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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cameroon

It is now a cliche to say that Cameroon is Africa in miniature but, as with cliches sometimes, there is an element of truth in the statement: everything you would expect from the African continent seems to be consolidated in Cameroon. The south has tropical rainforests and deserted golden beaches, whilst the northern parts have great expanses of desert, vast lakes and savannah, and volcanic mountains in-between. Wildlife is scattered throughout the country, with ample opportunity to view elephants, lions and other creatures large and small.With such diversity and the possibility of game-viewing, it comes as a surprise to many that Cameroon is not a more frequently visited tourist destination. Yet poverty continues to blight the country and much of Cameroon's infrastructure is underdeveloped, from transport to accommodation. The unemployment rate is high and those who are employed perform mostly agricultural tasks.The major spoken languages are French and English but a multitude of more than 200 ethnic languages are also in circulation, with various tribes populating the country. In recent years, divisions have once again been accentuated, particularly on account of opposition to President Biya from Muslim communities in the north and anglophone regions that fear discrimination at the hands of the predominately francophone regime. Relations with Nigeria, Cameroon’s powerful neighbour, are also awkward as the result of several outstanding border disputes (linked in part to control of the oil-rich Niger delta); the main one, involving an area known as the Bakassi peninsula, has seen occasional small-scale military clashes between the two sides.

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