The land: All of Africa in One Country
Cameroon is situated in Central Africa, at juncture of the Gulf of Guinea. It is bordered on the North by Chad, on the East by the Central Africa Republic, on the South by Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea and on the West by Nigeria.
Cameroon has a vast geographical diversity characterized by forest, savanna, and mountains, along with a population of over 240 ethnic groups. Its diversity in terrain and culture has led to Cameroon being referred to as “Africa in miniature” or “All of Africa in one country”.
The physical geography is varied, with forests, mountains, large waterfalls, and deserts, falling into four regions. At the border of the northern Sahel region, lies Lake Chad and the Chad basin. Further south, the land forms a sloping plain, rising to the Mandara Mountains. The central region extends from the Benue (Bénoué) River to the Sanaga River, with a plateau in the north. This region includes the Adamaoua plateau, which separates the agricultural south from the pastoral north. In the west, the land is mountainous, with a double chain of volcanic peaks, rising to a height of 4,095m at Mt. Cameroon. This is the highest and wettest peak in western Africa. The fourth region, to the south, extends from the Sanaga River to the southern border, comprising a coastal plain and forested plateau. There is a complicated system of drainage. Several rivers flow westwards, where the Benue River, which rises in the Mandara Mountains and later joins the Niger River, and the Sanaga and Nyong rivers, which flow into the Gulf of Guinea. The Dja and Sangha drain into the Congo Basin. The Logone and Chari rivers flow north into Lake Chad.
The climate varies with the terrain, from tropical along the coast to semiarid and hot in north. In the northern Sahel region, there is a long dry season from October to April, with temperatures varying from cool to very hot. Further south, on the Adamaoua plateau, there are sharp drops in temperature at night. In the south the climate is hot and humid, with two rainy seasons, in September/October and from March to June.
The most significant issues are overgrazing, desertification, deforestation, poaching, and overfishing.
There is tropical rainforest, including ebony and mahogany, in the hot humid south, with mangroves along the coast and river mouths. The southern coastal plain and southeast plateau also contains cocoa and banana farms and rubber and oil palm plantations. The central region has mixed deciduous and evergreen forest. Above the forest zone are drier woodlands, with taller grasses and mountain bamboos. High in the interior and on Mt. Cameroon the grasses are shorter. Further north, there is savannah bush land, with trees becoming sparse towards the Chad basin. Forest covers 46% of the land area, having declined 0.9% p.a. 1990-2005. Arable land comprises of 13% of the total land area, whereas permanent cropland comprises of 2.6% of the total land area.
The Waza National Park in the north, originally created for the protection of the giraffe and antelope populations, is also abound with monkeys, including screaming red, green monkeys, mandrills, lions, and leopards. There are gorillas in the great tracts of hardwood rainforest in the south and east.
Waza National Park: A little bit of East Africa in Cameroon
Elephants in Waza Park
Suspension bridge over Mana River in Korup National Park
There are a total of 80,930 km worth of roads, with 7% of them paved. The rail network runs a total of 974 km from north to south from Ngaoundéré to Yaoundé, with connections between Douala and Yaoundé, and from Douala to Nkongsamba and Kumba. Douala is the principal port, Kribi handles mainly wood exports, Garoua on the Benue River is navigable only during the wet season, and Limbo-Tiko is a minor port, severely silted up. International airports are at Douala, which is 10 km southeast of the city, Yaoundé, which 25 km from city, and Garoua.
The People: Extraordinary Ethnic Diversity
Cameroon has an extraordinary mixture of populations with more than 240 tribes, which are found in three main ethnic groups, Bantus, Semi-Bantus, and Sudanese. The number of national languages spoken in the country is more than 240. The most notable tribes are:
- BANTUS: Beti, Bassa, Bakundu, Maka, Douala, Pygmies
- SEMI-BANTUS: Bamileke, Gbaya, Bamoun, Tikar
- SUDANESE: Fulbe, Mafa, Toupouri, Shoa-Arabs, Moundang, Massa, Mousgoum
French and English are the official languages, which are spoken by 70% and 30% of the population respectively. Spanish and German are equally spoken by a few city-dwellers.
Cameroon is a secular state. Two major religions have followers, Christianity and Islam. Animism is also widely practiced.
Religious: Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Assumption, Christmas, End of Muslim Fasting, Feast of the Ram.
Secular: New Year, Youth Day (11th February), Labour Day (1st May), National Day (20th May).
500 BC: The explorer Hanno of Carthage in North Africa was the first foreigner reported to have seen Mount Cameroon. In the following Centuries, slaves and goods trade developed in the Northern part of Cameroon through the Sahara in North Africa
200-100 BC: The first Bantu tribes immigrated to the North of Cameroon from Nigeria. Traditionally, these tribes were made up of farmers and they needed a lot of space for their agriculture. The original inhabitants, the so-called “Pygmies”, were gradually forced deeper into the forests by the new comers. Later, Sao Culture developed South of Lake Chad and more than 150 different ethnic groups lived in.
The Europeans arrive
1472: Portuguese explorers led by Fernando Pô were the first Europeans to arrive on the coast of Cameroon. They reached Douala through the Wouri River. They named it “Rio dos Camarões (the River of Prawns), which later resulted to the name of the country. With the arrival of Europeans, business, and slave trade shifted from the centre to the coastal areas. Local chiefs gained more power by signing agreements with the Portuguese. Business was also negotiated with traders from England, Holland, France, and Germany. The chiefs served as middlemen between the Europeans and local tribesmen that had something to sell. Mostly slaves and ivory were exported from Cameroon. The Europeans sold clothes and metal products.
1520: A few Portuguese settlers started plantations and Trans-Atlantic slave trading. Cattle farmers migrated from Nigeria and forced the indigenous people further into the forest. The constant fight to manage the land led to the problem of refugees and made them vulnerable to slave traders.
1600s: The Dutch takes over the slave trade in Cameroon.
1700s: British missionaries started protesting against slave trade. The London Baptist Missionaries created a Christian colony in Victoria (now called Limbe). The first inhabitants of Limbe were freed slaves from Jamaica, Ghana, and Liberia. Also, Africans who were converted to Christianity, settled in Victoria.
Alfred Saker and The End of Slave Trade
1863: Slavery was abolished in America. The Europe nations had done this several years earlier, although illegal slave trade continued for many years.
1845: Trade between Cameroon and Europe gradually changed and developed. The first European business complex was founded by Alfred Saker, an English navy engineer. He started building schools and churches in Douala at the bank of River Wouri. When slave trade finally ended, some changes were noticed at the level of trade, because focus was now on natural resources like palm oil, ivory, and gold. The Europeans started moving further into the interior of the country. The Douala chiefs started losing their influence little by little. After being informed about the opening of a British Representation in Lagos, King Manga Bell of Douala wrote to Queen Victoria of England, requesting that an official relationship be established with Douala. The British were present in Nigeria, East Africa, and other places in the world. The British were reluctant in making Cameroon a British protectorate. As a result of their hesitation, the Germans were forced to take over the territory.
1520: A few Portuguese settlers started plantations and Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Cattle farmers migrated from Nigeria and forced the indigenous people further into the forest. The constant fight to manage the land led to the problem of refugees and made them vulnerable at the benefit of slave traders.
Kamerun – German colony
July 12, 1884: Gustav Nachtigal signed a treaty with the Chiefs of Doula on behalf of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm. In return for trade advantages, the chiefs accepted a German protectorate. The names of the chiefs were Bell, Akwa, and Deïdo
1886: The European colonial powers partitioned Africa amongst themselves during the Berlin Conference. The Europeans drew up new boundaries for the entire African continent. In doing that, they did not take into consideration the differences in cultures and languages of the people.
1885: Baron Von Soden became Governor of the new German colony, “Kamerun”. His biggest task was to fight rebellious tribes in the country.
1888: Explorer Georg Zenker instituted a German rule in the mountains at the Centre of Cameroon, which later gave birth to Yaounde the capital.
1907: The second German Governor, Von Puttkamer, constructed a railway in the country. With forced labour, he also started developing the colony with roads, schools, and hospitals. The name of the main town changed from Kamerunstadt to Douala. The Germans encountered serious difficulties in imposing their authority on the colony. Initially, the Germans left a greater part of the local administration in the hands of large commercial companies.
1914: Chief Rudolph Douala Manga Bell and military officer Martin-Paul Samba, were the first two nationalists to be executed for resisting German rule.
British and French Cameroon 1916-1960
When World War I broke out in 1914 aligning France and Britain against Germany, the two German colonies in the Gulf of Guinea were at stake. Both Togoland and Cameroon were sandwiched between British and French colonies during the early weeks of the war and military activities started at their borders. By early 1916, the British and French had taken control over both German colonies. The two allies divided Togo and Cameroon between themselves, and were administering the regions adjacent to their other colonies. In the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany renounced sovereignty over all of her African colonies. The issue of who shall administer the territories was referred to the League of Nations. The mandate granted by the League of Nations in 1922 confirmed the division earlier established in Cameroon between Britain and France. The British were to administer the smaller share, consisting of two tiny strips on the Eastern border of Nigeria. They were separated by a stretch of land that was south of the Benoue River, at the Eastern border of Nigeria. These two regions were known as the British Cameroons.
On the French side, the large Eastern region, ceded in 1911, was returned to French Equatorial Africa. The remaining Central portion became a new French mandated territory. The French Cameroon had a more rapid economic and political development than the British Cameroons. Soon after, it faced the effects of liberation movements that swept through the continent after World War II. From 1956, the French were confronted by a powerful uprising orchestrated by a nationalist party, the UPC (Union des Populations du Cameroun), demanding immediate independence. The uprising was suppressed by the French troops.
When independence was granted in 1960 – after Cameroun voted to remain within the French Community – the ruling party, the Union Camerounaise, founded in 1958 by Ahmadou Ahidjo, was in favor of retaining a strong link with France. While the French mandated territory got independence with the name,”Republique du Cameroun”, the future of British Cameroons was still to be decided. The question was either to merge it with Nigeria that just got independence or with the already independent Republique du Cameroun. A plebiscite was organized to that effect in 1961. The Northern region voted to join Nigeria, while Southern region opted to join the la Republicque du cameroun on the basis of a federation. The new name became known as the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
United Republic of Cameroun
May 20, 1972: The federal structure is dissolved and a new constitution is made with the formation of the United Republic of Cameroon.
November, 1982: Ahidjo leaves his post as president. The 49-year-old Prime Minister, Paul Biya, takes over the presidency. A presidential decree of 1984, transformed the United Republic of Cameroon into The Republic of Cameroon.
Tourism: A Choice Destination with a lot of Tourist Attractions
Cameroon is a choice destination with a lot of attractions for any visitor. The country has a lot of natural attractions and many other phenomena that are not found anywhere else in the world, making it possible to have various categories of tourism.
Situated at the heart of Africa, straddling West Africa and Central Africa, and stretching from the elbow of the Gulf of Guinea on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, going through evergreen forests, which gradually fade into savannah grasslands until it reaches the sandy regions of Lake Chad, Cameroon has features which are found in all parts of Africa.
The 400 km long coastline of the Atlantic Ocean is very suitable for tourism, with a lot of attractions like colourful bays, rich sandy beaches, a variety of small islets, mangrove vegetation, and waterfalls that plunge directly into the ocean. Fishing happens in all the settlements along the coastline, carried out by individual and commercial fishermen. Any visitor can take a try at fishing. A wide variety of fish can be found in the rivers throughout the country.
Safari and hunting
There are seven national parks in Cameroon, with the most interesting and properly maintained one being the Waza Park in the Far North Region. These parks have a large number of various animal species found in Africa, elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinoceros, panthers, buffalos, antelopes, hippopotamus, hyenas, gorillas, and cheetahs. Besides the national parks wherein hunting is prohibited, there are 14 hunting zones in the northern part of the country with more than 500 km of motorable roads. Cameroon is the place of choice in West and Central Africa for safari tourism as the national parks and other animal reserves like Boubandjida in the Adamawa région are properly preserved.
As a result of the concerns for the preservation of the environment, measures have been undertaken to classify and protect some natural sites for various purposes, including scientific, ecological, and tourist activities. Some of the prominent ones are:
- The Korup National Park, which has plant species that are more than one million years old.
- Dja Reserve, which is classified among humanities heritages by UNESCO.
- Mount Cameroon, which is 4,070 m highland, has vegetation, which dates back to the Quaternary period, and has been accepted for international mountain climbing events. It is an ecological site with remarkable potential that is being improved by the German NGO, GTZ. Mount Cameroon is still an active volcano with the most recent eruption occurring in March 2000. The rainfall in this area is also very high, especially at Debuncha on the West Coast. The Site of Mayo-Rey is where footprints of dinosaurs are still visible.
The population of Cameroon is made up of more than 200 ethnic groups with different customs and traditions, some of which have survived till date, especially in the north and west of the country.
A lot of diversity can be observed in the way of life, the folklore, the religion, housing, and culinary habits. The oval houses of the Massa people in the north are unique in design.
The historical artifacts that abound are in Cameroon are a testimony of the creative nature of the people, while the monuments and other vestiges of past events attest to the colonial history of the country. English and French are a remarkable indication of the bilingual culture of Cameroon.
Mountaineering is a good pass time, as Mount Cameroon and Mount Manengouba offer a lot of hospitality. The Climatic Center in Dschang provides a place for a quiet holiday.
Conference and Business Tourism
The major cities of Yaoundé and Douala, with infrastructure of international standing, including conference centers, international airports, and hotels, are the main centers of conference and business tourism.