History of the Municipality

Dschang, a historic town in West Cameroon, was first visited in 1895 by a German colonial mission led by Dr. Eugen Zingraft. Following the installation, within the Foréké chiefdom, of a military region led by Colonel Hunter, Dschang became, from 1903, an administrative and civil town led by District Commissioner Emil Rausch.

The origin of the word Dschang

When the Germans arrived, the region they were to name Dschang was called Fo-lekeu (Foréké). The term Fo-lekeu was used to designate the kingdom since the 3rd dynasty, in reference to King Fo-Lekeu-ane whose death in 1886 triggered a nine-year war between the Foreke and the Foto. According to Cameroonian linguists and historians, the word ‘n-tsang’, which means ‘quarrel’ in the local Yemba language, was adopted by the Germans upon their arrival in reference to this war and the territorial dispute they witnessed between the Foto and the Foréké.

The three options for naming the city

The Germans therefore had three options for naming the town. The first option was ‘Fo-lekeu’ (or Foréké), an existing term for the kingdom where the military station was established. The names of several kingdoms in the region contain the prefix ‘Fo’ in reference to the personality of the kings, for example Foréké, Foto, Fodonera, Fongo-Tongo, Fotetsa, Fossong-Wentsing, Fongo-Ndeng.

The second option was ‘Ba-me-lekeu’. It is known that throughout the region, other names of kingdoms have the prefix ‘Ba’ which refers to the place of residence of the people, such as Baleveng, Bamendjou, Bamenda, Bafoussam, Batcham, Bafut. The option of the word Ba-me-lekeu (or Bamileke in its French form) as the residence of the people living with the chief Fo-Lekeu (or Foréké) would have been just as suitable for the name of the town. However, this term was chosen instead to designate all the populations of the West Cameroon region.

The third option was ‘Tsan’ and referred to the conflict mentioned above between the king of the Foto (Temgoua) and the ruler of the Foréké (Ndon-Mbu)

Reasons for choosing option 3 (Tsan)

In view of these three options, the question is why the Germans had chosen option 3 (Tsan) over options 1 (Fo-lekeu) and 2 (Ba-me-lekeu). There are two answers to this question, one linguistic and the other historical

3.1. Linguistic reasons for the choice of ‘Tsan

The first answer is related to the similarity of the Yemba word ‘Tsan’ with the German words ‘Zank’ and ‘Zange’. In the German language, these two words may have influenced the choice of the word ‘Tsan’, since they are pronounced in the same way as the local people’s word ‘Tsan’ (Z= TS). Moreover, the word “Zank” also means “quarrel” in German. This means that the Germans, faced with the conflict situation between Foto and Foreké, had directly noted that it was “Zank”, thus joining the identical meaning of the local word “n-Tsan”. The question of the precedence of the Yemba word ‘Tsan’ over the German word ‘Zank’ no longer arises, since both exist independently and have a history dating back thousands of years. They only come together by chance to express the same conflictual reality: Querelle.

The German word “Zange” means pliers or pincers. The Germans use it in the expression “Jemanden in die Zange nehmen” (to take someone in pincers, to have him in one’s claws). The significance of the word ‘Zange’ is twofold: not only is it pronounced in the same way as the Yemba word ‘tsang’, but it also ends with ‘GE’, with e-muet and no longer with K. Thus, if the Germans had wanted to give the word ‘Zank’ to the Cameroonian city, they would have written it with a K (Tschank or Dschank) and not with a G (Tschang or Dschang). By writing it with the final – G (Tschang), they were choosing the word ‘Zange’, i.e. the action of holding the opponent in his clutches, and thus indicating that Chief Fo-Lekeu and Chief Fo-to were holding each other in their clutches, and that they, the Germans, were holding these two kings in theirs.

It was this unprecedented phenomenon of triangulation that led to the choice of the word ‘Zange’ instead of ‘Zank’. To understand the significance of this, it is important to remember that it was a question of giving a name to an important military station, which was to serve as an administrative and decision-making centre for the entire region. A military station was intended to capture the enemy in its talons, as can be seen in the German eagle, which was the symbol of the imperial army.

3.2. Historical reasons for the choice of the word ‘Tsan

The second answer to the question of the choice of option 3 (Tsan) relates to the possibility that the word “Tsan” offers for its own Germanisation. On this point, it is worth mentioning that the people of Menoua, and Cameroonians in general, have always been fascinated by the writing of the word Dschang, a Germanic-inspired word with no equivalent in Cameroon, consisting of seven letters, of which only one vowel. In fact, the writing of the word ‘Dschang’ revealed the concern to add this Germanic touch and, above all, a strong coefficient of historicity: the introduction of the sound [TSCH] or [DSCH] in place of the [Z] is a trademark in German history, the words Teutsch and Teutschland being the two respective names of the language and the country at the birth of the first German empire. This can be seen in the spelling of the word ‘Tschang’ in the writings of the time.

Moreover, before the birth of the second empire (Reich), of which the colonial period is an extension, Germany had already changed its name from Teutschland to Deutschland, and its language from “Teutsch” to “Deutsch”. The change from “Tschang” to “Dschang” also reflects a desire to modernise the Germanisation of the word. This desire to Germanise the word Dschang is proof of the strategic importance of the town to the Germans as a military region of the empire, as an administrative centre and as the capital of the entire region during the colonial period.


1895 is the year of birth of the town of Dschang. It is the year in which it received, through contact with the Germans, the baptismal name that gives it its present identity. The term “Tsan”, “Zank” or “Zange” was preferred to the words “Fo-lekeu” and “Ba-me-lekeu” to designate the town because of the possibility of Germanising it in depth to show its historical and strategic importance in the eyes of the German Empire. Thus, far from designating a conflict situation, Dschang, as a compound of the local word yemba and the German word, refers rather to the reality of a dialogue of cultures. It is therefore up to the people of Menoua to grasp this new meaning in order to build a consensual and rich identity. While in 2018, Dschang is 123 years old, this identity will have to be celebrated every quarter of a century, namely on the 125th anniversary of its birth in 2020, the 150th in 2045, the 175th in 2070 and its bicentenni.