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Kamerun (German: Deutsches Schutzgebiet Kamerun, sometimes also Deutsch-Kamerun) became a protectorate of the German Empire in July 1884 as the German protectorate of German North-West Africa (Deutsch-Nordwestafrika; renamed Kamerun on 1 Januar 1901).[1]

After the Berlin West African conference of 1884-85, the Germans secured the diplomatic transfer of the coastline from Rio del Rey to Campo from the British and French. The Germans adopted peaceful and forceful methods expanding from the coastline to the interior. The natives reacted to the German imperial rule by collaboration, but also sometimes resistance (in some places like Douala, Fontem etc.). By 1906, the German rule was consolidated. The various German governors promoted political, economic and social prosperity in the territory until 1916.

In World War I, British, French, and Belgian troops drove the Germans into exile, beginning a period of British rule in two small portions and French rule in the remainder of the territory. These League of Nations mandates under the Treaty of Versailles, were referred to as "French Cameroun" and "British Cameroons" (later United Nations [UN] trusts).

Duala uprising in German Kamerun with the SMS "Olga" of the Kaiserliche Marine in the background on 20 December 1884; The Germans were met by over 700 natives with over 200 british rifles. The fight was hard and bloody, but the Germans forced on. The at this time still loyal "German negro king" (deutscher Negerkönig) Ndumbé Lobé Bell or King Bell arrived with 400 warriors and the flag of the German Empire and supported the German naval infanterie and the four marauding tribes were defeated and their villages burned down.


Hauptmann Karl Freiherr von Gravenreuth, 5 November 1891 near Buea, was well decorated and was recipient of the rare neck order Orden des Strahlenden Sterns von Sansibar.[2]
Max von Stetten and members of the Kamerun police force around 1894
Schutztruppe I
Schutztruppe II
Major Jesko Albert Eugen von Puttkamer (1855-1917; de) was German colonial military chief and Governor of German Kamerun. He left a splendid residential manor in Buea, Cameroon, but was criticized for the high costs by the Reichstag.
The palace was constructed in 1900 after a Wilhelminian Hunting Lodge in Brandenburg, Germany. It was also known as the Prime Minister's lodge. It was the colonial residence of Kamerun and British Southern Cameroons. It also served as the residence of the Prime Minister of West Cameroon, after Southern Cameroons federated with newly independent Cameroon in 1961.
Members of the Kamerun protection force at Lake Chad in May 1902; center: Commander Oberstleutnant Pavel.
Oberstleutnant Carl Zimmermann (1864–1949), the last commander of the Schutztruppe (center) with other officers and district commissioners.
During the First World War, the resident of the German Chadseeländer, Captain Ernst Klaus Iwan Christian Friedrich Alfred von Raben, holed up in Mora. Raben surrendered with his troops on 18 February 1916 as the last fighting unit of the protection troops of the colony of Kamerun. On 30 September 1915, he had been seriously wounded by a shot in the head while inspecting a front position. He recovered only slowly due to the extremely poor food situation and severe lack of medication; Lieutenant Siegfried Kallmeyer (1885-1956) temporarily taking command of the unit. Von Raben was a British prisoner of war until December 1916, but was then interned in Arosa, Switzerland and finally brought to Germany as an exchange prisoner on 3 August 1917. He was then promoted to Major on 27 January 1918, and at the same time transferred to the command of the Schutztruppe at the Imperial Colonial Office in Berlin. In September 1918, he took part in a machine gun course in Döberitz. He was retired on 19 September 1919. Based on decree by Reichswehr Minister Gustav Noske he also had a respective pension and permission to continue to wear his uniform.

The first German trading post in the Duala area on the Kamerun River delta was established in 1868 by the Hamburg trading company C. Woermann. The firm's primary agent in Gabon, Johannes Thormählen, expanded activities to the Kamerun River delta. In 1874, together with the Woermann agent in Liberia, Wilhelm Jantzen, the two merchants founded their own company, Jantzen & Thormählen there. Both of these West Africa houses expanded into shipping with their own sailing ships and steamers and inaugurated scheduled passenger and freight service between Hamburg and Duala.

By 1884, Adolph Woermann, as spokesman for all West African companies, petitioned the imperial foreign office for "protection" (Schutz) by the German Empire. This, among a number of other factors, led to Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck approving the establishment of a colony.

Gustav Nachtigal had arrived on the SMS "Möwe" in "Bell-town" (Duala) on 14 July 1884 and negotiated a treaty with a number of rulers local to the region around Duala, at that time the center of Germany's trading operations. From there, he would go on to other parts of Cameroon, securing further treaties with a number of tribes of the regions around the rivers, where trade was already well established. This would establish a trend of using treaties as one method of expanding German control.

The explorer Gustav Nachtigal arrived in July 1884 to annex the Douala coast. The Germans moved inland over the years, extending their control and their claims. Initially, their major dealings were with African traders, but direct trade with the interior promised greater profits, and colonial power was used to break the African monopoly. Plantation agriculture was another major German economic activity. Large estates were established in southwestern Kamerun to provide tropical produce for Germany.[3]

German explorers (German: Afrikaforscher) discovered trade routes and helped to prevent trade from being diverted by the British and French. They discovered new trading areas, especially in the interior, fertile soils for plantation agriculture, areas rich in raw materials like Ivory, Palm oil and kernel and helped in the conscription of labourers and carriers (German: Träger) for the German planters and traders. They provided useful information which eased colonial administration and the suppression of anti-German revolts and provided good information which helped the Germans to map the territory. They also provided useful information which eased the collection of taxes in the territory, useful information which eased the development of transport by the German engineers to construct roads, railways, bridges, telephone lines etc. and useful information on the settlement of the various ethnic groups and the creation of a modern state of Cameroon.

Hermann Detzner participated in a joint British-German scientific and surveying expedition to Kamerun in 1908 and 1909 and again in 1912–1913. He and one Captain Nugent, Royal Artillery, identified and marked the frontiers of Kamerun and explored the Niger valley. Detzner later published a paper on the marking of the boundary.

Many of the native tribes collaborated such as sultan Njoya of Bamum, Fon Galega I of Bali and Karl Friedrich Otto Atangana Ntchama of Ewondo.[4] They signed friendship pacts with the Germans such as the blood pact between Zintgraff and Fon Galega I of Bali in August 1891. These leaders assisted the Germans with warriors to crush anti-German rebellious tribes e.g. Bamum l helped them against the Nso. They also conscripted labourers for the German plantation, e.g. Fon Galega I of Bali, was a major supplier of labourers to the German plantations especially in the Western coast, as well as porters to transport German goods. They supported the Germans as Tax collectors, served the German as consultants on African affairs and helped them with useful information to penetrate the interior. For example, Karl Atangana helped the Germans to enter the North.

The Germans helped them to extend their influence and the authority of their leaders such as Fon Galega I of Bali who was made the paramount ruler of the Western Grassland. King Njoya of Bamu supported the Germans against the terror of "king" Rudolf Duala Manga Bell (1873-1914) and his anti-German rebels. He declared that the Germans were his masters and supported the German culture. Rudolf Bell had, together with Martin Paul Samba, Alfred Bell and Mpondo Akwa, went to Germany for further studies and military training. Bell was convicted of high treason and hanged in 1914. Martin Paul Samba, who was born as Mebenga m’Ebono, was caught attempting to obtain weapons from the British to kill Germans, but also his own kind, and was hanged in 1914.


The German Schutztruppe in Kamerun, which had not yet been fully conquered around 1900, consisted of 15 German officers and 23 non-commissioned officers who commanded two Askari (black volunteers) companies of 318 men. There were also 150 local police officers. During the advance into the central savannas and southern Adamawa in 1908, a number of volunteer recruits from the Bali Nyonga and Bamun tribes joined them. The Ewondo placed riflemen under their own commanders, called nkukuma. By 1914, the number had risen to 1,550 Askari with 185 German officers, since April 1914 under the command of Major Carl Heinrich Zimmermann (1864–1949), who was promoted on 19 August 1914 to Oberstleutnant, on 18 April 1917 to Oberst (during the internment) and on 31 March 1920 to Charakter als Generalmajor.

The paramilitary police force (established in 1891) consisted of 1200 natives under 30 officers. Most of the local troops were recruited outside of Cameroon (Liberia, Togo, Dahomey), but the Ngumba, Ndu and a few other tribes in particular supported recruitment by the Germans, as they considered this to be less of a burden than the aggressive dominance of the Fulbe tribe, for example. During the course of WWI, the German colonial troops were expanded to almost 10,000 men.

The Germans and their Askari fought the natives with professional soldiers better trained in modern warfare and had reserve soldiers for reinforcement as well as modern and superior weapons. Nevertheless, the Germans were often outnumbered 100:1. The white colour of the Germans frightened the natives psychologically, and reduced their fighting morale. The lack of external support to the natives, as a result of the Brussel Act of 1890 which prohibited European Alliance with African states and the supply of weapons to the Africans, was also disadvantageous to the natives.[5]

Strength (examples)

1898 (as of 1 May)
  • 1 Commander
    • Hauptmann Oltwig Wilhelm Adolf Ernst von Kamptz (1857–1921) from October 1897 to April 1901, since 1900 as Major, later serving in German South West Africa, promoted to Generalmajor of the Imperial German Army in WWI on 16 October 1918.
  • 6 Officers
    • 1st Lieutenants Freiherr von Stein zu Lausitz and Dominik, 2nd Lieutenants Nolte, von Arnim, von Glisczinski and Buddeberg
  • 1 Medical Officer (Oberarzt Dr. Lichtenberg)
    • Hugo Lichtenberg (b. 8 July 1868 in Northeim) served in Kamerun from 7 June 1896 to 30 November 1898, before that in German South West Africa
  • 16 NCOs
  • 311 Imperial Negros
  • Police troops subordinated to the German military personnel were located in the individual stations.
1912 (as of 6 May)
  • 1 Commander
    • Major Harry Franz Hugo Puder (1862–1933) from 18 February 1908 until 30 September 1913, since 20 July 1912 Oberstleutnant, 19 August 1914 Oberst, 6 November 1917 Generalmajor
  • 11 Captains
  • 25 1st Lieutenants
  • 17 2nd Lieutenants
  • 24 Medical Officers
    • Chief doctor Oberstabsarzt Dr. med. Maximilian Zupitza was at the same time at the disposal of the governor of Togo
  • Paymaster
    • Zahlmeister Bock
  • 10 Underpaymasters
  • 3 Oberfeuerwerker and Feuerwerker
    • Feuerwerker (ordnance technician or specialist, literally 'fire worker') are specialists in the armed forces of German-speaking countries responsible for the maintenance of ammunition.
  • 8 Gunsmiths
  • 70 NCOs
  • 28 Medical NCOs
  • 1,550 Askari (Reichsneger)


  • Hauptmann Maximilian "Max" von Stetten (8 July 1894 – 6 August 1896)
    • In 1894, von Stetten led a punitive expedition against the Bakwiri, who refused to cede their lands to the trading posts. His companions were Preuß and Lieutenant Hans Dominik. After the tribal leader Jagga fell, the Bakwiri submitted. This allowed the planting work on Mount Cameroon to begin. The bones of Captain Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Gravenreuth, who had fallen in battle on 5 November 1891 (Leutnant Hans Ramsay took over the expedition on 13 December 1891), were recovered and then buried under his memorial in Duala. With the conversion of the police force into a military-structured protection force after the Dahomey mutiny (based on the model of the Schutztruppe for German East Africa), von Stetten had become its first commander. With it, accompanied by Lieutenants Dominik and Stein, he undertook an expedition against the Bakoko on the lower Sanaga and Kwakwa Creek in March and April 1895. The reason for this push was to punish the locals for an earlier raid on Lieutenant Dominik and to open the Edea-Yaounde trade route. Although Dominik's company consisted mostly of battle-hardened and expeditionary Wey and Sierra Leone soldiers, they had to mourn 37 dead and wounded within a few weeks. Most of the casualties came from storming enemy villages. On 29 April 1895, Yaoundé, the main goal of the expedition, was reached and Dominik was appointed station chief by von Stetten. When von Stetten's rifles and ammunition were stolen during his visit to Chief Dandugo and the locals refused to return the items, von Stetten prepared for a punitive expedition. During this action, which lasted from 10 to 26 July 1895, the rage could be subdued and the equipment could be recovered.
  • Major Oltwig von Kamptz (18 October 1897 – 17 April 1901)
    • Von Kamptz came to Kamerun for the first time in early 1894 as head of a detachment of the sea battalion (2. Seebataillon) to put down the Dahomey mutiny, a mutiny by the police force. In December 1895, he was entrusted with deputizing for the former commander of the Schutztruppe, Max von Stetten. Early the following year, he led a military expedition against the Mvog-Betsi (Ewondo) and Etun in the Yaoundé district, and in March and April 1897 against the Ekoi and Ngolo in the Rio del Rey district. During a stay at home, von Kamptz was appointed permanent commander and in 1898 led operations against the Bulu and Fang in the south of the colony. In 1898/99, he initiated the conquest of the Islamic kingdoms of northern Kamerun with the Wute Adamaua campaign against Ndumba and Tibaati.
  • Oberstleutnant/Oberst Curt Pavel (18 May 1901 – 31 Januar 1903)
    • Hans Karl Georg Curt Pavel, since 1913 von Pavel, led the operations against Ngwe, Bafut and Mankon (II Ngwe Expedition), to which he joined an expedition to Banjo and Lake Chad without being commissioned by the governor. As part of this measure, he placed the sultanates of Mandara, Bornu, the Kotoko states and the Shua Arabs under German "protection" and replaced the provisional French garrison of the Lake Chad region with his expeditionary force. Since he acted contrary to the instructions of Governor Jesko von Puttkamer, he was put on leave and recalled from Kamerun.
  • Oberst/Generalmajor Franz Ludwig Wilhelm Mueller (6 April 1903 – 18 February 1908)
    • As the successor to Curt Pavel, Mueller took on a difficult legacy. The situation of the Schutztruppe was characterized by the personnel-intensive occupation of the Islamic north of the colony and by the conflict between the head of the military administration and Governor Jesko von Puttkamer. Mueller managed to improve relations with the civilian administration. Also under his leadership there were several violent clashes with the natives. He himself led the 1904 campaign against the Anyang and the 1905 Manenguba expedition to the grasslands of western Kamerun.
  • Oberstleutnant Harry Puder (18 February 1908 – 13 September 1913)
    • In 1906, Puder was transferred to the command of the Schutztruppe in the Reich Colonial Office and in October of the same year he was commissioned to represent the commander of the Schutztruppe for Cameroon, Wilhelm Mueller. From 1906, Puder found his main field of activity in Cameroon. After his formal appointment as commander on 18 February 1908, he directed military action to subdue the Tiv societies based on the western border of Bamenda district (“Alkasome-Muntschi Expedition” in the spring of 1908) and to incorporate the Bafia region into the German one Administrative organization (1911). Tensions existed between him and Governor Karl Ebermaier at this time came into play during the governor's trip to the north of the colony. In this context, Puder criticized the fact that the companies were heavily involved in civil administration and advocated a strict separation of military and administrative tasks. Soon after Ebermaier's return to the coast, Puder left the Schutztruppe. He fought in WWI and retired as Generalmajor on 30 September 1919.
  • Major Carl Heinrich Zimmermann (13 April 1914 – February 1916)
    • On 5 July 1900, Zimmermann retired from the Prussian army and was hired the following day as a captain and company commander in the protection force for Kamerun. After a brief stint as leader of the main company in Duala from October 1900 to the end of February 1901, he worked as station chief in Ebolowa from 1902 to 1904, at times as deputy district officer in Kribi. From 1905 to 1908, he was a.o. Commander's deputy in Soppo, resident in Adamaua and resident of the German Chadians. In 1907, Zimmermann was instrumental in the suppression of a Muslim uprising (the so-called Mahdist riots) in Adamaua. In April 1908 ,he made a journey to the so-called intermediate river area. On 1 November 1908, he was assigned to the command of the Schutztruppe in the Reich Colonial Office in Berlin and promoted to supernumerary Major on 19 November. With effect from 1 April 1909, he was transferred to the command; He also became an extra-budgetary member of the Reich Military Court. He was relieved of this position in 1912 and transferred again to the Kamerun protection force. In 1912/13, Zimmermann was head of the German border expedition in the south of Kamerun (so-called border expedition south) and worked as a border commissioner. In April 1914, he was appointed commander of the Schutztruppe.


The Kamerun Campaign

Surrounded by Allied colonies, the German colony of Kamerun (now Cameroon) never expected to escape the attentions of its neighbours, especially with its wireless communications systems and harbour at Duala. Three weeks after war was declared, French and British colonial troops were pouring into the country. They outnumbered the German troops by almost five to one. However it was not to be an easy conquest. In a country twice the size of Britain, with dense equatorial rainforest, mountains, rivers and desert, yet with almost no infrastructure, it was a war against an environmental as much as a human enemy, and indeed the vast majority of the casualties on both sides were due to illness and exhaustion. The German Schutztruppen recognised that the longer they held out, the longer the Allies would not be able to deploy their troops in more critical theatres. Fleeing inland to the mountains, they kept the campaign going for eighteen months before they escaped to the tiny neutral Spanish colony of Rio Muni, leaving the British and French in control.
The Kamerun Campaign was a colonial war. Very few Germans fought against very few British, French and Belgians: it was mainly Africans who fought against each other. On both sides, white officers commanded black troops. For instance the German Schutztruppe had a strength of 1,855, comprising 205 Germans – 61 officers, 23 physicians, 23 civilian administrators, ammunition technicians and 98 Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) – and 1,650 African enlisted ranks. In addition there were several thousand black carriers – approximately three for every soldier. Carriers were essential in a wild terrain without permanent roads or railways. It is a telling indictment of colonial thinking at the time that information about carriers is very hard to find today. Accurate records were not kept, including the number of workers, and even the number and cause of fatalities.
Allied forces invaded Kamerun from all directions – the British from Nigeria in the north and west, and from the sea, the French from French Equatorial Africa in the north and east and the Belgians from the Belgian Congo in the south east. British forces quickly drove the Germans out of the main port, Duala, on 27 September 1914. Meanwhile in the northern town of Garua, close to the Nigerian border, German troops dug in to a well-defended set of five interlinked forts. Having repulsed the first British attack on 31 August 1914 they were able to strengthen the garrison and use it as a base for attacks into Nigeria. These were so alarming that the British decided to make a second attempt on the town, supported by French troops. Under pressure, many African soldiers deserted or refused to fight, and it became impossible for the Germans to hold out. They surrendered on 11 June 1915. A further pocket of German resistance continued in the inaccessible mountain region of the north.
Under Captain Ernst von Raben, German Schutztruppe were able to hold out for over a year in Mora. The account of the siege reads like a romantic imperial adventure story, with troops firing at each other through the mountain mists, colourful uniformed colonial soldiers storming redoubts and a Christmas truce in which the British commander, Captain R.W. Fox, exchanged gifts with von Raben, whom he had known before the war. The German garrison slaughtered and ate their horses and donkeys and finally surrendered on 10 February 1916. After the fall of Duala, German troops had escaped inland to the town of Yaunde, where they were gradually hemmed in by the Allies. By the start of 1916 the Schutztruppe commander Colonel Carl Zimmermann realised that without further supplies, and surrounded by Allied troops, it was inevitable that the colony would fall. He instructed his German soldiers, civilians and native supporters to flee to the neutral Spanish colony of Rio Muni.
Some of them managed to return home, some stayed on the island of Fernando Po, and some of the African supporters went to Spain where they lived out the war in luxury, paid for by German funds. Zimmermann finally surrendered to the Allies on 10 March 1916. Britain and France quickly partitioned the colony, with a north-western portion being added to British Nigeria and the rest coming under French rule. After the war, Kamerun was administered under the League of Nations Mandate System.[6]

List of colonial governors of Cameroon

  • 14 July 1884 to 19 July 1884 Gustav Nachtigal, Reichskommissar
  • 19 July 1884 to 1 April 1885 Maximilian Buchner, acting Kommissar
  • 1 April 1885 to 4 July 1885 Eduard von Knorr, acting Kommissar
  • 4 July 1885 to 14 February 1891 Julius von Soden, Governor
  • 13 May 1887 to 4 October 1887 Jesko von Puttkamer, acting Governor (acting for Soden, 1st time)
  • 4 October 1887 to 17 January 1888 Eugen von Zimmerer, acting Governor (acting for Soden, 1st time)
  • 26 December 1889 to 17 April 1890 Eugen von Zimmerer, acting Governor (acting for Soden, 2nd time)
  • 17 April 1890 to 3 August 1890 Markus Graf von Pfeil, acting Governor (acting for Soden)
  • 3 August 1890 to 14 August 1890 Kurz, acting Governor (acting for Soden)
  • 14 August 1890 to 2 December 1890 Jesko von Puttkamer, acting Governor (acting for Soden, 2nd time)
  • 2 December 1890 to 15 April 1891 Karl Theodor Heinrich Leist, acting Governor (acting for Soden to 14 February 1891, 1st time)
  • 15 April 1891 to 13 August 1895 Eugen von Zimmerer, Governor
  • 7 August 1891 to 5 January 1892 Bruno von Schuckmann, acting Governor (acting for Zimmerer)
  • 27 June 1893 to 24 February 1894 Karl Theodor Heinrich Leist, acting Governor (acting for Zimmerer, 2nd time)
  • 31 December 1894 to 27 March 1895 Jesko von Puttkamer, acting Governor (acting for Zimmerer, 3rd time)
  • 27 March 1895 to 4 May 1895 von Lucke, acting Governor until his death (acting for Zimmerer)
  • 13 August 1895 to 9 May 1907 Jesko von Puttkamer, Governor
  • 27 October 1895 to 10 September 1897 Theodor Seitz, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer, 1st time)
  • 12 January 1898 to 13 October 1898 Theodor Seitz, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer, 2nd time)
  • 17 January 1900 to 31 July 1900 August Köhler, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer)
  • 1 August 1900 to 6 September 1900 Emil Diehl, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer)
  • 6 September 1900 to 15 November 1900 Major Oltwig von Kamptz, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer)
  • 3 February 1902 to 3 October 1902 Albert Plehn, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer)
  • 9 May 1904 to 8 November 1904 Karl Ebermaier, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer)
  • 9 November 1904 to 31 January 1905 Otto Gleim, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer, 1st time)
  • January 1906 to November 1906 Oberst Franz Ludwig Wilhelm Mueller, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer)
  • November 1906 to 9 May 1907 Otto Gleim, acting Governor (acting for Puttkamer, 2nd time)
  • 9 May 1907 to 27 August 1910 Theodor Seitz, Governor
  • 10 February 1909 to October 1909 Wilhelm Peter Hansen, acting Governor (acting for Seitz, 1st time)
  • 28 August 1910 to 29 January 1912 Otto Gleim, Governor
  • August 1910 to September 1910 Theodor Steinhausen, acting Governor (acting for Gleim)
  • September 1910 to 25 October 1910 Wilhelm Peter Hansen, acting Governor (acting for Gleim, 2nd time)
  • October 1911 to 29 January 1912 Wilhelm Peter Hansen, acting Governor (acting for Gleim, 3rd time)
  • 29 January 1912 to 4 March 1916 Karl Ebermaier (de), Governor
  • 9 October 1913 to 1914 August Full, acting Governor (acting for Ebermaier)



  1. Cameroon
  2. Eduard von Knorr and Hermann von Wissmann also received the order.
  3. German Kamerun (1884–1916), in "Encyclopædia Britannica"
  4. Karl Atangana, whose full name is Karl Friedrich Otto Atangana Ntchama, was the son of the Ewondo chief Essomba. He grew up in the Pallotine Mission in Kribi, and entered the service of the German colonial administration in 1900 where he worked as an interpreter and presided over the ‘Indigenous Courts’ (Eingeborenen-Gerichte). In 1912 and 1913, he worked as a language assistant at the Hamburg Colonial Institute. Upon his return he was appointed the ‘High Chief of the Jaunde (Ewondo) and Bane’ by the colonial administration.
  5. George Eno Batey: German imperial Rule in Cameroon, in "Effective modern history for colleges". NAB Ventures, 3rd ed. [3. Aufl.], 2012 [2008], 25, 30-32, 39, 40.
  6. The Kamerun Campaign, Away from the Western Front (2017)
  7. The Duala chiefs, whom the Europeans called "kings", came from the two lineages of Bell and Akwa. In practice, both Bell and Akwa suffered from internal divisions and did not have strong control over their subordinate communities, who rivalled them in trade and at times took independent action. King Ndumbé Lobé Bell succeeded his father Lobé Bebe Bell in 1858, when he was aged about twenty. He was to lead the Bell faction for almost forty years until his death in 1897.