Cameroon

Info

Capital

Yaoundé

Population

20,549,221 (July 2013 est.)

Climate

Tropical to semiarid

Currency

514.1 Cooperation Financiere en Afrique Centrale francs (XAF) = 1 USD (2012 est.)

Important Cities

Douala, Garoua, N'gaoudere, Maroua

Area

475,440 sq.km.

People

Nationality

Cameroonian

Major Peoples

Bamileke, Bamum, Babanki, Bali, Bangwa, Cameroon Grasslands, Fang, Fulani , Katana, Kom, Laka, Mambila, Wum

Religion

African religion 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%

Literacy

75.9%

Principal Language

Fulfulde, Ewondo, Bamileke, Bassa, Pidgin English

Official Language

French, English

Politics

Head Of State

Paul Biya (since 1982)

Type of Government

Republic

Date of Independence

January 1, 1960

Major Exports

Timber, Oil, Coffee, Cocoa, Cotton, Aluminum

Precolonial History

Cameroon’s earliest inhabitants, the Baka people, migrated to the region around 8000 BCE, and still inhabit the southern and eastern forests. Bantu-speaking peoples from equatorial Africa dominated the region by 200 BCE. Itinerant Muslim groups settled in the north, most significantly the Fulani, who conquered northern Cameroon in the late 18th century. Portuguese explorer Fernando Po led an expedition to the Wouri River in 1472, initiating centuries of trade between Portugal and the local African chiefs. The British, Dutch, French, and Germans also established coastal trade with Cameroon. In the 19th century, the slave trade was suppressed and Christian missions became a continuous part of Cameroonian life. in 1884, Germany consolidated all of the country’s present-day territory under a protectorate and declared it the colony of Kamerun. France and Britain invaded the German colony in 1914. After World War I, the League of Nations granted the majority of Cameroon to France and a smaller area in the west to Britain, along the Nigerian border. The United Nations converted these mandates to trusteeships in 1946. The French trusteeship ended in December 1958, and the nation became the Republic of Cameroon on January 1, 1960.

Postcolonial History

Cameroon was governed as the Federal Republic of Cameroon from 1961 to 1972. The former colonial territories each had their own governments and officials under President Ahmadou Ahidjo, a Fulani. Ahidjo abolished the federal structure and proclaimed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972. In 1984, a constitutional amendment changed the country’s official name to the Republic of Cameroon. In 1986, over 1,700 people were killed when a deadly gas emerged suddenly from Lake Nyos. In 1990, President Paul Biya approved a multi-party system. He was re-elected three times, and in 2008 the constitution was altered in order to allow him to run for office again. He was re-elected in 2011, and continues to rely on corruption and human rights violations in order to stay in power. Despite a slow movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of Biya’s oligarchy.

Recommended Sources:

Mark Dike DeLancey, Rebecca Neh Mbuh, and Mark W. DeLancey, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon (Lanham, Toronot, and Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, 2010).

Global Conscience Initiative, “History of Cameroon,” 2014 (http://gci-cameroon.org/about-cameroon/history-of-cameroon/).