A country in West Africa, with Nigeria and Chad to its west and north, the Central African Republic to its east, and Gabon and Congo to the south.
Most of the coastline is low, with creeks, lagoons, and swamps, although near Mount Cameroon, an active volcano, there are steep cliffs. The coastal plain is hot and very wet and covered with thick rainforest. Inland the ground rises to the plateau that makes up most of the country.
Crude oil is the largest export, followed by cocoa and coffee. Mineral deposits include oil and natural gas, gold, uranium, bauxite, nickel, and cobalt. Industries include aluminium smelting (from imported bauxite and alumina), food-processing, and brewing.
The Portuguese and other Europeans who explored Cameroon in the 15th and 16th centuries found that it was mainly uninhabited, but it was believed to be the original home of the Bantu peoples. About 1810 King Mbwé-Mbwé walled his capital, Fomban, against the Fulani empire of Sokoto. Other peoples set up small kingdoms. Germans began trading c.1860, and signed protectorate treaties in 1884. The German Protectorate of Kamerun was confirmed by the Franco-German Treaty of 1911, but in 1916 Anglo-French forces occupied it. From 1919 it was administered under League of Nations (later UN) trusteeship, having been divided into British and French mandates. In 1960 the French Cameroons became an independent republic, to be joined in 1961 by part of the British Cameroons, the remainder becoming part of Nigeria. The French and British territories in 1972 merged as the United Republic of Cameroon, later renamed the Republic of Cameroon. It was from 1972 a one-party republic ruled by the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, from 1982 under President Paul Biya. Legislation providing for multiparty government was adopted in 1990 and, following strikes, demonstrations, and unrest through 1991, President Biya finally held elections in 1992. His party failed to win an overall majority and a coalition government was formed. Biya was re-elected in presidential elections (also held in 1992) but the result was rejected by opponents, who alleged that fraud had taken place. He was again re-elected in 1997 – when the opposition boycotted the poll – and 2004. Cameroon joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1995.
475,458 sq km (179,714 sq miles)
1 CFA franc = 100 centimes
Roman Catholic 26.4%; traditional religions 23.7%; Muslim 21.2%; Protestant 20.7%
Bamileke 27.0%; Beti-Pahonin 18.0%; Kirdi 15.0%; Fulani 9.5%; Bassa Bakoko 8.0%; Baya Mbum 6.0%
French, English (both official); Bati-Pahonin, Bamileke, and almost one hundred other languages and dialects
UN; AU; Commonwealth; Non-Aligned Movement; Franc Zone; WTO
Subjects: History — African Studies.