Cameroon is a nation in west-central Africa. Its official name is the Republic of Cameroon. It is bounded on the west and north by Nigeria, on the northeast by Chad, on the east by the Central African Republic, and on the south by Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. Its shoreline is located on the Bight of Biafra, which is part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. Because of its important location at the crossroads of West and Central Africa, the nation is sometimes referred to as West African and other times as Central African. Its almost 25 million inhabitants speak 250 different languages.
The Sao civilization near Lake Chad and the Baka hunter-gatherers in the southeastern jungle were early residents of the region. In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers reached the shore and dubbed the place Rio dos Camarões (Shrimp River), which became Cameroon in English. In the nineteenth century, Fulani troops built the Adamawa Emirate in the north, while numerous ethnic groups in the west and northwest established strong chiefdoms and fondoms. Cameroon became a German colony known as Kamerun in 1884. Following World War I, it was partitioned into League of Nations mandates for France and the United Kingdom. The political group Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) desired independence but was proscribed by France in the 1950s, sparking a national liberation insurrection waged between French and UPC militant troops until early 1971. The French-administered region of Cameroon gained independence in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon, led by President Ahmadou Ahidjo. In 1961, it merged with the southern half of British Cameroons to become the Federal Republic of Cameroon. In 1972, the federation was disbanded. In 1972, the nation was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon, and in 1984, it was renamed the Republic of Cameroon. The current president, Paul Biya, has governed the country since 1982, after Ahidjo's resignation; he previously served as prime minister from 1975 to 1982. Cameroon is ruled by a presidential unitary republic.
Cameroon's official languages are French and English, which are also the official languages of former French Cameroons and British Cameroons. Its religious population is mostly Christian, with a sizable Muslim minority and some professing traditional religions. Tensions have arisen in the English-speaking areas, where politicians have called for further decentralization and even outright separation or independence (as in the Southern Cameroons National Council). Tensions in the English-speaking areas over the establishment of an Ambazonian state erupted into outright combat in 2017.
A large proportion of Cameroonians are subsistence farmers. Because of its physical, linguistic, and cultural richness, the nation is frequently described to as "Africa in small." Beaches, deserts, mountains, jungles, and savannas are among its natural characteristics. Mount Cameroon in the Southwest Region has the highest peak at over 4,100 meters (13,500 feet). Douala on the Wouri River, its commercial capital and principal seaport; Yaoundé, its political capital; and Garoua are its most populous cities. Cameroon is highly recognized for its indigenous music forms, including Makossa and Bikutsi, as well as its strong national football team. It is a member of the African Union, the UN, the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the Commonwealth of Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.