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Cameroon: a country united.

A German colony, Cameroon was placed under the young League of Nations' (LN) Trusteeship, which years later would become the United Nations (UN), following the First World War. On to July 1919, the LN divided the country between the two victors: the eastern part was entrusted to the French; and West Cameroon to the British. The mission of the French and the British was therefore to promote the economic and social development of their respective zones. However, Anglophone Cameroon, which was neglected by the British authorities, was in turn divided into two administrative zones. Southern Cameroon and Northern Cameroon, and attached to neighbouring Nigeria.

From the 1940s onwards, the first political demands started to be heard among students and intellectuals. This concerned independence, and also calls for reunification. Several groups were created, including the Kamerun National Congress (KNC), which expressed the idea of restoring a "Greater Kamerun" very clearly, and won the election of 1953, making its leader Emmanuel Endeley the head of the autonomous government.

After multiple debates in the United Nations, a referendum was organised on it February 1961. The Northern zone came out in favour of union with Nigeria, while the Southern zone (the current South-West and North-West Regions) voted to join Francophone Cameroon that had acquired independence on I January 1960. The political leaders of the two Cameroons took part in a number of meetings and discussed reunification.

A true multicultural society, Cameroon is often described as Africa in miniature due to the diversity of its landscape and its people.

One summit, in particular, was significant: The Foumban Conference that took place from 17 to 21 July 1961. It outlined the terms and conditions of the reunification process adopted by the National Assembly of Francophone Cameroon during a special session at Yaounde from 10 to 14 August 1961, then by the National Assembly of Southern Cameroon under British trusteeship.

On I September 1961, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon was enacted. One month later, on 1 October, the independence of Anglophone Cameroon was pronounced, and the reunification of the two Cameroons agreed.

The Federation of Cameroon was born. I composed of two Federated States: Southern Cameroon (Anglophone) and East Cameroon I (Francophone). It was a bilingual republic, with' a president and vice-president at its head - Ahmadou Ahidjo and John Ngu Foncha respectively.

The last stage, the referendum of 20 May 1972, ended federalism with a landslide majority, and marked the birth of the United Republic of Cameroon. On 6 November 1982, the first President of the Republic of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo, stepped down voluntarily and ceded power to Paul Biya, his constitutional successor.

In 1984, Paul Biya reinstated the country's original name, the Republic of Cameroon. Since then, the political authorities have sought constantly to consolidate the reunification of the country, all the while preserving Cameroon's bilingual nature.


With 255 ethnicities and thousands of languages, Cameroon is often described as Africa in miniature due to the diversity of its landscape and its people. With more than 20 million inhabitants, Cameroon is proud of being a melting pot of a number of ethnicities that live together in harmony. These include Arab peoples from the North, the Hausa and Fulani from the West, the Sudanese from the East and the Bantu and their affiliates from the South as the largest groups. A legacy of the country's history, Cameroon has become a crossroads between West, Central and East Africa.

Different populations have crossed and then settled this territory peopled by the Baka hunter-gatherers. Then came the Europeans, the Portuguese, then the Dutch, the Germans, and finally the French and British in succession. Well before this, with the development of trade and then the slave trade, as well as the spread of Christianity through the south and Islam through the north. Cameroon's society was transformed and enriched by many influences.

While remaining attached to their roots and traditions, Cameroonians have developed a culture noted for the respect, tolerance and openness shown to others.


Multiculturalism is the objective that the central government has aimed to preserve and encourage. This is why it supports traditional chiefs, who retain real power at a local level, and are the authorities' representatives. They do much to guarantee that traditions and ancestral knowledge are passed down through the generations. This is also why the government encourages bilingual ism, and practically all official documents are in the two official languages. The national network also broadcasts the news in both languages alternately. What is more, five of the seven public universities in Cameroon are bilingual, and there are many bilingual primary and secondary schools throughout the country.

Apart from the two official European languages, more than 24,000 languages have been recorded as spoken in Cameroon. These include Ngumba, Gbaya, Fula and Mundang - as well as several Creole languages that are the result of colonisation and intermixing. This includes the now famous Camfranglais, a mix of French, English, expressions from local dialects and slang that is fiercely popular among the youth of Cameroon.

This is another of Cameroon's characteristics, a country that has no dominant regional language, but an impressive linguistic diversity that places it in seventh place globally, and second on the continent after neighbouring Nigeria.

A living illustration of this multiculturalism is music. Traditional music, firstly, tells of an ethnicity, a people, a history. Today's music is incredibly modern, and borrows different local sounds and rhythms, drawing inspiration from international music. Globally renowned personalities of the new wave such as Tom Yoms, Manu Dibango and Moundi (otherwise known as Petit-Pays) gladly export this richness.

Cameroon has a Christian majority and a strong Muslim presence in the north of the country, and the orthodox church has a growing influence. It presents an inter-religious face, where populations live in peace and with a neighbourly spirit. It is also common to find people of different confessions within one family, which celebrates tabaski (Eid al-Kebir) as well as Christmas and Easter.

If there is one thing that proves the success of Cameroon's reunification, it is football. It is a national passion. Match nights, in particular when the adored 'Indomitable Lions' (the national team) are playing, cause an outpouring of real public joy, where the people of Cameroon are united behind the same team, the same flag and the same anthem.

While remaining attached to their roots and traditions, Cameroonians have developed a culture noted for the respect, tolerance and openness shown to others.


United and independent, Cameroon has striven, in the fifty years since reunification, to consolidate and promote relations with the Anglophone and Francophone worlds. It does so through two major organisations of which it is a key member, the Commonwealth and La Francophonie.

The Federal Republic of Cameroon would have been entitled to join the Commonwealth in 1961, due to the 40 years of British influence on the western part of the country. However the leaders of the time, Ahmadou Ahidjo, the President of the Republic of Cameroon and Prime Minister John Ngu Foncha of Southern Cameroon preferred to hold back, as such a membership seemed to contradict the independent and nationalist discourse of the political leaders. Nor was membership promoted be the British, who showed a clear preference for relations with neighbouring Nigeria.

Nevertheless, relations between Cameroon and the Commonwealth would endure, even though they appeared weak in comparison with the links the country shared with others, most notably France.

These relations are evidenced by the development aid and promotion of bilingualism provided by the UK.


It was not until the arrival of Paul Biya that Cameroon officially sought admission to the Commonwealth in May 1989, but it would not be admitted until 1995. The process was a long and complex one, but the Commonwealth States came to think of Cameroon, rightly seen as the meeting point between Anglophone and Francophone Africa, as a serious ally on the continent. After the withdrawal of South Africa, the Commonwealth needed a strong new ally in Africa given its virulent opposition to apartheid and to foreign domination in Africa.

Since reunification, Cameroon has striven to consolidate and promote relations with the Anglophone and Francophone worlds, and it is today a key member of both the Commonwealth and la Francophonie.

For Cameroon, this was an opportunity to enlarge its circle of influence on the continental stage, and from there the international stage; and to consolidate its bi-cultural nature.

In October 1995, Cameroon was officially invited to the Auckland Summit as a full member of the Commonwealth. This was a victory for the national authorities that reaffirmed the effectiveness of Cameroon's national unity. Cameroon has since taken on the role of mediator between Francophones and Anglophones. After the Nigerian Civil War, during the liberation struggle against the anti-apartheid movement, in every instance Cameroon has held a firm yet moderate position. It also helped pave the way for the emergence of the African Union.

Commonwealth Day has been celebrated since 1998, proof of the evolution of relations between Cameroon and the Commonwealth. The latter has supported the process of democratisation and the socio-economic development of the country, as a privileged partner of Cameroon.


The level of relations between Cameroon and La Francophonie, first and foremost with France, has always been strong. From 1960, France was Cameroon's leading partner in terms of trade and development aid. Relations between France and Anglophone Cameroon have progressed since 1995, thanks to initiatives by I'Agence Francaise de Developpement (the French Development Agency) in the South-West and North-West regions in particular. Cameroon has moreover cemented solid relations with the whole Francophone community.

This was marked in 1975 by its almost natural membership of l'Agence de Cooperation Culturelle et Technique (the Agency of Cultural and Technical Cooperation) as an associated state. It is part of the large family of La Francophonie, through memberships of certain circles and institutions of varying influence. Cameroon joined the I'Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (the International Organisation of La Francophonie or IOF) in 1989 as an observer, before becoming a full member on 19 November 1991, at the Fourth Summit of Heads of State and of Government in Chaillot (France). This late accession can be explained by Cameroon's desire to balance its partnerships. An active member of the IOF, Cameroon participates in the meetings of La Francophonie through President Paul Biya. Cameroon has also received representatives of the organisation, including Abdou Diouf the Secretary General, in Yaounde in 200s, affording him the honours due to a Head of State.

"Cameroon is an eminent member of La Francophonie," remarked Ousmane Pave, special advisor to the Secretary General of the IOF. "It is rare that a country in the South provides financing by way of voluntary contributions as Cameroon does. The people of Cameroon have a strong presence in the great machine that is La Francophonie, and they have participated in drafting texts of reference that will be on the table at this Summit in Quebec."

For its part, the IOF supports Cameroon's economic, cultural and institutional development. It is another of the country's privileged partners, alongside the Commonwealth and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, of which Cameroon is also a member.

In a recent speech in Buea, the capital of the South-West, during the closing ceremony ending the celebrations of reunification, delivered symbolically in both English and French, President Biya reiterated the fact that Cameroon was a country united: united as a nation and united with the world. *
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Title Annotation:Cameroon
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6CAME
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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