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Republic of Cameroon
République du Cameroun
( Detail) ( Detail)
National motto: Paix, Travail, Patrie
( French: Peace, Work, Fatherland)
Official languages French and English
Capital Yaoundé
Largest City Douala
President Paul Biya
Prime Minister Ephraïm Inoni
- Total
- % water
Ranked 52nd
475,440 km²
- Total ( 2003)
- Density
Ranked 60th
HDI ( 2003) 0.497 ( 148th) – low
- Date
From France and the United Kingdom
January 1, 1960
Currency CFA franc (XAF)
Time zone UTC+1
National anthem Chant de Ralliement
Internet TLD .cm
Calling Code 237
The Republic of Cameroon is a unitary republic of central Africa. It borders Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Gulf of Guinea. Originally a German colony, it was split after World War I among the French and British. In 1960, French Cameroun became an independent republic, merging with the southern part of British Cameroons in 1961 to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. It was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972, and the Republic of Cameroon or République du Cameroun in 1984 (its official languages are English and French). Compared to other African countries, Cameroon enjoys relative political and social stability, which has in turn permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as an extensive petroleum industry. Despite movement toward political reform, however, power remains firmly in the hands of an ethnic oligarchy.

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History - Contents

The first inhabitants of Cameroon were the pygmy Baka people. They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations.The first European contact was in the 16th century with the Portuguese, but they did not stay. The Portuguese did however give the would-be country its name. Explorers on the Sanaga River noted the abundance of prawns and gave the land the name camarão, the Portuguese word for prawn. The first permanent colonial settlements were started in the late 1870s, with the German Empire emerging as the major European Power. With the defeat of Germany in World War I, Cameroon became a League of Nations Mandate territory split between French Cameroun and British Cameroons in 1919. These mandates were converted into United Nations Trusteeships in 1946.In 1960, French Cameroun gained its independence and became The Cameroon Republic. It was joined in 1961 by the southern part of the British Cameroons. The remainder of the British Cameroons became part of Nigeria at the same time. The new coalition government was led by Ahmadou Ahidjo who led a crack down on rebel groups who had remained since before independence.Ahidjo stepped down in 1982 and was succeeded by the current president, Paul Biya. Biya has won numerous elections, but the fairness of these elections has been questioned. The last elections were held on October 11, 2004.

Politics - Contents

Cameroon President Paul Biya (right)
Cameroon President Paul Biya (right)
The President of Cameroon holds executive power in the government of Cameroon. This provision was part of the reforms instituted in 1996 to the Constitution, that had been originally written in 1972. The President is given a broad range of powers, and is able to carry them out without consulting the National Assembly. Cameroon is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.The National Assembly consists of 180 delegates and meets three times a year. The main responsibility of the Assembly is to pass laws, but rarely has it changed any laws or blocked the passage of legislation.The judiciary is subordinate to the executive branch's Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Court may review the constitutionality of a law only at the president's request.
Administrative division.
Administrative division.

Provinces - Contents

Cameroon is divided into 10 provinces:
  • Adamawa Province (Adamaoua)
  • Centre Province
  • East Province (Est)
  • Extreme North Province (Extreme-Nord)
  • Littoral Province
  • North Province (Nord)
  • Northwest Province (Nord-Ouest)
  • West Province (Ouest)
  • South Province (Sud)
  • Southwest Province (Sud-Ouest)

Geography - Contents

Mount Cameroon craters
Mount Cameroon craters
Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra, between Equatorial Guinea and NigeriaGeographic coordinates: 6° N 12° EMap references: AfricaArea: total: 475,440 km² land: 469,440 km² water: 6,000 km²

Economy - Contents

For a quarter-century following independence, Cameroon was one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. The drop in commodity prices for its principal exports —petroleum, cocoa, coffee, and cotton — in the mid-1980s, combined with an overvalued currency and economic mismanagement, led to a decade-long recession. Real per capita GDP fell by more than 60% from 1986 to 1994. The current account and fiscal deficits widened, and foreign debt grew. Yet because of its oil resources and favorable agricultural conditions, Cameroon still has one of the best-endowed primary commodity economies in sub-Saharan Africa.
tea bag produced in Cameroon
tea bag produced in Cameroon
Despite rapid urbanisation, the single largest economic activity in Cameroon is subsistence agriculture, in which virtually all of the rural population is employed.

Demographics - Contents

 Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon (2003)
Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon (2003)
photo from the north of Cameroon
photo from the north of Cameroon
The palace of the sultan of the Bamun people at Foumban, West Province
The palace of the sultan of the Bamun people at Foumban, West Province
Cameroon's demographic profile is comprised of an estimated 250 distinct ethnic groups, which may be formed into five large regional-cultural divisions:
  • western highlanders (Semi-Bantu or grassfielders), including the Bamileke, Bamun (or Bamoun), and many smaller Tikar groups in the Northwest (est. 38% of total population);
  • coastal tropical forest peoples, including the Bassa, Duala (or Douala), and many smaller groups in the Southwest (12%);
  • southern tropical forest peoples, including the Beti-Pahuin, Bulu (a subgroup of Beti-Pahuin), Fang (subgroup of Beti-Pahuin), Maka-Njem, and Baka pygmies (18%);
  • predominantly Islamic peoples of the northern semi-arid regions (the Sahel) and central highlands, including the Fulani (or Peuhl in French) (14%); and
  • the "Kirdi", non-Islamic or recently Islamic peoples of the northern desert and central highlands (18%).

Culture - Contents

Date English Name
January 1 New Year's Day
February 11 National Youth Day
May 1 Labor Day
May 20 National Day
August 15 Assumption
December 25 Christmas
In addition, movable holidays include: Christian: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday Muslim: 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-Adha

Education - Contents

Cameroon is known for having one of the best education systems in Africa. Primary school is both free and obligatory. Statistics say that 70% of all children aged between 6-12 years go to school, whilst 79% of the Cameroon population as a whole is literate. There is, however, a growing trend for the wealthiest and best-educated students to leave the country in order to study and live abroad, creating a brain drain.
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