shall be paid annually as it has been paid to the Kings and Chiefs previously.
5. During the first period of the establishment of an administration here, our country’s customs shall be respected.
Cameroons, July 12, 1884
25 signatures including the following:
Ed. Woermann (witness)
O. Busch (witness)
Big Jim Aqua
Source: Knoll, Arthur J. and Hermann J. Hiery (eds.), The German Colonial Experience: Select Documents on German Rule in Africa, China, and the Pacific (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2010), 42-43.
Treaty of Protection with Chiefs of Cameroon Coast (1884) by Robbie Aitken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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