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You are in:  Nations > Africa > Cameroon
Cameroon*Cameroon flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Yaounde
Area: 475,442 sq km; 183,569 sq miles
Population: 15,891,531 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 47 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 53 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Petroleum products, timber, cacao beans, aluminium, coffee, cotton

Industry: Petroleum production and refining, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, timber

Agriculture: Commercial and food crops include coffee, cacao, timber, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, livestock, root starches

Currency: 1 Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) franc, consisting of 100 centimes

Natural resources: Petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber, hydroelectric power potential


The people

Ethnic: Some 200 groups, the largest of which are the Fang, Bamileke, Fulani and Pahouin (Beti); most groups comprise less than 1 per cent of the population

Language: 24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official). About 240 languages are spoken in Cameroon, nearly 100 of which have some written form. It is common for Cameroonians to speak several local languages. French and English are the official languages and most urban residents can speak and read one of them. People who live in rural areas are generally not fluent in either. French is used mainly in the eight French-speaking provinces that were colonised by France. English is common only in the two English-speaking provinces once governed by the United Kingdom. No local language is used widely enough to have official status, but some languages have regional dominance, such as Fulfulde in the North, Ewondo near the capital and Duala on the coast. Pidgin English, a simplified mixture of English and various European languages, emerged during the colonial period to facilitate trade and communication among ethnic groups. It is used primarily in the former British provinces.

Religion: Christian 53 per cent, Indigenous beliefs 25 per cent, Muslim 22 per cent


The history

Independence: 1 January 1960 (from United Nations (UN) trusteeship under French administration). Since the Republic of Cameroon was declared in 1972, Cameroon has had only two presidents. Ahmadou Ahidjo, a Northern Muslim, took office in 1960 and in 1966 established a one-party authoritarian state. He ruled until 1982, when, after a visit to France during which he was told he was terminally ill, he resigned in favour of his southern Christian Prime Minister, Paul Biya. After attempted coups (inspired by Ahidjo, who regretted relinquishing power) in 1983 and 1984, Biya dismantled the opposition. Bowing to domestic and international pressure, Biya instituted reforms in 1990, but unrest and strikes continued into 1991. Presidential and parliamentary elections, in which 32 parties contested seats, were held in 1992 but were boycotted in large numbers and the results were disputed. Biya retains his office as President.

Government: The President, who is elected for a five-year term and the cabinet form the executive branch, which dominates the legislative and judicial branches. The National Assembly has 180 members, elected for five-year terms. The voting age is 21. Hereditary kings in the North and West and appointed chiefs elsewhere, maintain local courts for domestic and land law. These rulers enjoy strong loyalty among many ethnic groups and are regularly consulted about national politics.

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