Cameroon , officially the Republic of Cameroon (French: République du Cameroun), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republicto the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the Bight of Bonny, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Cameroon is home to more than 1738 different linguistic groups. French and English are the official languages. The country is often referred to as "Africa in miniature" for its geological and cultural diversity. Natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. The highest point at almost 4,100 metres (13,500 ft) is Mount Cameroon in the Southwest Region of the country, and the largest cities in population-terms are Douala on the Wouri river, its economical capital and main seaport, Yaoundé, its political capital, and Garoua. After independence, the newly united nation joined the Commonwealth of Nations, although the vast majority of its territories had previously been a German colony and, after World War I, a French mandate. The country is well known for its native styles of music, particularly makossa and bikutsi, and for its successful national football team.
Early inhabitants of the territory included the Sao civilisation around Lake Chad and the Baka hunter-gatherers in the southeastern rainforest. Portuguese explorers reached the coast in the 15th century and named the area Rio dos Camarões (Shrimp River), which became Cameroon in English. Fulani soldiers founded the Adamawa Emirate in the north in the 19th century, and various ethnic groups of the west and northwest established powerful chiefdoms and fondoms. Cameroon became a German colony in 1884 known as Kamerun.
After World War I, the territory was divided between France and the United Kingdomas League of Nations mandates. The Union des Populations du Cameroun(UPC) political party advocated independence, but was outlawed by France in the 1950s. It waged war on French and UPC militant forces until 1971. In 1960, the French-administered part of Cameroon became independent as the Republic of Cameroun under President Ahmadou Ahidjo. The southern part of British Cameroons merged with it in 1961 to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The country was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 and the Republic of Cameroon in 1984.
Cameroon enjoys relatively high political and social stability. This has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, railways, and large petroleum and timber industries. Nevertheless, large numbers of Cameroonians live in poverty as subsistence farmers. Power lies firmly in the hands of the authoritarian president since 1982, Paul Biya, and his Cameroon People's Democratic Movement party. The English-speaking territories of Cameroon have grown increasingly alienated from the government, and politicians from those regions have called for greater decentralization and even secession (for example: the Southern Cameroons National Council) of the former British-governed territories.
The population total in Cameroon was 20,030,362 in 2011. The life expectancy is 53.69 years (52.89 years for males and 54.52 years for females).
Cameroon's population is almost evenly divided between urban and rural dwellers. Population density is highest in the large urban centres, the western highlands, and the northeastern plain. Douala, Yaoundé, and Garoua are the largest cities. In contrast, the Adamawa Plateau, southeastern Bénoué depression, and most of the South Cameroon Plateau are sparsely populated.
According to the Cameroon government website, the fertility rate was 5.0 in 2004.
People from the overpopulated western highlands and the underdeveloped north are moving to the coastal plantation zone and urban centres for employment. Smaller movements are occurring as workers seek employment in lumber mills and plantations in the south and east. Although the national sex ratio is relatively even, these out-migrants are primarily males, which leads to unbalanced ratios in some regions.
Both monogamous and polygamous marriage are practiced, and the average Cameroonian family is large and extended. In the north, women tend to the home, and men herd cattle or work as farmers. In the south, women grow the family's food, and men provide meat and grow cash crops. Like most societies, Cameroonian society is male-dominated, and violence and discrimination against women is common.
Estimates identify anywhere from 230 to 282 different folks and linguistic groups in Cameroon. The Adamawa Plateau broadly bisects these into northern and southern divisions. The northern peoples are Sudanese groups, who live in the central highlands and the northern lowlands, and the Fulani, who are spread throughout northern Cameroon. A small number of Shuwa Arabs live near Lake Chad. Southern Cameroon is inhabited by speakers of Bantu and Semi-Bantu languages. Bantu-speaking groups inhabit the coastal and equatorial zones, while speakers of Semi-Bantu languages live in the Western grassfields. Some 5,000 Gyele and Baka Pygmy peoples roam the southeastern and coastal rainforests or live in small, roadside settlements. Nigerians make up the largest group of foreign nationals.
Cameroon has a high level of religious freedom and diversity. The predominant faith is Christianity, practiced by about two-thirds of the population, while Islam is a significant minority faith, adhered to by about one-fifth. In addition, traditional faiths are practiced by many. Muslims are most concentrated in the north, while Christians are concentrated primarily in the southern and western regions, but practitioners of both faiths can be found throughout the country. Large cities have significant populations of both groups. Muslims in Cameroon are divided into Sunnis (including Wahhabis), Shias, Ahmadis, Sufis, and non-denominational Muslims.
People from the North-West and South-West provinces are largely Protestant, and the French-speaking regions of the southern and western regions are largely Catholic. Southern ethnic groups predominantly follow Christian or traditional African animist beliefs, or a syncretic combination of the two. People widely believe in witchcraft, and the government outlaws such practices. Suspected witches are often subject to mob violence. The Islamist jihadist group Boko Haram has been reported as operating in North Cameroon.
In the northern regions, the locally dominant Fulani ethnic group is mostly Muslim, but the overall population is fairly evenly divided among Muslims, Christians, and followers of indigenous religious beliefs (called Kirdi ("pagan") by the Fulani). The Bamum ethnic group of the West Region is largely Muslim. Native traditional religions are practiced in rural areas throughout the country but rarely are practiced publicly in cities, in part because many indigenous religious groups are intrinsically local in character.
At 475,442 square kilometres (183,569 sq mi), Cameroon is the world's 53rd-largest country. It is slightly larger than the nation of Sweden and comparable in size to Papua New Guinea. The country is located in Centraland West Africa on the Bight of Bonny, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. Cameroon lies between latitudes 1° and 13°N, and longitudes 8°and 17°E.
Tourist literature describes Cameroon as "Africa in miniature" because it exhibits all major climates and vegetation of the continent: coast, desert, mountains, rainforest, and savanna. The country's neighbours are Nigeria and the Atlantic Ocean to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south.
Cameroon is divided into five major geographic zones distinguished by dominant physical, climatic, and vegetative features. The coastal plain extends 15 to 150 kilometres (9 to 93 mi) inland from the Gulf of Guinea and has an average elevation of 90 metres (295 ft). Exceedingly hot and humid with a short dry season, this belt is densely forested and includes some of the wettest places on earth, part of the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests.
The South Cameroon Plateau rises from the coastal plain to an average elevation of 650 metres (2,133 ft).Equatorial rainforest dominates this region, although its alternation between wet and dry seasons makes it is less humid than the coast. This area is part of the Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion.
An irregular chain of mountains, hills, and plateaus known as the Cameroon range extends from Mount Cameroon on the coast—Cameroon's highest point at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) —almost to Lake Chad at Cameroon's northern border at 13°05'N. This region has a mild climate, particularly on the Western High Plateau, although rainfall is high. Its soils are among Cameroon's most fertile, especially around volcanic Mount Cameroon. Volcanism here has created crater lakes. On 21 August 1986, one of these, Lake Nyos, belched carbon dioxide and killed between 1,700 and 2,000 people. This area has been delineated by the World Wildlife Fund as the Cameroonian Highlands forests ecoregion.
The southern plateau rises northward to the grassy, rugged Adamawa Plateau. This feature stretches from the western mountain area and forms a barrier between the country's north and south. Its average elevation is 1,100 metres (3,609 ft), and its average temperature ranges from 22 °C (71.6 °F) to 25 °C (77 °F) with high rainfall between April and October peaking in July and August. The northern lowland region extends from the edge of the Adamawa to Lake Chad with an average elevation of 300 to 350 metres (984 to 1,148 ft). Its characteristic vegetation is savanna scrub and grass. This is an arid region with sparse rainfall and high median temperatures.
Cameroon has four patterns of drainage. In the south, the principal rivers are the Ntem, Nyong, Sanaga, and Wouri. These flow southwestward or westward directly into the Gulf of Guinea. The Dja and Kadéï drain southeastward into the Congo River. In northern Cameroon, the Bénoué River runs north and west and empties into the Niger. The Logone flows northward into Lake Chad, which Cameroon shares with three neighbouring countries.