Cameroon, Republic of (Fr. République du Cameroun)
- Gerhard Kubik
(Fr. République du Cameroun)
Country in West Africa. It has an area of 475,440 km² and a population of 15·13 million (2000 estimate). The national languages are French and English, reflecting colonial legacy. Cameroon was a German protectorate until 1916, after which time four-fifths of the territory became a French mandate, and the remainder formed a British mandate. The French administration granted the territory independence in 1960 and the British in 1961, forming a joint territory.
Geographically, and in its ethnic and linguistic divisions, Cameroon is extremely varied. Dense tropical forests extend from the Atlantic coast to the south-eastern borders. The coastal and southern populations, for example the Duala, Beti, Bulu and Fang (Faŋ), and several ‘pygmy’ groups (notably in the area of Yokadouma), all speak Bantu languages. Among populations in the centre, from the Bamenda Highlands grassland in the west to Bétare Oya in the east, there is a patchwork of languages historically classified as ‘semi-Bantu’ or ‘bantoid’, but now grouped together with other Bantu languages as part of the greater Benue-Congo family. Further north, on the Adamawa plateau, long-established millet agriculturalists such as the Kutin (Peere), Chamba (Samba Leko) and others speak Adamawa-Eastern languages, as do the Gbaya on the eastern border. The FulBe (Fulɓe, Fulani or Fula) who migrated to the Adamawa area in the 19th century speak a West Atlantic language. Languages of the Chadic family in northernmost Cameroon are spoken by mountain dwellers such as the Matakam, and Saharan languages (e.g. Kanuri), are found among peoples living near Lake Chad in the north....