In mid-1967, civil war erupted in Nigeria. Three SIL teams were working in languages in South East Nigeria, which were also spoken in Cameroon. They had to leave as they were in the war zone. John Bendor-Samuel, who since 1960 had investigated the linguistic needs in Africa starting in Ghana, was in Cameroon a year earlier to attend the West African Languages Congress in 1966. He came again in October, this time to seek permission for these teams to continue their work from Cameroon but also in Cameroon. The three languages were: Ejagham, Mambila and Yamba. He was then able to make the first agreement with the Federal University of Cameroon. Just after that agreement, new teams were assigned to Cameroon to do linguistic work in specific languages. These included: Lamnso’ in Kumbo, Dowayo in Poli and Fali in Pitoa.

Milestones of the past

On February 6, the first agreement was signed between John Bendor-Samuel representing SIL and the Federal University of Cameroon. This agreement marked the official beginning of linguistics and language development work by SIL.

SIL work has started in up to 14 different languages.

SIL became more recognised in Cameroon. A new ONAREST (Office National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique) for linguistic research in Cameroon is established. That later became DEGERST (Délégation Générale à la Recherche Scientifique et Technique) and even later, MINREST.

In July and August the first Writers’ Workshop (with 10 languages involved) and the first Primer Workshop (5 languages) were held at Nkol Nda

SIL is recognised as a Cameroonian association by the Ministry of Territorial Administration.

The land to build the Cameroon Training Centre is purchased.

The first Discover Your Language training is given to Cameroonians mindful of developing their own mother tongue. 

SIL and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research signed the Scientific Convention.

By the end of the eighties, SIL played a very important role in the creation of two national organisations; NACALCO to help local initiatives for language development and CABTAL to help churches with Bible translation.

The Rain Forest International School is opened, providing an accredited high school level of education to the children of SIL members.

On December 3, MINREST and SIL signed the Technical and Scientific Research Convention.

In April 2002 the Ministry of External Relations and SIL signed a headquarters agreement. 

SIL Cameroon Directors & Administrators

1967-1974 John Bendor-Samuel
1972-1972 Ron Thwing (administrator)
1973-1974 Ron Gluck (administrator)
1975-1979 David Maranz 
1979-1981 Karl Grebe 
1981-1986 Clinton Robinson 
1987-1989 Ed Ubels
1990-1994 Bob Creson
1994-1998 Bob Chapman 
1998-2000 Paul Haken
2000-2008 George Shultz
2008-2013 Nelis van den Berg
2013-2018 Bert Visser
April 2018-present Fabienne Freeland