Celebrated writers originating from Cameroon include Ferdinand Oyono,
who was born in Ebolowa, South Region, in 1929 and died in 2010; and
Mongo Beti, born in Akométan, Centre Region, in 1932 and died in 2001.
The many Cameroon nationals who have excelled in international football
include Samuel Eto’o, African Footballer of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005
and 2010; Patrick Mboma, 2000; Thomas Nkono, 1979 and 1982; and Roger
Milla, 1976 and 1990.
Joined Commonwealth: 1995
Population: 22,254,000 (2013)
GDP: 0.0% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: world ranking 152
Official language: French, English
Timezone: GMT plus 1hr
Currency: CFA franc (CFAfr)
Area: 475,442 sq km
Capital city: Yaoundé (constitutional); Douala (economic)
Population density (per sq. km): 47
Cameroon is called Cameroun in French, Kamerun in German, Camarões in
Portuguese, and Cameroon in English. The country’s name derives from
camarões, meaning ‘shrimps’, so called by the 15th-century Portuguese
explorer Fernando Po who named the River Wouri Rio dos Camarões (‘shrimp
river’), after the many shrimps. Cameroon in central Africa is bounded
clockwise (from the west) by the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria, Chad, Central
African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
The country comprises ten regions: Adamaoua, Centre, Coastal, East, Far
North, North, North-West, South, South-West and West.
Yaoundé (capital, in Centre Region, pop. 1.81m in 2010), Douala
(principal port, in Coastal Region, 2.13m), Garoua (North Region,
573,700), Bamenda (North-West, 546,400), Maroua (Far North, 436,700),
Bafoussam (West, 383,200), Ngaoundéré (Adamaoua, 314,100), Bertoua
(East, 297,200), Loum (Coastal, 249,100), Kumbo (North-West, 222,600),
Edéa (Coastal, 209,600), Mbouda (West, 188,200), Kumba (South-West,
180,000), Foumban (West, 171,600), Dschang (West, 149,300), Nkongsamba
(Coastal, 131,100), Ebolowa (South, 129,600), Kousséri (contiguous with
Ndjamena in Chad, Far North, 95,100) and Buea (South-West, 59,700).
There are 51,350 km of roads, eight per cent paved. The rail network
runs 977 km north–south from Ngaoundéré to Yaoundé, with connections
between Douala and Yaoundé, and from Douala to Nkongsamba and Kumba.
Douala is the principal port, Kribi handles mainly wood exports, Garoua
on the Benue river is navigable only during the wet season and Limbo-Tiko
is a minor port, severely silted up.
International airports are at Douala (10 km south-east of the city),
Yaoundé (25 km from city) and Garoua.
Cameroon is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of
States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale
de la Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations
and World Trade Organization.
The physical geography is varied, with forests, mountains, large
waterfalls and deserts, falling into four regions. At the border of the
northern Sahel region lies Lake Chad and the Chad basin; further south
the land forms a sloping plain, rising to the Mandara Mountains. The
central region extends from the Benue (Bénoué) river to the Sanaga
river, with a plateau in the north. This region includes the Adamaoua
plateau which separates the agricultural south from the pastoral north.
In the west, the land is mountainous, with a double chain of volcanic
peaks, rising to a height of 4,095 metres at Mt Cameroon. This is the
highest and wettest peak in western Africa. The fourth region, to the
south, extends from the Sanaga river to the southern border, comprising
a coastal plain and forested plateau. There is a complicated system of
drainage. Several rivers flow westwards: the Benue river which rises in
the Mandara Mountains and later joins the River Niger, and the Sanaga
and Nyong rivers which flow into the Gulf of Guinea. The Dja and Sangha
drain into the Congo Basin. The Logone and Chari rivers flow north into
In the northern Sahel region, there is a long dry season from October to
April, with temperatures varying from cool to very hot. Further south,
on the Adamaoua plateau, there are sharp drops in temperature at night.
In the south the climate is hot and humid, with two rainy seasons, in
September/October and from March to June.
The most significant issues are overgrazing, desertification,
deforestation, poaching, and overfishing.
There is tropical rainforest (including ebony and mahogany) in the hot
humid south, with mangroves along the coast and river mouths. The
southern coastal plain and south-east plateau also contain the cocoa and
banana farms and the rubber and oil palm plantations. The central region
has mixed deciduous and evergreen forest. Above the forest zone are
drier woodlands, with taller grasses and mountain bamboos. High in the
interior and on Mt Cameroon the grasses are shorter. Further north there
is savannah bushland, with trees becoming sparse towards the Chad basin.
Forest covers 42 per cent of the land area, having declined at 1.0 per
cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises 13 per cent and permanent
cropland three per cent of the total land area.
The Waza National Park in the north, originally created for the
protection of giraffes and antelopes, also abounds in monkeys –
screaming red and green monkeys and mandrills – and lions and leopards.
There are gorillas in the great tracts of hardwood rainforest in the
south and east. Some 38 mammal species and 21 bird species are thought
to be endangered (2014).
Archaeological evidence suggests that the region may have been the first
homeland of the Bantu peoples, who developed methods of working iron and
an advanced agriculture. After around 200 BCE, the Bantu peoples spread
east and south, to become the dominant ethnic group of sub-Saharan
European exploration began in the 15th century with the Portuguese who
established sugar plantations and gained control of the slave trade
around the coast in the following century. Dutch slave traders
subsequently gained the ascendancy. Slavery ravaged West African
societies until the middle of the 19th century, when Britain’s abolition
of the slave trade (in 1807) and the activities of the anti-slavers
became effective. In northern Cameroon, during the 19th century, nomadic
Fulani arrived and settled.
Germany (a late entrant into the European scramble for colonial
possessions in Africa) claimed Cameroon as a German Protectorate in
1884; it remained so until 1916, when Britain, France and Belgium took
it by military force in a combined operation. The German administration
built the railways between Douala and Eséka and between Douala and
Nkongsamba in the west; and German farmers settled in the areas that are
now North-West and South-West Regions.
After World War I, the country was divided into two zones. The western
zone (comprising two separate areas, later known as the Northern and
Southern Cameroons) was administered by Britain under a League of
Nations mandate. The rest of the country (comprising four-fifths of the
total) was administered by France, directly from Paris. During the
French administration, the port at Douala was built, the coffee and
cocoa industries increased and extensive road-building was undertaken.
In the British area, there was local participation in government, and
both Northern and Southern Cameroons were joined to parts of Nigeria for
administrative purposes. After 1945, the UK and France continued to
administer the country as UN Trust Territories.
During this period, political parties emerged, the largest being the
Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC) led by Ruben Um Nyobe. The UPC,
which demanded that French and British Cameroons should be united into
one independent country, was banned in the mid-1950s, leading to a
rebellion in which thousands of people were killed, including Um Nyobe
in 1958. Nonetheless, the country proceeded to partial self-government
in 1957 and full independence on 1 January 1960.
After a UN plebiscite in 1961, Northern Cameroons chose union with
Nigeria, as part of the Northern Region. Southern Cameroons joined the
Republic in October 1961. The country became a federal republic in the
same year, with both components retaining their local parliaments. In
1972 the federation was dissolved and the country became a unitary
republic (the United Republic of Cameroon), the name changing once again
to the Republic of Cameroon in 1984.
Following independence, the country was ruled first by President Ahmadou
Ahidjo (from 1960 to 1982) and then by President Paul Biya, who took
office as President in 1982. A one-party regime was established in 1966
through the merger of the two governing parties and several opposition
groups. In 1968 the ruling party was reconstituted as the Union National
Camerounaise (UNC) and was renamed once again the Rassemblement
démocratique du peuple camerounais (Cameroon People’s Democratic
Movement – RDPC or CPDM) in 1985.
Cameroon has never had a successful military coup. A plot by military
officers was uncovered in 1979. A further planned coup was discovered in
1983 and in February 1984 the former President Ahmadou Ahidjo (then in
exile where he subsequently died) was tried in absentia and found
guilty, along with two of his military advisers. Two months later, the
Republican Guard attempted a coup. This was foiled by the army, but
500–1,000 people were killed in the fighting; the Republican Guard was
Political protest against the one-party system was widespread up to
1992, through a campaign of civil disobedience known as villes mortes or
‘ghost towns’, when towns were virtually closed down to prompt reform.
Multiple political parties became legal in 1990 and legislative
elections were held in March 1992. They were contested by 48 political
parties but boycotted by the Social Democratic Front (SDF). The ruling
CPDM took 88 seats, the opposing parties a total of 92 seats. The CPDM
formed a coalition with the Movement for the Defence of the Republic,
which had six seats, thus securing a majority of eight.
At presidential elections in October 1992 Paul Biya was re-elected with
40 per cent of the votes (in 1988 he had stood unopposed, winning 98 per
cent of the vote). Of the eight candidates, his nearest rival was John
Fru Ndi of the SDF, who gained 36 per cent.
In 1995, with the approval of all other member countries, Cameroon
joined the Commonwealth.
Before the May 1997 general election there was an outbreak of violence
in the North-West Region, which was attributed to the Anglophone
separatist movement. A curfew was enforced and public meetings banned.
In the election, with Commonwealth observers present, CPDM took 109 of
the 180 Assembly seats, the SDF 43, the National Union for Democracy and
Progress 13, and the Union for Democracy and Change five.
In the run-up to the presidential election, the leading opposition
parties, the SDF, the National Union for Democracy, and Progress and the
Union for Democracy and Change, were urging reform of the presidential
electoral system, and introduction of a two-tier process. The three
parties boycotted the election and advised their supporters not to vote.
The Commonwealth therefore declined to send an observer mission. In
October 1997 President Paul Biya was re-elected for a seven-year term,
defeating the six other candidates in a landslide victory, receiving
more than 92 per cent of the votes cast.
Relations with Nigeria
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2002 that the long disputed
and fought-over border areas of Nigeria should be ceded to Cameroon.
These areas include the Bakassi peninsula in the south which is believed
to contain very large offshore reserves of oil and gas. In a UN-brokered
agreement in June 2006, the two countries agreed on a phased transfer of
the peninsula. Nigerian troops withdrew in August 2006 and Nigeria
formally ceded the border areas to Cameroon in August 2008.
This comment system
requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account
or an account you already have with Google, Twitter,
Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account
with any of these companies then you can create an account
with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't
display until the moderator has approved your comment.