Recent History of Cameroon

President Biya established an authoritarian rule and implemented conservative fiscal policies. Opposition to his regime endured after a failed coup attempt in 1984, and his critics called for more substantive democratic reform. An increase in oil revenues resulted in greater investment in agriculture and education, but the collapse of world oil prices in 1986 prompted a variety of austerity measures.

In 1985 the CNU changed its name to the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM). Following a prolonged nationwide strike in 1990, Biya ended one-party rule and initiated a multiparty system. In the nation's first democratic elections, held in 1992, Biya again won the presidency, but the result was tainted by widespread charges of fraud, and violent protests followed.

Various IMF and World Bank programs initiated in the 1990s to spur the economy met with mixed results, and privatization of state industry lagged. Critics accused the government of mismanagement and corruption. In recent years the English-speaking inhabitants of the former British provinces have sought autonomy or a return to federal government.

In the 1990s, tensions increased between Cameroon and Nigeria over competing claims to the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea, and clashes occurred in 1994 and 1996. Biya was reelected in 1997; however, his refusal to allow an independent board to organize the vote prompted the country's three main opposition parties to boycott the elections.

In 2002, the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Cameroon in its territorial disputes with Nigeria. These long-simmering disputes - particularly that over the Bakassi peninsula - are strategically important to both countries as they include oil-rich territories. Nigeria has slowly and reluctantly begun to comply with the decision.

The areas near Lake Chad were swapped late in 2003, and a new border established. The more politically sensitive Bakassi decision was slow to be implemented, but after a 2006 agreement transfer of the region to Cameroon was initiated in Aug., 2006; Nigerian administration of the entire peninsula will be ended after a two-year transition period.

Biya was returned to office in 2004 with 75% of the vote. Many foreign observers called the election democratic, but journalists said the turnout appeared low despite the government claim that it was 79%. Opposition politicians and other Cameroonians accused the government of vote-rigging.

The country has also encountered a number of environmental problems. In 1986, a volcanic lake that discharged poisonous gases killed 1,700 people. In 2001, the organisation Global Forest Watch reported that 80 percent of Cameroon’s forests were allocated for logging.

Most recently in January 2007, there was an oil leak from a pipeline linking Chad and Cameroon. The construction of the pipeline has been criticised by several environmental and human rights groups.

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009