Article

Cameroon

Benedict Nantang Jua

in African Studies

ISBN: 9780199846733
Published online August 2013 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0123
Cameroon

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The Republic of Cameroon, nested between West and Central Africa, covers an area of 183,520 square miles and shares borders with Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, and Nigeria. Formed at the 1884 Congress of Berlin, which partitioned Africa, its name derives from the Wouri River, which Fernando Po, one of the first Europeans to reach the territory, in 1472 named Rio dos Camarões or the river of prawns. For the most part a hilly and mountainous country, its highest point is Mount Cameroon, which, it is claimed even in official narratives, may have been sighted by the Carthaginian explorer Hanno around 500 bce. Since it straddles all of Africa’s ecological zones—that is, from the equatorial zone on the Atlantic coast, through the grasslands, to the Sahelian zone bordering on Lake Chad—it has been popularly dubbed “Africa in miniature.” Its geographical and cultural diversity justifies this moniker. With a population of over twenty million people, it is a mosaic of 250–300 ethnic groups speaking over three hundred languages that were cobbled together by a triple colonial experience—notably, German, British, and French, which were the main actors in the partitioning of Africa, a process that was consensual as well as conflictual. Initially a German colony known as Kamerun, it became a League of Nations mandate in 1922, following the defeat of the Germans in World War I, administered under the auspices of Britain and France as two separate mandates. Following the creation of the United Nations in the wake of World War II, the mandates were transformed into trust territories in 1946, administered by Britain and France as British Cameroons and French Cameroun, respectively. British Cameroons was later divided into Southern Cameroons and Northern Cameroons. French Cameroun acceded to independence on 1 January 1960. Following a United Nations plebiscite in British Cameroons in February 1961, Northern Cameroons opted for independence by joining with Nigeria, while Southern Cameroons opted for independence by joining with La Republique du Cameroun. Unification of these two territories gave birth to the Federal Republic of Cameroon, comprising two states—West Cameroon (Anglophone) and East Cameroon (Francophone). The federal republic morphed into the United Republic of Cameroon following a referendum in 1972, and to the Republic of Cameroon in 1984, by a presidential decree. Throughout the post-independence era, this state has been confronted by the twin challenges of imagining a nation and economic development. Elite bargains have been privileged in fostering a national imagining, and foreign exchange earnings, to a large extent, have underwritten its economic development. Though located in the Central African region, where conflict is endemic, it has not suffered from the neighborhood effect. Paramount to the challenges confronting it is a culture of corruption that is endemic to this patrimonial state.

Article.  21152 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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