Along the northern part of the Nigeria-Cameroon border in Adamawa State, a mountain range runs for 193 km, getting as far south as the Benue River. The Mandara Mountains are a volcanic range, dormant. Their highest peak, Mount Opay in Cameroon, reaches 1,494 m (4,900 ft) above sea level.
The Mountains have been a major source of ethnographic interest, partly because its people were caught between the British and the French colonisers. From precolonial times to 1927, when the last slave raiders were captured by the British, the Northern Montagnards, as they are known, took refuge on the Mountains. The Mountains’ inaccessibility, coupled with the high rainfall, higher than around the plains and an advantage given the paucity of rain in the Sudan-Sahel zone, ensured that they became densely populated, which resulted in downhill emigration, creating land conflicts in the plains. The population remains dense, at between 100 to 250 people per sq/km. Between the Nigeria and Cameroon border, there are up to 50 ethnic units and sub-units.
The intensification of Boko Haram attacks in 2013 led to the capture of the whole of the western chain of the Mandara Mountains. While the Nigerian military has recaptured some parts of the region, the foothills, the eastern plains, and much of the mountains remain in insurgent territory.
From afar, the peaks look like spikes and are in fact volcanic plugs, including the much-photographed Kapsiki Peak. From the Mountains, the view of the plains is breathtaking.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.