Cameroon






Culture Name

Cameroonian

Orientation

Identification. The name of the country derives from the term used for the Wouri River by Portuguese explorers. Reaching the Cameroon coast near the modern port city of Douala around 1472, those explorers named the river Rio dos Camaroes ("River of Prawns") after the variety of crayfish they found there. This name later was applied to the coastal area between Mount Cameroon and Rio Muni.

Cameroon has distinct regional cultural, religious, and political traditions as well as ethnic variety. The division of the country into British- and French-ruled League of Nations mandates after World War I created Anglophone and Francophone regions. The English-speaking region consists of the Southwest and Northwest provinces, where Pidgin English (Wes Cos) is the lingua franca and English is taught in school. The educational system and legal practices derive from those of England. The French-speaking region consists of the remaining eight provinces, where French is the lingua franca, the French school system is used, and the legal system is based on the statutory law of continental Europe. This region is dominant in numbers and power. Tension between the two regions increased after the introduction of a multiparty political system in the 1990s.

The English-speaking region is divided into two cultural regions. The Grassfields peoples of the Northwest Province consist of nearly one hundred chiefdoms each ruled by a divine king (fon) . Most of these chiefdoms have patrilineal or dual descent kinship systems, although some groups, such as the Kom, are matrilineal. Polygyny and fertility are important cultural values, although this varies by wealth and education. The social organization and culture of the Grassfielders are closely related to those of the French-speaking Bamiléké peoples of the Western province. Like the Bamiléké, Grassfielders often are in opposition to the central government.

The peoples of the Southwest province had less hierarchical systems of governance and social organization. The British appointed warrant chiefs to aid their colonial rule, and in many instances the population rallied behind those chiefs in the postcolonial period. The peoples of the Southwest province include the Bakweri, who live along the slopes of Mount Cameroon. The Bakweri practice rites of healing and initiation in associations of spirit mediums that distinguish between male and female roles and between village and bush.

In the French-speaking area, the largely Muslim north is culturally distinct from the largely Christian and animist south. The northern area includes three provinces: Adamoua, North, and Extreme North. Since the jihad led by an Islamic cleric in 1804, the northern region has been culturally dominated by the Fulani. Urban Fulani are renowned as clerics in the Sunni branch of Islam. Most Fulani are cattle herders. An important subgroup are the Bororo'en, noted for the size of their cattle herds. With their Hausa colleagues, they engage in long-distance trade involving cattle. Other northern ethnic groups include the Mandara, Kokoto, and Arab Choa. Major crops include cotton and millet.

Most of the southern peoples are Christian or engage in traditional, animist religious practices. The Center, South, and East provinces are characterized by dense tropical rain forest. The Center and South are culturally dominated by the Beti peoples, which include the Ewondo, Eton, and Bulu, and are linguistically and culturally related to the Fang of Gabon. They are patrilineal, grow root crops and peanuts for their own consumption, and grow cocoa as a cash crop. The Ewondo were early converts to Catholicism. The current president is Bulu, and many prominent authors are Beti. Peoples in the East include the Maka and Gbaya, both with relatively egalitarian forms of social organization in

Cameroon
Cameroon
which reciprocity is a key value. Forestry and tobacco farming are important sources of income. The East province is also home to the Baka, a tropical forest forager (pygmy) group of about thirty thousand to forty thousand living in small camps that exchange forest products with nearby farmers. The Littoral province is in the coastal rain forest region in the southwest. It includes the largest city, the port of Douala, and the industrial, hydroelectric, and bauxite mining area near Edea. The major ethnic groups are the Duala and Bassa.

The southern part of the French-speaking area includes the high plateau region of the West province, which includes the Bamiléké and Bamoun peoples. Both are culturally similar to the Grassfielders. The Bamiléké constitute roughly 25 percent of the population. In rich volcanic soils they grow food crops and coffee. The population is dense, and the Bamiléké served as a labor reserve population in the twentieth century, resulting in large, entrepreneurial urban émigré population. The large urban population is prominent in commerce and higher education. Since the conversion of Sultan Njoya to Islam early in the twentieth century, the Bamoun have been a largely Muslim people. Sultan Njoya, a man of unusual intellect, developed an original alphabet and wrote a history of his people and dynasty.

A sense of a common national culture has been created through shared history, schooling, national holidays and symbols, and enthusiasm for soccer. However, ethnic distinctiveness remains, and ethnic identity became an increasingly important source of social capital during the 1990s.

Location and Geography. Cameroon is situated by the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa. Its area is 179,527 square miles (465,000 square kilometers). Nigeria lies to the west, Chad and the Central African Republic to the east, and the People's Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon to the south. The climate is hot and humid in the forested south and west, cooler in the highland Grassfields region of the West and Northwest provinces, and hotter and drier in the savanna and sahel of the north. The capital, Yaoundé, is in the Center province. It has experienced rapid growth and increasing strife between immigrant groups (particularly the Bamiléké) and the native Beti.

Demography. The population in 1987 was 10,498,655; it was estimated to be nearly 14 million in 1997. In 1987, 46 percent of the population was under fifteen years old. The population is growing at an average annual rate of almost 3 percent, with declining mortality and high fertility. Thirty-eight percent of the population lives in urban centers.

There are no reliable population figures for the major cultural groups. The Bamiléké account for approximately 25 percent of the total population, and northerners, including the Fulani, approximately 20 percent. These two groups also have the highest fertility rates.

Linguistic Affiliation. French and English are the official languages. The approximately two hundred fifty local languages include Ewondo and Bulu, Duala, the Bamiléké languages, and Fulfulde. Among the less educated, the Wes Cos dialect of Pidgin English functions as a lingua franca in the English-speaking area and in many neighborhoods in Douala. Both French and English are taught in school, but only those with a secondary education are fluent in both. Most people speak at least one local language and one official language, and many people are multilingual.

Symbolism. The flag has three equal vertical stripes of green, red, and yellow, with a five-pointed gold star in the center of the red stripe. The stripes represent the three major geographic areas: green for the rain forest, red for the laterite soils of the savanna, and yellow for the sands of the sahel. The national anthem begins with the words O Cameroun, berceau de nos ancetres ("Oh, Cameroon, cradle of our ancestors"), reflecting the importance of ancestors and kinship and the desire to forge an imagined community with a common ancestry. The feeling of national unity is strongest among schoolchildren and has been stressed since the end of the cold war.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Before colonization, Cameroon was a territory of diverse climatic zones populated by a variety of peoples and polities. The Muslim states in the north traded with trans-Saharan merchants and Arabic peoples. The coastal peoples in the south traded with Portuguese and Dutch seafarers beginning in the late fifteenth century. In 1884, Cameroon became a German protectorate (Kamerun). The Germans were defeated by British and French forces in 1916, and the territory was divided between those nations in 1916. In 1922, the French and British zones became League of Nations mandates, with the French controlling over 80 percent of the national territory. Those zones were transformed into United Nations Trusteeships in 1946. The frontier between the French and British zones cut through the territories of several ethnic groups, particularly the Bamiléké and Grassfields peoples of the western highlands. This later served as an impetus for the reunification of those zones at the time of independence. French Cameroon (Cameroun) became independent in 1960, and after a plebiscite in 1961, British Cameroon gained independence. The southern part of the British territory joined the Federal Republic of Cameroon, while the northern part, ethnically united with the Hausa-city states, joined Nigeria. In 1965, Cameroon came under single-party rule. It was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 and the Republic of Cameroon in 1984.

National Identity. A national culture was first formed by external powers through colonization. Even regional cultural differences emerged originally during the periods of mandate and trusteeship. A sentiment of common national identity is particularly strong in major institutions of socialization such as schools and during international soccer matches, visits by foreign dignitaries, and times of international dispute. Ahmadou Ahidjo, a Muslim from the northern city of Guider, who was president from independence until 1982, attempted to foster national integration by posting civil servants to areas outside their ethnic homelands. His successor, Paul Biya, is a Catholic of the Bulu (Beti) people of the South province. In 1983 and 1984, alleged coup attempts by those loyal to Ahidjo led to martial law and ethnic tensions between groups in the northern and southern regions. Since the legalization of multiparty politics in 1992, political parties have been increasingly associated with specific ethnic groups or regions.

Ethnic Relations. In addition to regional and ethnic distinctions, coalitions and tensions exist on a local level. People from the northern areas are collectively referred to as "northerners" by their southern compatriots and share some cultural attributes related to their Islamic religion. Anglophone and Francophone peoples of the Grassfields (Grassfielders, Bamiléké, and Bamoun) share common attributes and have practiced their own interchiefdom diplomacy for several centuries. In February 1992, violence between the Arab Choa and Kokoto ethnic groups during voter registration led to the death of more than one hundred people. Violence reemerged two years later, leading over one thousand people to seek refuge in Chad. In the Grassfields of the Northwest and Western provinces, interdependence and conflict between farmers and grazers coincide with ethnicity. The ethnicization of party politics and the increasing importance of ethnicity in relation to economic claims have led to conflicts between "autochthonous" (indigenous) and migrant populations.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The major cities include Douala (the shipping and industrial center), Yaoundé (the capital), Nkongsamba (the end point of the railroad through the southern plantations of the colonial period), Maroua and Garoua, Bafoussam and Bamenda (the provincial capitals of the West and Northwest provinces), Kumba, and Limbe. Yaoundé has several monuments to national unity.

Most villages and small towns in rural areas have a marketplace in a central location that may house a weekly, biweekly, or daily market, depending on their size. Most markets have separate areas for women's products (produce and palm oil), and men's products (livestock and bush meat). Official buildings are often located near these markets or along the central axis leading through smaller towns.

Architecture varies by region. In the rain forest and the Grassfields, poto-poto (earthen plaster on a wooden frame) and mud brick rectangular buildings roofed in palm thatch or corrugated iron are common. Traditional Grassfields architecture was constructed of "bamboo" (the spines of raffia palm fronds); square or rectangular buildings with sliding doors were topped by conical thatched roofs. The doorposts of royalty had elaborate carvings. Traditional architecture in the north includes round mud buildings crowned in thatch. Walled compounds usually include a separate granary. Throughout the nation, structures built of concrete bricks, corrugated iron roofs, and iron grillwork have replaced other forms of housing.

Much of daily life occurs in public areas such as the courtyards of polygynous compounds. Privacy is often suspect, especially among peoples with a strong belief in malevolent and occult powers.

Food and Economy

Read more about the Food and Cuisine of Cameroon.

Food in Daily Life. The sharing of cooked food is one of the major ways to cement social relationships and express the high value placed on human company. Sharing food and drink demonstrates hospitality and trust. Social support networks among kin and friends, particularly between country folk and their urban relatives, are held together symbolically with gifts of cooked and uncooked

An initiation ritual of a Bwiti cult in Cameroon. The ritual involves the use of the psychotropic drug iboga, and represents a journey to the land of the dead.
An initiation ritual of a Bwiti cult in Cameroon. The ritual involves the use of the psychotropic drug iboga, and represents a journey to the land of the dead.
food. Sacks of beans, maize, or peanuts "from home" can be seen on the roofs of bush taxis traveling between the countryside and urban centers.

Meals consist of a cooked cereal or root staple accompanied by a sauce or stew. In the southern areas, the major staples are root crops such as cassava and cocoyams, and plantains; in the moist savanna and Grassfields, maize and plantains; and in the arid north, sorghum and millet. Rice and pasta have become popular. Staples may be boiled, pounded, or fried; most commonly they are made into a thick porridge shaped into oblong balls. Sauces usually have a base of palm oil and ground peanuts. Vegetables such as greens, okra, and squashes are common. Hot peppers, onions, ginger, and tomatoes are popular condiments. Dried or fresh fish or meat may be included in the sauce. Uncooked fruits such as bananas, mangoes, papayas, oranges, and avocados are popular snacks and desserts; they are not considered part of meals.

In many regions, men and guests eat before women and children. Hand washing is part of the etiquette of meals. Whether from a separate dish or a common pot, a small ball of porridge is formed by three fingers of the right hand and then dipped in sauce. Westernization has led families to eat together around a common table, using separate place settings and cutlery.

Food taboos vary by ethnic group. The Bassa of the Littoral province serve a gourmet dish of viper steaks in black sauce, but only the oldest males among the Ewondo (Beti) of the Center province may eat viper. Totems of specific clans, healers, or royal dynasties are taboo to certain members of some ethnic groups.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At the visit of an honored guest, a wedding, or a funeral, a chicken, goat, sheep, or steer is served to guests. Special drinks, such as palm wine and millet beer as well as bottled carbonated drinks, beer, and wine are served at these occasions. Among the Bamiléké, as part of coronation festivities, the newly installed paramount chief ceremoniously serves each subject a handful of beans mixed with palm oil to symbolize the chief's ability to ensure food and fertility in his realm.

Basic Economy. The country is basically self-sufficient in food, although the distribution of food is variable. Seasonal famines occur in the arid north. Per capita gross national product (GNP) was $610 in 1996. From 1990 to 1996, the GNP declined and it has shown slight increases since that time. Cameroon has a trade surplus but is burdened by debt. Agriculture, including the production of food and cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, and cotton, employs almost two-thirds of the labor force. Many people produce mainly for themselves, selling the "surplus" at local markets.

Land Tenure and Property. Among the Fulani, land is inherited patrilineally. In the Grassfields, land is held by fons, with use rights devolving to specific patrilineages and matrilineages. Throughout the country, the privatization of land tenure is increasing. Access to private land titles depends on money, understanding of the bureaucracy, and connections. Women, the main producers of food crops, are often at a disadvantage when land is privatized.

Commercial Activities. In the towns, there are grocery and dry goods stores. Restaurants and bars, taxis, and domestic labor involve an increasing proportion of the labor force.

Major Industries. Major industries include mining and aluminum processing, forestry, and the manufacture of beverages. Petroleum is a significant source of national income.

Trade. Wood, coffee, cocoa, cotton, and palm oil are the principal exports. The trading partners are France, Nigeria, the United States, and Germany. Principle imports include consumption goods; semifinished goods; minerals; industrial and transportation equipment; and food, beverages, and tobacco.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is determined largely by formal education (for civil servants) and gender. There is some specialization by ethnic group such as herding by Fulani, the butchering and meat trade by Hausa, and transportation by Bamiléké.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There is a high degree of social inequality. Among the Fulani, Grassfielders, Bamiléké, and Bamoun the traditional social organization included hierarchical relations between members of groups with different status (royalty, nobility, commoners, and slaves). Other ethnic groups have a more egalitarian social organization in which age and gender are the major factors in social stratification. New forms of social inequality based on access to political power and level of formal education coexist with indigenous forms of stratification. Although a cosmopolitan lifestyle has developed among the wealthy and the intelligentsia, markers of cultural distinctiveness and obligation to kin and ethnic compatriots remain. Regional differences in wealth also exist: the far northern and eastern areas have less access to wealth and infrastructure.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Housing styles differ by class, in both urban and rural areas. The wealthiest people have concrete houses painted in bright colors and surrounded by high walls. Those houses have flower gardens and interior furnishings such as upholstered furniture and armoires. The poorest people live in mud houses with thatched or corrugated iron roofs, sparsely furnished with beds and stools made of local materials. Styles of dress also vary by class; the wealthiest can afford Italian leather shoes to accompany the latest European and African wardrobes, while poorer people wear cloth wrappers and secondhand European-style clothing. The wealthiest tend to speak French or English even at home, while the poorest speak local languages and Pidgin English.

Political Life

Government. Since the 1992 amendment of the constitution, Cameroon has been a multiparty state. Executive power is held by the president, who serves for seven years and, since 1992, for a maximum of two terms.

Leadership and Political Officials. The twenty-seven-year period of single party rule left a legacy of an authoritarian political culture. At the national level, government leadership resides in the president and his cabinet. On the local level, the prefet (district officer) and sous-prefet are the most powerful administrative officials. Positions in government are determined through a combination of know-how, party loyalty, and ethnic and regional background. In many areas, local and national forms of leadership coexist. For example, the chiefdoms of the Northwest and West provinces form states within a state, with fons sharing power with government officials. Some chiefs served as rallying points for opposition groups during the political crises of the 1990s.

Social Problems and Control. There are several police forces, including internal security police, gendarmes, and military police. The legal system combines the case law system of the British with the statutory law system of the French. Theft is a common

Many Cameroonians have a highly stratified social structure. The intricately beaded calabashes (gourds) and carvings indicate this tribal king's royal status.
Many Cameroonians have a highly stratified social structure. The intricately beaded calabashes (gourds) and carvings indicate this tribal king's royal status.
crime, and the U.S. State Department issues regular warnings about bandits in the tourist regions of the northern provinces. Local chiefs serve as justices of the peace and receive a small salary. Officially, criminal law is no longer in their jurisdiction, although they often settle disputes regarding theft, trespass, and personal injury or assault via witchcraft.

Customary law combined forms of dispute resolution ranging from rituals of reconciliation to banning and capital punishment. A combination of discussion and the use of oracles still is used in most cultures. Since the colonial era, the jurisdiction of local chiefs and councils has eroded. Informal social control mechanisms include gossip, ostracism, and fear of occult, ancestral, or divine retribution for wrongdoings.

Military Activity. Cameroon has a bilateral defense agreement with France. In the 1980s and

A woman carrying water back to her home to help care for and feed her family.
A woman carrying water back to her home to help care for and feed her family.
1990s, the military was involved in border disputes with Nigeria regarding the Bakassi peninsula.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government sponsors many social welfare programs, largely through the community development and extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly involved in social welfare and the development of civil society. Their importance has increased as government functions have been cut back during a period of economic and political crisis.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Most NGOs fall into one of two types: those with a focus on social problems such as AIDS awareness, condom distribution, and street children; and ethnic development associations that link urban migrants with their home villages, build hospitals, schools, and bridges "back home," and organize urban ethnic festivals. Ethnic associations often are organized as rotating credit associations, building on a long tradition of mutual aid in both rural and urban areas. They reflect the increasing importance of ethnicity in national and local politics.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In most areas, women are responsible for feeding their families. They grow staple food crops, while men clear the land and provide meat, oil, and salt. Men grow the cash crops. Among the pastoral populations, men herd the livestock and women process dairy products.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In general, men have higher social status than women. They have more rights with regard to marriage, divorce, and land tenure within most local systems of social organization and more access to government bureaucracy and the courts. However, women may have informal power within households, enforced through their control of subsistence activities and their role as conduits to female ancestors. Many women are prominent in higher education and government ministries.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Among many ethnic groups, first marriages historically were arranged with varying degrees of veto power by the potential bride and groom, but individual choice stressing companionship is becoming more common. Most southern groups prefer exogamous marriage, while the Fulani tend to be endogamous. Polygyny is a goal within many groups but is not always financially attainable. Some women prefer small-scale polygyny for the company and mutual aid a co-wife might provide.

Domestic Unit. Domestic organization varies widely throughout Cameroon. Rural polygynous compounds are composed of a male head of a household surrounded by his wives and their children. Wives and children usually sleep in separate dwellings within the compound. In both urban and rural areas, child-rearing by a close relative (a kind of foster arrangement) is common.

Inheritance. The organization of kinship varies widely, as do local rules of inheritance. The inheritance of land is often separated from that of movable property. The inheritance of wives may serve as a form of old-age insurance for women without grown children, since marriage provides access to land. Among many groups, traditional titles and honors may be inherited.

Kin Groups. Most northern groups, such as the Fulani, are patrilineal. The kinship organization of most Grassfielders, Bamiléké, and Bamoun is variously described as patrilineal or dual descent. The Kom of the Grassfields are a notable matrilineal exception. Most forest peoples are patrilineal.

Socialization

Infant Care. Child bearing is highly valued, and infants are given a great deal of daily and ritual attention. Generally, infants are kept close to the mother and breast fed on demand. Once they can hold the head upright, they are carried by siblings. Infants generally sleep with their mothers. The arrival of a baby is the occasion for visits during which the newborn is cuddled, bounced, bathed, and spoken to.

Child Rearing and Education. Beliefs and practices concerning child rearing vary by ethnic group. Commonalities include the importance of learning by example and through play and imitation of the tasks of adults. Children are taught to observe astutely but remain reserved and prudent in what they report. Remembering one's ancestors, elders, and origins is an increasing concern of parents whose children spend long hours in public schools and often leave their homelands to find work in urban centers and on industrial plantations.

Since independence, the country has achieved a high level of school attendance. Primary enrollment in 1994 included 88 percent of children. Secondary education is much less common (27 percent), with boys attending secondary school more frequently than girls. Instruction is in French and English, although the second national language usually is introduced only in secondary school. Primary education lasts for six years in Francophone areas and seven years in Anglophone areas. Secondary education lasts for an additional seven years. School attendance is highest in the cities, especially Yaoundé and Douala, and lowest in rural areas. Despite the relatively high level of school attendance, 21 percent of men and 35 percent of women had no formal education in 1998.

Higher Education. While less than 3 percent of men and 1 percent of women attend institutions of higher learning, advanced study is widely regarded as a route to upward mobility. Originally, the University of Yaoundé was the only comprehensive university, while regional universities specialized in particular subject areas. Yaoundé also housed the University Centre for Health Sciences, a medical school servicing several African countries. In the 1990s, the University of Yaoundé was broken up into several campuses, each devoted to a different field of study. The regional universities became more comprehensive, leading to some decentralization in higher education. Many people pursue a doctoral degree overseas.

Etiquette

Greetings, use of proper names, and use of praise names are important parts of daily etiquette in many regions of Cameroon. At meetings, each person should be greeted by name or with a handshake. Serving and graciously receiving food is an important symbol of hospitality and trust throughout the country. Respect is accorded to elders throughout Cameroon. Protocol regarding speaking and seating during an audience with a chief is highly developed in regions with hierarchically organized cultures (Fulani, Bamiléké, Banoun, and Grassfields).

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Cameroonians have a variety of religious beliefs, and many individuals combine beliefs and practices of world religions with those of their own culture groups. Approximately 53 percent of the population are members of Christian denominations, about 25 percent practice mainly "traditional" religions, and approximately 22 percent are Muslim. Most Christians live in the southern areas, and most Muslims in the north. Christian missions constituted an informal second layer of colonialism.

Traditional religions are systems of practices and beliefs that adapt to changing social conditions. Most involve the veneration of ancestors and the belief that people, animals, and natural objects are invested with spiritual power.

Religious Practitioners. In addition to Christian and Muslim clerics, religious practitioners include the ritual specialists of cultural groups. These specialists may be political leaders, spirit mediums, or healers. Their spiritual power may be inherited, learned, or acquired through their own affliction and healing. Generally, they combine their religious activities with other forms of livelihood.

Rituals and Holy Places. For Muslims, a pilgrimage to Mecca is a source of honor. Among animists, holy places often include sacred trees or groves, unusual rock formations, and the burial places of ancestors. These places are often sites of propitiatory

A Bamiléké tribesman wearing a mask during a traditional ritual in Cameroon.
A Bamiléké tribesman wearing a mask during a traditional ritual in Cameroon.
offerings to ancestors or spirits. Offerings include special foods, palm oil, libations of palm wine, and chickens. Among the monarchies of the Grassfields, sacred places include sites of former palaces where rituals that promote fertility and good fortune for the chiefdom are performed.

Death and the Afterlife. Several cultures, including the Bamiléké in the west and the Maka in the east, practice divination and/or perform public autopsies to determine the cause of death. These peoples are particularly concerned with death caused by witchcraft. In many cultures, a death is announced through public wailing by women. Grassfields peoples bury their dead quickly but observe a week of public mourning called cry-die. Close relatives shave their heads. Approximately a year later, lavish death celebrations honor the deceased, who has become an ancestor. Death provides the occasion for the most important ceremonies of the forest forager groups (Baka, Kola, and Medzan). The forest spirit is believed to participate in death ceremonies by dancing under a raffia mask. The honoring and veneration of ancestors are common to nearly all

Cameroonian dancers from the Mabeas tribe. Dance is an essential part of many celebrations such as weddings and coronations.
Cameroonian dancers from the Mabeas tribe. Dance is an essential part of many celebrations such as weddings and coronations.
groups. Ancestors may be remembered in oral literature (the Fulani), buried in elaborate tombs in the family courtyard (Catholic Ewondo), or reburied and provided offerings of prayer, food, and shelter (the Bamiléké). The Fulani, like other Muslims, believe in an afterlife of material rewards for those who obey Allah's laws.

Medicine and Health Care

Health care consists of biomedical treatment, traditional practices (often closely bound to traditional religion), and Islamic medicine in various combinations that depend on belief, cost, proximity, and the advice of kin and neighbors.

Biomedical health care facilities are provided through the national government and Christian missions as well as by private physicians. There are health centers, maternal child health centers (offering prenatal, childbirth, well-baby, and under-five care), and private, general, and central hospitals. In rural health centers, nurses often play a direct role in diagnosis and treatment, and perform surgical operations. Pharmacists are an important source of biomedical advice. Vendors of prescription medicines also give advice to patients and their families, although their understanding of disease may differ from that of physicians and pharmacists.

Traditional practitioners include herbalists, bone setters, diviners, and ritual specialists who may supplicate spirits or ancestors. These practitioners adapt to changing conditions by incorporating new ideas and medicines into their practices. There has been a tendency toward the predominance of herbalists and individual treatment and away from the use of ritual specialists and community-wide treatments. Many practitioners specialize in the treatment of particular afflictions. Patients readily consult practitioners from different cultural groups.

The Islamic medical system is derived from Arabic and Greco-Roman sources. These medical practitioners not only are important sources of treatment for northern Muslims but also are popular among other peoples. Many non-Muslims seek protection from evil by displaying symbols of Islamic blessings in their houses.

Secular Celebrations

Secular celebrations such as New Year (1 January), Youth Day (11 February), Labor Day (1 May), and National Day (20 May) include public parades involving public officials, party loyalists dressed in commemorative cloth with party insignia, and schoolchildren as well as dance troupes.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists are mostly self-supporting, although 7 percent of the national budget was devoted to recreational and cultural activities in 1996 and 1997.

Literature. The Fulani are known for their oral literature, including poetry, history, stories, legends, proverbs, magic formulas, and riddles. Since the colonial period, written literature has had a strong history in the southern areas. Ewondo and Douala authors have contributed classics to modern African literature.

Graphic Arts. Many groups produce pottery, textiles, and sculptures that are used as everyday household objects. Grassfielders (including the Bamiléké and Bamoun) are noted for blue and white royal display cloth, elaborately beaded calabashes, and sculptures that include royal reliquaries. The Bamoun are known for lost-wax bronze sculptures. The graphic arts of pastoral groups such as Fulani and Hausa are largely related to cattle herding.

Performance Arts. Music and dance styles are essential to the celebration of funerals, weddings, and succession to high office.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

In addition to the university system, there are a number of institutions of applied and basic research in the physical and social sciences. Many are run and funded in coordination with the research institutions of donor countries, the United Nations, or NGOs. Social sciences are popular among university students. Because of insufficient library resources, students have formed their own organizations to create subject-specific libraries that are completely student-run.

Bibliography

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Bailey, Robert C., Serge Bahuchet, and Barry S. Hewlett. "Development in the Central African Rainforest: Concern for Forest Peoples." In K. Cleaver, et al., eds. Conservation of West and Central African Rainforests, 1992.

Bayart, J.-F. The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly, 1993.

Dugast, I. Inventaire ethnique du Sud-Cameroun, 1949.

Feldman-Savelsberg, P. Plundered Kitchens, Empty Wombs: Threatened Reproduction and Identity in the Cameroon Grassfields, 1999.

Fotso, M. et al. Enquête Démographique et de Santé, 1998.

Geschiere, P. The Modernity of Witchcraft: Politics and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa, 1998.

Goheen, M. Men Own the Fields, Women Own the Crops: Gender and Power in the Cameroon Grassfields, 1996.

Konings, P. and F. B. Nyamnjoh. "The Anglophone Problem in Cameroon." Journal of Modern African Studies 35 (2): 207–229, 1996.

LeVine, V., and R. P. Nye. Historical Dictionary of Cameroon, 1974.

Njoya, I. M. Historire et Coutumes des Bamum, 1951.

Nkwi, P. N. and A. Socpa. "Ethnicity and Party Politics in Cameroon: The Politics of Divide and Rule." In P. N. Nkwi and F. B. Nyamnjoh, eds. Regional Balance and National Integration in Cameroon, 1997.

Riesman, Paul. Freedom in Fulani Social Life: An Introspective Ethnography, 1977.

Salamone, Frank A. "Colonialism and the emergence of Fulani ethnicity." Journal of Asian and African Studies 20: 170–201, 1985.

Schultz, Emily A. Image and Reality in African Interethnic Relations: The Fulbe and Their Neighbors, 1981.

—P AMELA F ELDMAN -S AVELSBERG



User Contributions:

shannon fox
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Oct 5, 2006 @ 5:17 pm
I had to so a presentation on the Baka tribe. This paper has everything I needed, it is insiteful and I thank you for it. You have made it easy to learn and understand the culture
Confidence
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Nov 26, 2006 @ 2:14 pm
I greatly appreciate this web site because it has helped me with some information on my presentation, but will like to plead that more information on how land tenure is being managed in Cameroon be included.Thanks
Shalla
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May 27, 2007 @ 11:11 am
Hello!! My name is Shalla, I'm 13 years old and I have to do this presentation on my origins.Cameroon.
I come from a very mixed familly. I was born and grew up in England and I have a French nationality.My Mom was born in France and then moved back to Cameroon, then she moved back to France and went to England.That is where she met my Dad.
My dad is from Zaire(Republic of Congo) and went to England because he has a band there and had to flee the country because of the war. He also HAD to learn how to speak English.
Then they had me.
My uncle lived in the USA;
My other uncle went to live in Cmeroon and then my other one is going to live in Norway for he has a girlfriend and his kids live there!!!!!!!!!

And there is much more to it!!
I just wanted to learn more about my original country and with help from your site , I have!!
THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH!!!!!
Erin
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Oct 12, 2007 @ 9:21 pm
This page was extremely helpful and a good jumping off point to learn more about this "Africa in miniature" country. When was this page last updated?
Ryan
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Oct 3, 2008 @ 8:08 am
Im writing a paper on beginnings of religion in cameroon this site is a great help for starting point.thank you for the detailed history and information,it is appreciated. thanks , ryan
Jaiz
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Oct 28, 2008 @ 11:11 am
I am from the US, and I recently found out my DNA can be traced back to the Bamileke people in Cameroon. I've been trying to find info about my ancestry and this site has been a great beginning to my journey. Thanks.
julie
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Jan 6, 2009 @ 1:01 am
i am camerounian, and thanks for the site, i had to prepare my presentation on bamil├ęke and i found a lot of informations that i will develop. great thanks
rita a tabe
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Jan 28, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
That was amazing.It was so precise and true, that anybody could understand and have a glance of cameroon at distance. However, i wish i could add more . Anywhere, thanks you guys who developed the patience and carefullness to described my beloved country.
Koka
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Feb 3, 2009 @ 2:02 am
THnx a lot! The easiest source! Was interesting to get abo' Cameroon!
French_Class
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Apr 23, 2009 @ 9:09 am
This is a great site, it helped me so much for a French cultural project :)
Yvonne
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Aug 11, 2009 @ 10:10 am
i am Yvy a cameroonian i needed to produce a guide to tourist on Cameroon this Africa in Miniature so i found this web and it was of great help but i would also love that you update the informations therein. thank you guys for such initiative.keep up and please update.Thanks
"K" 2da "M.O"
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Sep 13, 2009 @ 5:17 pm
yeah i had to prepare for an exposer on "cameroon can be regarded as a multicultural space" and i fell on this site.I really want to thank all those who worked on this project for giving me all the informations i needed to show the diversity and the oneness of my country.
GOD bless y'all.Peace

K 2da M.O
borris
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Oct 20, 2009 @ 11:23 pm
this website is much more better than wiki as a Cameroon i was stunned to have seen all of this which are actually true and i actually learned a couple of things i didnt about and i have a presentation project due tomorrow and your website will definitely help get this project done by tomorrow. I thank you guys for all the info on here and for also helping to spread my country's biography
Martina Ghakuh Yiyi
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Nov 7, 2009 @ 11:23 pm
I am a Cameroonian, but i live in Brazil. I am so happy about the information on this site about Cameroon, but there is one thing i do not understand. What about Bamenda, The northwestern part of Cameroon; is there nothing to be said about that part;
Thanks for the information anywhere, just that, it was so generalized.
SYLVIE
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Dec 18, 2009 @ 5:05 am
HEY,CONGRATULATIONS.NGOUM SYLVIE ARE MY NAMES AND I COME FROM BAFUT,NORTH WEST REGION.I THANK YOU ALL FOR THIS WORK.IT REALLY GIVES A CONCISE CLUE FOR STUDY TO ANYONE WHO WILL LIKE TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT CAMEROON.IF ONLY YOU COULD DO SOME UPDATES ESPECIALLY IN THE AREA OF CULTURE AND TRADITION THEN YOU WOULD HAVE CLOSE TO A PERFECT SCRIPT.yOU COULD ALSO GIVE SOME DETAILS AS WORK IS REALLY TOO GENERALISED.NOT WITHSTANDING YOU HAVE MADE SOMETHING AVAILABLE THAT CAN HELP ANYONE IN ANY FIELD OF LIFE.IM PREPARED TO CONTRIBUTE IF I GET SOMETHING USEFULL TO SHARE.REMAIN BLESSED,IM PROUD TO BE A CAMEROONIAN.STUDIES HAVE PUSHED ME TO DISCOVER YOU.IM GRATEFUL.
Monaca
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Jan 15, 2010 @ 1:01 am
This site has taught me so much. I am currently dateing a man that is from Cameroon who I love dearly. I always had so many qustions for him, that is until I came across this site. I am so amazed with the information that was provided. Thanks so much for helping me know and understand more about the love of my life and his culture.
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Apr 9, 2010 @ 10:10 am
I have been trying to write about why many cameroonians don't like Christianity? I am a student researcher. This document has been very useful but the only problem is that it has centralised. I could not get something from the North West Provinces. Is it that there is nothing good from the North West. I know Bamenda has a rich culture and christianity. Thank you so much.
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Aug 28, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
I'm Chinese. My boyfriend is Cameroonian. We met in China and we've been together for 6 years. We love each other very much. He went back to Cameroon which is supposed a short visit recently. Before he left we talked about getting married as soon as he cames back. But i lost contact with him after he told his dad about us. He seldom told me about his culture, or his family. I realized i don't know much about him. This website provides me info that i need to know but still not enough because it doesn't mention a lot about Bamenda where he's from. The culture about marrige and family obligation i learned from the article really makes me worry. That explains why he always has so many heavy burden keeping in his mind. I wish i could get to him soon. Thank you for the good work! Please update the info about Bamenda.
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Sep 28, 2010 @ 11:23 pm
This was very informative. Thank you for compiling the info on Cameroon.
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Oct 5, 2010 @ 2:14 pm
This is some realy good info for a school project yah think
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Jan 20, 2011 @ 10:10 am
it does not have the amout of parties in Cameroon but the information is good
Laura
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Mar 20, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
WOW!! Thank you SO much!! This thorough article has taught me so much.
I had to compare and contrast Cameroon to Sudan (I read the Sudan article as well), and this will help with my essay more than anything else.
Thanks again! AMAZING JOB!
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Mar 27, 2011 @ 9:09 am
Great article. I have a profound knack in intercepting information concerning Cameroon and this site is crucially helpful. I may wish to link this article to our blog - CAMEROON PURVEYOR. Thanks
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May 11, 2011 @ 9:09 am
Thanks a lot. These information are helpful. Blessings to you...
Tristan
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May 21, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
Thankyou so much! I have to do a presentation on a rainforest tribe and i chose the Baka. I have been searching the internet and library but there was nothing. Thankyou so much for your magnificent, useful resource. I have to include 18 categories and I think i owe it all to you. Thanks again.
Ndifor Richard
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Jun 5, 2011 @ 6:06 am
Dear sir,
I am a High school teacher of Government High School Buea, Cameroon. I am presently working on a textbook on citizenship education for schools in Cameroon. I have found the information on your article "Culture of Cameroon" quite resourceful. I write to find out how I can obtain permission to reproduce material from the article.

I will be very grateful if you respond to my mail.
Sincerely,
Ndifor.
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Jun 16, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
Thanks for this helpful website. There is one thing I would like to know and did not find. What would you say to an ill Francophone in Cameroon, in the same way that people in England say 'Get Well Soon'? And where does this originate from?
Thanks
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Jul 15, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
My mother is from Cameroon and my father is from Gabon.
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Oct 5, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
very interesting! I am kenyan and currently studying in kenya. I chose cameroon as my depth study for my French Alevels(speaking) and i happend to come across this site with very useful information on cameroon, quite alot to learn i must admit!? but it wont be as hard now as the info given is simple, stlyed and straight..i wasnt very sure iinitially about the francophone country i had chosen(being cameroon) but now after reading all this, y not even go for a trip in the near future?! la culture tres tres FORTE!! et j'adore ca! im even considering marriage there now...lol oh will i ever get bored?
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Oct 7, 2011 @ 3:03 am
I really enjoyed your presentation. In fact I will use a lot of material from here to discuss the Cameroon culture with my students. Thanks once more for putting this together.
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Oct 8, 2011 @ 6:06 am
Hey Dani,to say get well soon u should say ''bon guerison'' thats just it.

Hey Valerie,u will never get bored if u choose a cameroonian as life partner.u might get a lot to eat sometimes though,cos cameroonians eat alot.haha

Its a nice article and really expresses the cameroonian culture in its simplest form.However take note that this is an article from mid or early 90's.A lot has changed regarding population size and education and some cultures have greatly evolved even within the last 10 years.Harmful and strange cultural practices are being abandoned in some places especially within the urban and even some rural populations.
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Oct 8, 2011 @ 10:10 am
This really helped me for my powerpoint i'm doing. The pictures are interesting and i'm going to use them. thanks.
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Nov 9, 2011 @ 8:20 pm
this soo resourceful my presentation will be great
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Nov 15, 2011 @ 10:10 am
i am a Cameroonian of age 25years and was born at the coastal region i.e {limbe formally known as Victoria, i love my country no-matter the circumstances we are all Cameroonians one blood one people. Cameroon the land of promise the land of opportunity the land where when there is a forward you think of back ward to build a perfect land so let rise to build our mother land.
stanislaus
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Dec 4, 2011 @ 11:11 am
I WAS GIVEN AN ASSIGNMENT ON THE GEOGRAPHICAL DIVERSITY OF PRECOLONIAL CAMEROON AND IT IS FOUND ON THIS PAGE JUST TO SAY I AM THANKFUL TO YOU ALL.GRATSIAS
ROSY NDIVE
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Dec 21, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
i was given an assignment on "how has the social construction of gender determines the possition of women in relation to men in any Cameroonian culture"? unfortunately it is not found on this page so if any one has an idea especialy n the North West Region should try and help me by the grace of GOD.
suh narcisse
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Dec 28, 2011 @ 4:04 am
what are the major highlight of education after 1982?
Desmy Banks
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Jan 10, 2012 @ 8:08 am
MORE ON THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC COST OF DEATH CELEBRATION
Limnyuy Basiru
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Jan 16, 2012 @ 11:11 am
I am very happy for haven gone through this work and i wish that God should keep on inspiring you people to continue in this spirit.IT IS AVERY powerful and wonderful publication.It has inspired me alot.We still need more.
laura njitone
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Feb 1, 2012 @ 7:07 am
I was so impressed when i saw this srticle because information on the internet about cameroon is usually limited. this article has helped me gather information for my long essay(project) which has something to do on cameroonian socio cultural aspects. however i think more and recent information be added to this article.
Brenda
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Feb 6, 2012 @ 6:06 am
What are common names for a boy? What are common names for a girl?
synota nwenekidong
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Apr 25, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
I am a Cameroonian from Ngie I study tourism in University of Dschang and l have read the above information . It was good and educative to me doing tourism
COLLINS EKINDE
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May 5, 2012 @ 7:07 am
I am so please to have read this culture of mine.May God bless all those who took thier time to produce this wonderfull information for it has helped me in my assignment.I am a student in the university of yaounde 1
Victorine lum
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Jul 27, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
We might think we know everything about our beautiful country; but write ups like this are unique because of the simplicity in which the information is dished out. Bravo! Au point
Bridget
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Oct 13, 2012 @ 3:03 am
Thanks alot for the site,was very helply a school project.Keep it up!
Kayla
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Nov 8, 2012 @ 11:11 am
thank you so much for this information. it really helped with my class project and gaining an appreciation and understanding for this country.
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Nov 9, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
thanks very for this information i belive is going to help me in my gce certificate and to know more about my country i taught i knew everything so luckyly i found this website thanks ones more.
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Dec 7, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
As a Cameroonian high school teacher in the u.s,this master piece document about Cameroon is a perfect resource for me to use. in presenting my country and background to my American students and colleagues who are anxious to know about my country and background at the start of each new academic year. Thanks a million for this wonderful synopsis and please do kindly add something about the northwest region.
fabrice
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Dec 15, 2012 @ 7:07 am
Good article. but i was unable to find my research work which is "health folk beliefs and practice in the bamileke culture" . I will be if you help me with this work.Thanks.
solange
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Jan 2, 2013 @ 10:10 am
PLEASE IF U COULD WRITE MORE ON THE OKU TRIBE ONE WILL BE VERY GRATEFUL BECAUSE MOST OF US ARE VERY IGNORANT WHICH U COULD BE OF VERY GOOD HELP TO US THANKS N WHAT U HAVE HERE IS VERY GOOD
Didi Sobe
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Jan 10, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
This man made story have hiden alots of facts especially from the South west the baniang , Western and NorthWest region , which could have rather made the history of Cameroon more better with all its rich historical and cultural herritage unique in Africa and the world at large especially the new discovery of the proto bantu who are the earliest bantus of Africa and origin of the bantu people the Mambila and the fumte people of the northwest just to site this example . The world will like to vissit this places for research . How can some body who does not know any thing about cameroon sit down to write about Cameroon without mentioning the rich cultures of this People . Don't you understand that hiding the cultures of this people is hindering turist from vissitng Cameroon . Revissit your story again We can help with cultural and historical facts if you wish . we are loaded with past and curent discoeries about cameroon .
Didi Sobe
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Jan 10, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
It is good but have not mention facts especially from the SouthWest , Western and NorthWest Regions , which could have rather been more better with all its rich historical and cultural herritage which is unique in Africa and the world at large . For example discovery of the proto bantu the Mambila people in fumte Northwest Region who are the earliest bantus and origin of the bantu setlements in Africa just to site this example . The world will like to vissit these places for research and other purposes if people know more about them too . A story about Cameroon without mentioning the rich cultures of these regions and People will not be a better one. Egypt is famous not because of it's present days activities but because of it's past cultural history . The world cannot know about these people and thier rich cultural and historical herritage if it is not made known make no mistake about that . It will really be nice for our turistic sector. Revissit your story again We can help with cultural and historical facts if you wish . we have some facts .
cassy
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Mar 6, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
gee thanks this really helped with my school research paper on a country in africa.NOT
cameron
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Mar 21, 2013 @ 2:14 pm
i like this country cause its almost my name and i guess its helpful.
bernadett
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Apr 22, 2013 @ 2:14 pm
please I need help writing a research paper on gender roles on men women Religion in Cameroon? what their belief was between Christianity Islam?
FedoraRose
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May 31, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
After six months of dating my Cameroonian boyfriend, he still hasn't thought about or introduced me to his family who live here in the US and when his siblings come to the US to visit I never get to meet them.

Is there a reason why he won't introduce me to his siblings/family.
loveline
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Jul 27, 2013 @ 6:06 am
the site is so educative but if i could get more information on the architecture on the bafut kingdom, that will be amazing.
FEBSAR ERIC
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Aug 24, 2013 @ 10:10 am
Cameroon is my country and i am glad to see a site with such synopsis concerning my fatherland. Eventhough the ego of our leaders have not allowed us to indiscriminately get a fair share of the blessings that God has endowed Cameroon with, political manoeuvrings and other egoistic vices has restricted 85% of Cameroonians to live a life that equates its potentials.
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Dec 10, 2013 @ 4:04 am
Cameroon is my country and i am glad to see a site concerning my origins but in return u don't taLk about the bayangs Of the south west region,i will be so greatful if you can write something about that.
thanks alot
Alpha
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Apr 1, 2014 @ 10:10 am
Hi, congrats for this work. I found this website via search engine while trying to do a study on ''traditional autopsies among the Bamilekes. I don't know your original objective when you set out to build this website. The info is a fair starting point. If you don't mind, I'll suggest you include more details with time since much of the info is very summary. Eg. Higher institutions of learning: Apart from the first government University in Yaounde "Ngoa Ekele", there are several others started by religious groups eg UCAC, a regional catholic university,protestant universities, Private universities etc. There are also other Medical faculties now.

In the area of marriage, there are also different practices in different ethnic groups.

You know, we Cameroonian love good food. Could you separate food from economy? "Na condition make njanga yie back bend" Please treat them separately so that the tough economy doesn't take away someone's appetite. Kudos.
Kelly Dimitt
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Oct 22, 2014 @ 12:12 pm
This is a great website it helped me a lot on my paper in art. Thank you for creating this website. it got me an A+
Kelly Dimitt
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Oct 23, 2014 @ 11:11 am
This i an amazing site because i have an a+ in art. It also gives a lot of extra information that i didnt need for my paper but it it was good information to have. The extra information this site has was also interesting and so was the information that i did need.

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