Africa

Cameroon country profile

  • 12 January 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Cameroon

Cameroon, which is home to more than 200 different linguistic groups, is known as "Africa in miniature" due to its diversity.

The Central African country has one of the highest literacy rates on the continent. Its progress, however, is hampered by persistent problems with corruption.

Created in 1961 by the unification of two former colonies, one British and one French, the modern state of Cameroon has also struggled to find peace and unity.

Internally, there are tensions over the two mainly English-speaking southern provinces. A secessionist movement, the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), emerged in the 1990s and has been banned.

More recently, the mainly-Muslim far north has been drawn into the regional Islamist insurgency of Boko Haram.

FACTS

Republic of Cameroon

Capital: Yaounde

  • Population 20 million

  • Area 475,442 sq km (183,568 sq miles)

  • Languages French, English, languages of Bantu, Semi-Bantu and Sudanic groups

  • Major religions Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs

  • Life expectancy 51 years (men), 54 years (women)

  • Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc

Getty Images

LEADER

President: Paul Biya

Image copyright Getty Images

In power since 1982, Paul Biya is seen as one of Africa's most entrenched leaders.

Cameroon's parliament in April 2008 passed a controversial amendment to the constitution enabling President Paul Biya to run for a third term of office in 2011.

The veteran politician went on to win a new seven-year term in the October 2011 election, in a vote that international observers said was marred by irregularities. It has also been rejected by the opposition and civil society movements in Cameroon.

His party, the Cameroonian People's Democratic Movement (RDPC) has won landslide majorities in every legislative election since 1992.

Born in 1933, Paul Biya was educated in Cameroon and France, where he studied law at the Sorbonne.

Before becoming president, Mr Biya spent his entire political career in the service of President Ahmadou Ahidjo, becoming prime minister in 1975.

In 1983 he accused Mr Ahidjo of organising a coup against him, forcing the former president to flee the country.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cameroon has extensive timber reserves

Reporters Without Borders wrote in 2011 that "it is clear from the diversity of the media and the outspoken reporting style that press freedom is a reality" in Cameroon.

But the watchdog called for media offences to be decriminalised, and said the press can be "bought and exploited" by politicians and businessmen.

The government has also suspended access to social media platforms when it deemed it necessary: in 2011 officials ordered telecom companies to suspend mobile services for Twitter, ahead of planned demonstrations against President Biya.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Cameroon's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ahmadou Ahidjo was independent Cameroon's first president. He stepped aside in 1982

1520 - Portuguese set up sugar plantations and begin slave trade in Cameroon, which is taken over by the Dutch in the 1600s.

1884 - Cameroon becomes the German colony of Kamerun. The colony expands in 1911 under the Treaty of Fez, when Neukamerun, territories to the east and south of Kamerun, are ceded to Germany by the French.

1916 - British and French troops force Germans to leave Cameroon. Neukamerun is separated from Cameroon again. Three years later, Cameroon is divided under the London Declaration - 80% to the French and 20% to the British.

1958 - French Cameroon granted self-government with Ahmadou Ahidjo as prime minister. The country becomes independent two years later, and Ahidjo becomes president.

1961 - Following a UN-sponsored referendum, the (British) Southern Cameroons join the Republic of Cameroon to become the Federal Republic of Cameroon, while Northern Cameroon join Nigeria. A large-scale insurrection mars the country's first years of independence until it is put down in 1963 with the help of French forces.

1982 - Prime Minister Paul Biya succeeds Ahidjo, who resigns, only to flee the country the following year after Biya accuses him of masterminding a coup. Biya is elected as president in 1984, and changes the country's name to the Republic of Cameroon.

1998 - Cameroon classed as the most corrupt country in the world by business monitor Transparency International.

2006 - Nigeria agrees to withdraw its troops from the Bakassi peninsula to settle its long-running border dispute with Cameroon, which was granted the peninsula in a 2002 International Court ruling.

2015 - Chad pledges military support for Cameroon against Boko Haram. Cameroon faced increased attacks from the jihadist group in 2014, and the government deployed about 1,000 troops to the border with northern Nigeria to counter a rising threat of incursions and kidnappings by the militants.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lake Chad is shared by Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. Some areas of the lake are now blighted by the presence of the Islamist group Boko Haram

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