Society of African Journal Editors

Ibadan Journal of Humanistic Studies

The Historical Vicissitudes of Inclusive African Port Cities: The case of Douala, Cameroon

Authors: ESD Fomin

Journal: Ibadan Journal of Humanistic Studies

Port cities are some of the oldest, largest and most cosmopolitan urban centres in the world. This is true of Douala with some three million inhabitants from all ethnic entities of Cameroon and foreigners from all parts of the world who have become part and parcel of this sprawling inclusive city. The dynamic indigenous Duala fishermen created this port as their exclusive settlement around the fifteenth century. It became prominent and inclusive through the role it played in the Atlantic trade from the sixteenth to nineteenth century. Its first neighborhoods bore names of Duala1 families and those of some immigrant ethnic groups. Though the immigrants were ethnically conscious in the creation of neighbourhoods there was a great sense of inclusivity in this patch work of ethnic pluralism. The different peoples of this city interacted mutually well initially and Douala became a great inclusive melting pot of cultures. But due to some historical vicissitudes, Douala has changed from being a cultural haven to a bastion of ethnic hatreds and conflicts thus threatening its plural ethnic inclusivity which took many centuries of checkered history to build from both indigenous and immigrant populations. The striking example of Douala should prove instructive to similar port cities along the West African coast.