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Land and People of Cameroon

Cameroon is a Central African nation on the Gulf of Guinea, bordered by Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Yaoundé is the capital, and Douala is the largest city and main port.


Sometimes referred to as the hinge of Africa; throughout the country there are areas of thermal springs and indications of current or prior volcanic activity; Mount Cameroon(13,350 ft; 4,069 m),  the highest mountain in sub-Saharan west Africa, is an active volcano. Mount Cameroon near the coast, is the highest elevation in the country.

The country is a mixture of desert plains and savannah in the north, mountains in the central regions and tropical rainforest in the south and east.

The western highlands are the most fertile in Cameroon and have a relatively healthy environment in higher altitudes. This region is densely populated and has intensive agriculture, commerce, cohesive communities, and historical emigration pressures.

Cameroon is triangular in shape. A coastal strip 10 to 50 mi (16–80 km) wide in the southwest is covered with swamps and dense tropical rain forests; it has one of the wettest climates in the world, with an average annual rainfall of 152 in. (386 cm) on the coast.

Near the coast are volcanic peaks, dominated by Mount  Cameroon (13,354 ft/4,070 m), the highest point in the country. Beyond the coastal marshes and plains, the land rises to a densely forested plateau c.1,000 ft (300 m) above sea level.

The interior of the country is a plateau c.2,500 to 4,000 ft (760–1,220 m) high, where forests give way to savanna. This plateau forms a barrier between the agricultural south and the pastoral north. The extreme northern regions, near Lake Chad, are dry thornbush lands. Among the many rivers that drain Cameroon are the Bénoué, the Wuori, the Sanaga, and the Nyong.

Bantu migrations into eastern, southern, and central Africa are believed to have originated about 2,000 years ago. Bamileke people from this area have in recent years migrated to towns elsewhere in Cameroon, such as the coastal provinces, where they form much of the business community. About 20,000 non-Africans, including more than 6,000 French and 2,400 U. S. citizens, reside in Cameroon.

The country consists of the former French Cameroons and the southern portion of the former British Cameroons. The French, or eastern, section constitutes four fifths of the country and supports the bulk of the population.

People

With more than 250 ethnic groups, Cameroon has one of the most diverse populations in Africa. Bantu-speaking peoples, such as the Douala, predominate along the southern coast and in the forested areas. In the highlands are the Bamiléké. Important northern groups include the Fulani and the Kirdi.

About half of the people follow traditional beliefs, while one third are Christian and the rest are Muslim; Islam is the dominant religion of the northern regions.

Cameroon's estimated 250 ethnic groups form five large regional-cultural groups: western highlanders (or grassfielders), including the Bamileke, Bamoun, and many smaller entities in the northwest (est. 38% of population); coastal tropical forest peoples, including the Bassa, Douala, and many smaller entities in the Southwest (12%); southern tropical forest peoples, including the Ewondo, Bulu, and Fang (all Beti subgroups), Maka and Pygmies (officially called Bakas) (18%); predominantly Islamic peoples of the northern semi-arid regions (the Sahel) and central highlands, including the Fulani, also known as Peuhl in French (14%); and the "Kirdi", non-Islamic or recently Islamic peoples of the northern desert and central highlands (18%).

The people concentrated in the southwest and northwest provinces--around Buea and Bamenda--use standard English and "pidgin," as well as their local languages. In the three northern provinces--Adamaoua, North, and Far North--French and Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani, are widely spoken.

Elsewhere, French is the principal language, although pidgin and some local languages such as Ewondo, the dialect of a Beti clan from the Yaounde area, also are widely spoken. Although Yaounde is Cameroon's capital, Douala is the largest city, main seaport, and main industrial and commercial center.

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009