Cameroon country profile

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 emerged in the 1990s and has been banned. An insurgency developed in 2016 when activists stepped up their campaign for greater autonomy.

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


Republic of Cameroon

Capital: Yaounde

  • Population 23.5 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 56 years (men), 59 years (women)

  • Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc

Getty Images


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.


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cameroon has extensive timber reserves

State-run CRTV operates alongside dozens of private radio and TV stations.

Journalists reporting on sensitive subjects risk legal action, says Freedom House.

Amid protests in English-speaking regions, internet access in these areas has been disrupted.


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.

2014 - Cameroon faces increased attacks from the jihadist group Boko Haram.

2016 - Activists in anglophone areas step up a campaign for greater autonomy, prompting a fierce backlash from the government.

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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